Turning reading into a family adventure
Tips to help cultivate a love of literacy in your home
This past winter, Liberty mom Alicia Moore transformed the inside of her house into a magical scene from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for her teenagers and their friends to enjoy. It was just one activity she has done to make reading an experience for her whole family.
“All kids have different interests, and it’s hard to find something common the whole family can bond around,” Alicia says. “But I feel that’s what literature can do—it allows you to come together in a meaningful way that you will remember forever.”
The best way to make reading a family affair is to start from the beginning. Reading to an infant helps the child grow accustomed to your voice and teaches him language. Be sure to incorporate books into his play and get him used to being surrounded by books.
As a child develops into a toddler and preschooler, be more intentional about your reading time together. Have the child interact with the story, perhaps by making sound effects or actions every time a certain word or phrase appears in a book. Consider acting out stories using costumes, voices and props.
Kansas City mom Amanda Leppard finds books related to a theme and plans field trips, snacks and even sensory bins related to the topic for her preschool-age children. For example, they went to see construction vehicles when they explored a construction theme, and they saw the model train exhibit at Union Station, as well as an airport, when they learned about transportation.
“I try to get the kids to see hands-on what we are reading about,” Leppard says.
Yet sometimes the best moments to teach reading aren’t the ones you necessarily plan. Simply showing kids the purpose of reading and its many uses in everyday life goes a long way. This can be done by showing youngsters your shopping list, the recipe for your favorite cookies or the instructions to the board game you play together.
“Just talk about everything and read everything,” says Scott Rader, early literacy coordinator for the Mid-Continent Public Library. “There are words everywhere as we go through the day.”
As the child gets to school age and begins learning phonics and sight words, make reading fun for her and develop games. For example, write the words for common household objects on notecards and have the child affix them to the appropriate object in the house.
Even watching TV can be turned into a reading opportunity when you turn on the closed captioning.
“Adults often forget how much reading we do during the course of the day that could be turned into learning opportunities,” says Michael Willis, school-age coordinator for the Mid-Continent Public Library.
As the kids get older, begin asking them their opinions about the stories they are reading. Have them predict what will happen next and what they believe motivated the author to write the story.
Willis says that around third grade, a child is no longer simply learning to read, he is reading to learn important lessons. One of the best ways to show a child what reading can teach him is to incorporate nonfiction into your reading lists.
Many nonfiction books have short blurbs, captions and bullet-point facts about topics, and these are highly effective methods to teach kids information. Going to museums also offers similar reading opportunities, as you take in information at each exhibit.
No matter how you read with your kids, the most important thing is that you do it. Not only does reading together as a family build lasting memories, but it also helps kids succeed academically.
Allison Gibeson is a freelance writer from Lee’s Summit who enjoys going to the library and reading with her son.
Bringing Books to Life
Looking for ways to get everyone in your house more engaged in reading?
Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Create themed parties based on favorite fiction books. Consider using scenery, props, costumes, crafts and even making recipes related to the story.
- Before going on a vacation, read various fiction and non-fiction books related to your destination. For example, if you are taking a road trip to California or Oregon, delve into literature about the westward trails, stop at trail markers along the way and pretend your car is a covered wagon.
- Have the kids develop their own alternate ending or a sequel to a book you are reading.