How to raise a bookworm

Short stuff: Education focusTeachers know that the most successful students enjoy reading for pleasure. Bookworms know that reading just might carry you away to another world (or even back in time) and that curling up with a good book is the perfect antidote to a stressful day.

Here are seven steps to creating a bookworm-friendly home:

1 Read early and often. Research has proven that children who are read to at an early age develop greater language abilities. You might think your baby isn’t paying attention as you wipe drool from the board book pages, but you really are laying the foundations for his reading future. Reading to your child—each and every day—needs to be as routine as brushing teeth before bed.

2 Visit your local library on a regular basis. Explore the online catalog with your child to discover books that fit their interests. Yes, reading book after book about dump trucks and fire engines can become tiresome for us parents, but kids need to know they can and should use books to learn more about their favorite people, places and things. Remember that as soon as your kids can print their names, they’ll qualify for their very own library card: Celebrate this milestone as you would the day your child receives his driver’s license.3

Set up your own home library or reading corner. Make sure that your library features a comfy chair and good lighting. Be creative when gathering books for your collection: Garage sales and thrift stores are a great resource for cheap, used books. On July 24-27, the Newberry Library (60 W. Walton St., Chicago) will host its annual book fair, where you can find stacks of used children’s books (and a limitless supply of adult summer reads) for mere quarters. Alternatively, consider inviting friends over for a book exchange: ask everyone to bring 10 books to trade.

4 Create your own reading rewards program. Have your children keep track of the books they’ve read on a poster board displayed in a prominent area of the home. Reward children for every 10 books read with an ice cream cone or a trip to the bookstore to buy a new book. Check out, where children in grades K-8 can create their own book lists from more than 7,000 recommended titles, take multiple choice quizzes on the books they’ve read and earn points and prizes for their literary successes.5

Create connections between the books your children are reading and the real world. Follow up a reading of The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett with a trip to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House in Hyde Park for the super-sleuth tour offered every Saturday. Catching up on the Wizard of Oz series? Read the last chapter together on a blanket with a picnic in Chicago’s very own Oz Park (near Webster Avenue/Halsted Street). Does your child devour books about dinosaurs? Jump into your sleeping bags and cozy up under Chicago’s favorite T-Rex, Sue, at the Field Museum’s Dozin’ with the Dinos overnight program.

6 Give the gift of reading. Any parent who has recently hosted a kid’s birthday party knows that 99.9 percent of the gifts a child receives end up broken or buried in the toy box. Why not give the gift of reading? Wrap up some books for the birthday boy/girl, give a subscription to a magazine such as Highlights or National Geographic Kids or simply pick up a gift card for a local bookstore.7

Give yourself the gift of reading. Curl up on the sofa with a historical novel while your kids play with LEGOS on the floor nearby; grab that trashy romance novel and sip lemonade as you read in your backyard while the kids play on the swing set; spend Sunday morning snuggled in bed with the New York Times (just remember to hand over the Chicago Tribune’s comic section to your kiddos). As a bookworm parent, you set the example for your children, so read up often and with delight.

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