How to Foster a Love of Reading at an Early Age

I love books, I have always loved books and when I had my son I vowed to instill in him the same love of reading that I had growing up.  For me it started at an early age.  My grandmother would get me books as gifts for nearly every occasion.  It created this fondness for reading.  I would immerse myself in books and let my imagination run wild.  Even in this technology driven world of E-readers and tablets I find turning the pages of an actual book far more satisfying.

A friend of mine recently asked me how I am able to get my son to sit still during story time.  What did I do, that she didn’t, to foster this love of books?  First, I had to laugh because my son does not sit still.  It’s a miracle when he does and that moment doesn’t last very long.  But, thinking back I have made sure to incorporate story time into our daily lives.  I found several ways to engage my son with the books in front of him and now he chooses books over his other toys.

Make sure to start young.

One of the first gifts my son received after his birth was a book.  It was “On the Night You Were Born” by Nancy Tillman and we used it as a makeshift guest book for our families to sign when they visited the hospital.  As a newborn, I would read to my son during those long, sleepless nights.  And although he certainly wasn’t following along with the story, he did find comfort in my voice.

Make reading apart of your normal routine.

Every night before bed we turn down the lights and read a couple of books.  Even if we don’t get through all of the pages or I paraphrase whatever story we are reading at the time, it’s remained a constant reminder that the time to sleep is approaching and it helps us both wind down. 

Find books that are engaging and age apporopriate.

I’ve learned what captures the attention of my little guy.  It involves bright, cartoony illustrations and rhyming words.  He gets a kick out of books like “I’m a Dirty Dinosaur” and “Pig the Pug”.  During play time he loves touch and feel books and and ones that play animal sounds.  One of his new favorites is an interactive book, called “All Better”, that uses peel and stick band-aids to help heal the characters in the story.  It has allowed him to associate reading with play, which is amazing for cognitive development and building imagination.

Give them the freedom to choose.

It is so important to begin building character and confidence in the early years.  Story time is the perfect opportunity to do that.  At first, I would pick out several books and allow my son to sort through them and gravitate to the one we would read that night.  Now that he is older and a little more independent I have found he likes to pick out the books on his own.  He will go to his book shelf and hand select the one he’s feeling in that moment.  He then precedes to crawl, scoot or furniture surf over next to me ready to listen.

Just keep reading!

Yes, children have short attention spans and some days they won’t feel like sitting still and listening to an entire story.  But, keep reading to them!  If they are really inattentive take a break from the book and come back to it later.  Perhaps instead of reading the words on the pages, try pointing to the pictures and talking about what you see.  But, whatever you do don’t give up on reading to your child just because you think they are uninterested.  Give them the chance to associate the world around them and their everyday life with the words and pictures in the books before them.  Once that happens a love of reading is sure to be born.

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