I have five children, all with different personalities and interests. They're each unique with special gifts and abilities. Over the years, I've wondered if it was too much to expect that each of my children would learn to love reading.
Shouldn't I be happy if one or two really loved it?
Whatever the case, I decided early on that regardless of the outcome, I would work hard to develop a house full of readers. I've wanted to believe that it's possible to foster a love of reading in anyone, no matter their interests, abilities, or personalities.
Of course my children are still fairly young, and the verdict is still out as to whether or not they'll really grow up to love reading. But here's the current status on each of them:
One of my twin teenage daughters gobbles up books, reading numerous every week. I've succeeded two hundred percent with her.
But my other twin daughter struggles with dyslexia, and so naturally reading doesn't come easy. She rarely finds books that hold her interest. Nevertheless, over the years I've encouraged her to read anyway. And although it might not be her favorite thing in the world to do, just last week when UPS delivered a package of books, she squealed because one of them was hers.
Rather than reading, my almost 16 year old son would rather be gaming, playing his guitar, hanging out with friends, or shooting hoops. But when he does pick up a riveting book, I have to pry it out of his fingers if I want him to do anything else. And if the book is in a series, he usually goes on to devour everything else available.
My youngest son (in fourth grade) showed absolutely no interest in reading in the past. Sure he liked the books we read together, but it's only been in the last year that he finally started reading in his free time. He recently finished the Magic Tree House series and loved them.
My second grade daughter would say that one of her favorite things to do is have "fruit snacks and stories with Grandma." She asks for a bedtime story every night and enjoys reading aloud out of her chapter books. I feel safe to say she'll be an avid reader some day.
Perhaps I haven't completely won each of my children over to true book-worm status. But I have been intentional about fostering a love of books and reading.
Here are just a few of the things I've done over the yearsto lay a solid foundation:
1. Have bookshelves in almost every room in the house, especially their bedrooms. Fill them to overflowing with a variety of kinds of books.
2. Get excited about and attend used book sales. I always made it a privilege to go and buy used books (held twice a year by our local library).
3. Listen to books on tape/CD. Because I'm so busy and need to multi-task, we have listened to countless books on tape/CD over the years. We almost always have a book we're listening to together.
4. Buy new books. For special occasions (i.e. Valentine's Day, birthdays, etc.) and just because. When all of my kids were younger, I ordered books through Scholastic. They loved picking out and getting the books every month. And trips to bookstores almost always resulted in a new book.
5. Go to the library a lot. Most weeks, we visit the library at least once. In the summer, we've always participated in the reading programs the library offers.
6. Get involved in book groups. We've done book groups with other families, getting together once a month to discuss books we're reading. And my kids have participated in book groups with other kids.
7. Read at all times of the day. Of course, when my children were just toddlers we got into the habit of reading bedtime stories, but we also read at many other times of the day as well.
8. Require a certain amount of reading time per day. Once my children were able to read independently, I always required a minimum of twenty minutes of reading per weekday. (Here's an infographic about how reading twenty minutes a day can help children become "A" students.)
9. Protect them from too much screen time. Yes, this has always been a battle with certain of my children. But I've persevered in setting limits so that they have plenty of non-screen time. Granted they don't always fill that time with reading, but at least they have the time for creative pursuits.
10. Model a love of reading and books. I think this is probably one of the biggest factors, if not the biggest. As the old saying goes, "More is caught than taught." If our loved ones don't see us with a book in hand, how can we expect them to hold one?
What about you? Do you think it's possible to foster a love of reading in any person no matter their interest, personality, or abilities? And what kinds of things have you done to foster a love of books and reading in your family?