June 30, 2015

Just Do It

[Recently,] I taught a Celebrate Kids webinar about fostering kids’ love for literature. I’m passionate about the topic because I know – from research, anecdotal evidence, and my own personal experience – that a love for reading is, perhaps, the most significant lifelong learning tool we can give our kids. Obviously, engaging children in hands-on experiences is also vital for real learning, and we need to strive to provide as much of that as possible. However, few have the time or resources to travel the world or even the country, and we obviously can’t travel through time. But through reading – by choosing to actively engage in literature and other meaningful texts – kids can go anywhere they’d like via their imaginations.

Of course, they have to want to engage. And, sadly, far too many children and teens have no desire to do so.

The reasons for that are myriad and beyond the scope of this piece. But we can’t let current circumstances cause us to consign our kids to a life of de facto creative and cultural illiteracy. So why not use this summer to rekindle (or spark for the first time) your children’s desire to devour books?

A couple of ideas to get you going:

·      If you don’t currently read aloud to your kids, start. Daily. Yes, even with those who are more than capable of reading on their own. Too often we give up on reading aloud with older kids, but that’s a mistake; for their long-term benefit, we should actually be engaging in family read-alouds every day until the youngest child leaves the home. So find a book that’s likely to appeal to most of your children – a classic like Charlotte’s Web, Huckleberry Finn, or Little House on the Prairie – and just begin. Establish a set family read-aloud time – early in the morning, over lunch or dinner, or before your nighttime routine – and stick to it. Read just a chapter a day, and then talk about it together for a few minutes. When you finish one book, have another ready to go.

·      Institute a daily Family Read-a-Thon – either first thing after breakfast or, perhaps, right after lunch when little ones nap and you want your older kids out of the strongest afternoon heat. Simply gather in the living room for 30 to 60 minutes, each family member with his or her own book – Mom included – and read silently surrounded by each other. Early readers can bring a pile of picture books to the couch and quietly peruse several while each established reader enjoys a chapter or two in a book of personal interest. In the process, you’ll be developing in your kids a crucial habit of mind: the ability to choose quiet, unplugged activity. And – especially by participating rather than just assigning the task to your kids while you go off and scroll Facebook – you’ll communicate and model the value of reading.

What else can you do to foster your kids’ love of good books? Brainstorm ideas with your spouse and children, and then – to quote the “famous sage” we call Nike – pick something and just do it.

Photo Credit: César Astudillo


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