How to Get Your Child to Read
My daughter turned 2 last month, and she LOVES to read. She loves reading so much that she’ll cry when you try to pry her away from a book she is reading. She reminds me of me when I was a kid…except replace the book with a TV. 😛 Whenever we go out, we don’t need toys; a couple of books will keep her occupied. Some parents have noticed this and asked how we got her to enjoy books so much.
It could be genetics. Both my wife and I were engineers in college. I used to love books as a kid too, and I largely contribute that to the Book It program – where you got a voucher for a free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut. Bribing is fundamental. But ever since my discovery of Cliff Note’s in high school, I rarely find myself immersed in a book. My wife, however, loves to read and sometimes will stay up in order to finish a book.
It could be my wife’s diet. She ate incredibly healthy during the pregnancy. Lean meats, tons of veggies, and recommended amounts of fish. She had no problem with prenatal vitamins. She drank plenty of water and milk. Additionally, my wife and I bought into the whole DHA thing BIG time. She took Expecta Lipil throughout the entire pregnancy.
It could be the fact that our daughter was breastfed for two years. Anything I could say on breastfeeding, other than I loved that my wife breastfed b/c I got to sleep more 😛 , would be ignorant, so I’ll leave it at that.
So it’s really hard to say why my daughter is so stimulated by books. But I will tell you some things we did that I think helped, and they might help you too.
- Start early – we read to her from day 1. My wife and I decided that we wanted our daughter to love books. So though I felt kind of silly reading Dr. Seuss when our daughter couldn’t even open her eyes during her first days on earth, I kept reading.
- Keep the TV off – TV provides much more stimulation than a book. This meant my wife and I had to sacrifice TV and movies whenever our daughter was awake. That also meant we snuck in movies whenever she was down for a nap.
- Make books available – we used something similar to this deal to order 20 or so board books. We later found out that you can get books in good condition at the Thrift Store for $0.15! We built a library of awesome books, including some Sesame Street books I read as a kid, all for the price of a new book or two from Borders or Barnes. My wife even snagged nearly all of the Value Tales for less than $5! So check out your local thrift store. You may be pleasantly surprised. The public library is also a great option. As they say about dieting and junk food – if you don’t have it in the house, you won’t eat it – if you have tons of books in the house, your child will probably pick one up.
- Sit down and read – some parents I’ve spoken to said their child just isn’t interested in books. I also find these parents usually don’t read the book to the child. News flash – a kid isn’t going to entertain themselves with a book, esp. when there are toys around with colors and sounds. And make the reading time fun. I would feel embarrassed if someone had footage of me reading to my daughter when she was an infant b/c I felt foolish. But making her laugh at a book and her anticipating that part again every time we read that book was well worth it. My mother, who watches my daughter while my wife and I are at work, also wanted to instill a love of reading in her granddaughter, so she read to her all the time. And so did my wife.
- Talk through each page – I would say, “What is this?”, then wait a few seconds and say, “This is a zizzer zazzer zuzz.” I would ask her, “How many butterflies are on this page?”, then wait a little and then count them, “One, two, three, four…there are four butterflies.” This felt pretty useless initially, but after doing it thousands of times over the first year, my daughter started to mimic us and even say some of the words when she began to speak.
- Keep at it – it’s hard work, especially when you have to read Strawberry Shortcake’s Treasury over and over and over and over and over again – and yes, that’s one of the books we found at the thrift store for $0.15. And you may slowly feel yourself going insane when you’ve completely memorized things like: Big A, little A, what begins with A? Aunt Annie’s Alligator, A, A, A! Big B, little B, what begins with B? Barber, baby, bubbles, and a bumblebee. But it’s well worth it.
It was really hard work but it has resulted in great benefits. Although my wife and I had very little me time the first year, we can now do stuff around the house, e.g., BBQ & grill, and my daughter will sit and read the entire time. Even on longer road trips or bike rides in the Cougar 2, we just give her a handful of books and that keeps her quiet happy. Her vocabulary is pretty good for a 2 year-old and I attribute that to the fact that we’ve read hundreds of books to her. Books are cheap compared to toys and electronics, and they require no batteries (at least, most of them don’t) – and all the parents will probably agree with me on the fact that changing batteries in kid’s toys is annoying. For her birthday, we bought her 10 books at the thrift store for about $1.50 and she went crazy! And since she doesn’t care much for the TV, that means she won’t see any commercials, which also helps out my wallet quite a bit.
And it still makes cracks her up when I read The Foot Book and get to: sloooooooooooooooooow feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet, QUICK FEET! And odd as it may sound, that makes all the effort more than worthwhile.