As an elementary library teacher, one of my biggest hopes for my babies is that they will grow up to be avid readers. Reading gives you windows into other worlds, whether it’s a wizarding world or another culture, and can offer an opportunity to take a step back from life and relax. Reading with babies and young children aids language development, builds vocabulary, and helps them understand the world around them. They learn about social communication and emotions by how characters look and act, how your voice changes as you read, and by pointing at and touching pictures.
Part of my job as a teacher is to instill a lifelong love of reading in my students, but it’s also really important for me to do the same for my 7-month-old twins. Here are a few of the many ways you can build a love of reading in your home. And remember — it’s never too early to start!
1. Give your kids access to books
We keep books all over our house — not just on the book shelf. They’re in baskets on the floor in the living room, nursery, playroom, and in the car. Even when we’re not reading, there are books for the babies to look at, touch, and, at this stage, eat!
2. Read with your kids
This may seem obvious, especially if you have school-age children, but many people don’t realize that young babies and older kids also love be read to! My babies seek out books to look at and play with. They hold on to books as we read, touch the pictures, and recognize the bedtime books we flip through every night. At school, my independent, ready-for-middle-school fifth-grade students can’t get enough of picture book read alouds, and they always ask for more.
3. Visit your public library
We like to visit different libraries all around greater Boston. Most libraries have a children’s room with space to play, cozy reading spots, and plenty of books, audiobooks, and e-books to check out. The children’s librarian is a great resource for book recommendations if you aren’t sure what to read next. As a bonus, your local library probably offers story times and playgroups for babies and toddlers as well as structured activities and book clubs for older kids.
4. Listen to audiobooks
We always listen to audiobooks in the car. It’s a habit I had during my commute to work because it gave me a chance to listen to books my students were reading. I get books on CD from the library, but you can also get audiobooks through subscriptions like Audible.
5. Check out your local bookstore
Although I am a library lover, I’m also a sucker for a brand new book! We like to take walks through new and used bookstores and find books to add to our home library. Most of the local, independent bookstores around Boston have free literacy events for children, like story hours, author and illustrator visits and book signings, and other special book-related activities.
6. Read in front of your kids
Children see what you do and learn from modeling. Read a magazine, a novel, a blog, or an e-book on your Kindle. It doesn’t matter what you’re reading, just that you’re reading.
7. Get the whole family involved
Everyone has a different reading style and likes different kinds of books, which exposes kids to an even broader range of books. I tend to read in my regular voice, but my husband reads in silly voices, which the babies think is hilarious. He also prefers nonfiction to stories so he’s made sure to include some nonfiction books in our home library. When we visit grandparents, they have books that are different from the ones we have at home.
These are some of the ways I’m raising my kids to be readers. How do you encourage reading in your home?