If you haven’t been taking your baby to the library you should. There is no such thing as “too young,” so I encourage you to start now. P.W. and I went to the Santa Monica Public Library for Story Time yesterday and had so much fun. The room was packed with babies aged 0-17 months. Story Time is 20 minutes long, perfect for young kids, and afterward we stayed to socialize and give Little Man time to make friends. He is only 9 months old, but I believe activities like this are very healthy for his development and encourage a lifelong love of reading.
Growing up, my mother took my sister and I to the library once a week. We checked out as many books as we wanted and my parents read to us every night. On our way home, we were treated to hot chocolate. My parents did a great job creating a positive association with books to encourage us to read and learn. I still have fond memories of that library and remember it like it was yesterday; the big bunny statue out out front, the kids section lots of pillows, and the smell. This weekly library trip is a tradition that has lasted generations in my family and I plan on carrying the torch. Here are a few other ways that will help raise a reader:
1. Read to your children every day. We read stories before evey nap and at bedtime. It help us wind down without any distractions, and P.W. gets our undivided attention and cuddles.
2. Get lots of age-appropriate books. Right now we are into board books with lots of colors and textures, which seem to engage our baby more. We get our books in a variety of ways. Ordering on Amazon is a no-brainer, but we also shop at Barnes and Noble, get hand-me-down books from family (I even have some of my favorite books from my childhood), and check them out at the library. Getting children’s books on your E-Reader works too. Lastly, see if you’re eligible to receive books from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library which sends you a free book every month from birth to age five.
3. Take advantage of group readings. Like I mentioned earlier, our library hosts story times for kids of all ages. The Barnes and Noble on the Third Street Promenade does as well. Take advantage of your local resources to expose your child to new books and different voices. Make it a weekly or monthly trip your kids get familiar with and look forward to. Your community is eager to help you facilitate a healthy reading environment if you know where to look. We walked away with a book bag to store goodies and brand new board book (Llama Llama Zippity Zoom) for free at our last story time. 4. Create a cozy space. Our family likes to cuddle up on the couch in our baby’s nursery to read, but older kids may benefit from a designated “Reading Nook” with lots of pillows and blankets. Some kids like reading in a fort. Make it a special place for them.
5. Embrace the repetition. Young kids sometimes enjoy the same stories over and over again. That’s okay. You can get a book in the same series or genre to give them a nudge, but otherwise continue to read them what they want and let them pick. This is about them. The more they love reading, the more they will learn in the long run. I can assure you they won’t be reading that same book every night when they’re graduating from high school. Your main goal is to get them to enjoy the experience.
6. Don’t stop reading to them once they can read on their own. Kids love being read to, so don’t abandon your routine when they can read by themselves. They look forward to bonding with you and sharing that time together. At the end of the day you can’t force your child to be a reader, but you can take steps to give them the resources they need. Starting early and creating an enjoyable reading environment is important, and you can start from day 1.