Raising a reader, by a mom who loves to read

My friendAmy Bunnell Hearst loves books, and as a mother of two she is always searching for ways to pass on her love of reading to her children.

Not by forcing them to read (which could easily backfire) but by really engaging them in the joy and wonderment of reading.

And as she explains in this article, the first step is to just lead by example…..

I’m such a tough self-critic. Sometimes it is difficult for me to praise myself or appreciate the things I do right. That being said, I don’t consider myself a perfect parent – far from it. I am much too impatient to be a Perfect Mother, if there is such a thing.

However, there are a few gifts my children have been given from me. One of my proudest accomplishments is that both of my children love books and love to read (as much as you can when you’re five and seven years old).

I remember after my son was born I found an article entitled “How to raise a reader.” That article is now tattered and upstairs in one of our junk drawers.

But I wanted to know – how do I pass along to my children this love of books I possess? How does one raise a reader?

For me, it was fairly simple. I continue to do what I love and then pass it on to them – lead by example. I’ll show you what I do and maybe you can incorporate some of these things into your daily lives with your children.

1. Set guidelines around the house. I grew up in a household where it was taboo to have a television in your bedroom. We have that same rule in our house today, much to my husband’s dismay.

Everything I’ve read says watching television in your bedroom is not a good thing. Bedrooms should be used for sleeping and other things you do in bedrooms, not watching television.

The stimulus of the lighting can cause your body to wake up instead of start to settle down in preparation of sleep. None of our bedrooms have televisions – they all have a variety of books instead.

2. In the mornings, I read the newspaper. The television rarely comes on, except lately for Bin Laden coverage and William/Kate’s wedding.

Nathan and Libby both like to read me the weather for the week. I let them find things in the newspaper during breakfast if we have time – a few things in the newspapers appeal to kids – a mention of Justin Bieber’s latest tattoo or romp with Selena Gomez, a picture of SpongeBob SquarePants, human interest stories involving animals.

Nathan loves to look at maps and learn more about where things are in our city – you can find quite a few maps in the daily newspaper.

3. Go to the library. Our local library is pretty awesome – it doesn’t look like much, but the contents are great. I can go online and reserve books for the kids (and me!) ahead of time and then all I have to do is pick them up.

In addition to finding books for the kids in the fiction section, they book love the nonfiction section, too. Sometimes I will chose a few subjects I know they like (sharks, the state of Illinois, space) then pick up several books on the same subject.

I’m sure as they progress in school and need to do book reports and school projects, this won’t be as cool, but for now they love it. (The subject of tornados and severe weather has been puzzling for both of my children, so we have been researching tornados to gather books and information on them.)

4. Don’t have a DVD player in your car. If you do, only turn it on for long trips (like a driving trip). We really encourage our kids to look out the window.

From the time they were young, we would ask them, “What do you see? Tell us.” Don’t limit their minds to viewing a cartoon DVD. Let their minds look around and know their surroundings.

5. Let them choose their books at night. Let me tell you, I know how boring it is to read the same Scooby Doo book five nights in a row. Somehow maybe that consistency is soothing to your child. And know this will pass.

6. I tell them how excited I am to get into bed with my book (I really am!). I just finished reading three terrific books in a row. My husband is pretty tired of hearing me talk about how great each book was, but really, they were all so good.

7. If you like reading, try to find a book club and join. One of my favorite things about my bookclub (besides the great company, good food, and awesome wine) is that fact that I am challenged to reads books I might not normally read.My book club encourages me to get out of my comfort zone. Then I come home and tell my family about bookclub and then fun I have. My children associate reading with fun.

Here are a few of my children’s favorite books currently:

Nathan, age 7:

The Magic Tree House books. Any of the Scaredy Squirrel books, Amazing Animals (Barron’s publisher), Star Wars the Visual Dictionary, any of the Shel Silverstein poetry books (he got one for Christmas and I gave him one of mine from when I was little), Calvin and Hobbes comic books, any of the Marvel comic books, Star Wars The Clone Wars Character Encyclopedia (they both fight over this one.)

Libby, age 5:

The Herbie Bear Readers (levels 1- 4), Scooby-Doo books, Ladybug Girl by David Somar & Jakcy Davis (or any of the Ladybug books), But No Elephants by Jerry Smath (old book, very clever), Bear Wants More by Karma Wilson & Jane Chapman (or any in this series), Mercer Mayer books (such as Me and My Cousin – again, these are old, but good), Richard Scarry books (such as Cars & Trucks & Things that Go).

My favorite books, age 39: Mudbound by Hillary Jordan, Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin, Left Neglected by Lisa Genova, The Heights by Peter Hedges, The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta (or anything by him – he is a terrific writer), The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, All the Living by C.E. Morgan.

I could go on and on….there are so many good books to read!

Looking for a great summer read? Email Amy at amyhearst@yahoo.com, I’m sure she’ll have a suggestion!

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