Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Trouble with Tink

Developing a love for literature

Here's a great article I read on Mothering that I would like to share with you...

The Love of Reading: 10 Tips for Developing a Love for Literature

By Carrie Kerr

A child’s love for reading is a gift. It’s the key to freedom and a ticket to magical explorations only found within the pages of books. But creating a love for reading takes a deliberate effort from the home front. Here are 10 tips for helping your children run to the bookshelf in anticipation of their next great adventure.

1. Books, Books, Everywhere Books

There is a simple yet bold message we need to send to our children. Books are important! Deliberately bombard your family with various forms of literature. Place books, magazines, and pamphlets in every room, on every shelf, and in every corner. Your children will have no choice but to be lured into the wonderful world of reading. Here's a little secret for starting it off. Begin in the entryway. This may seem like an unconventional place to arrange books, however it makes sense. Your entryway gives people (most important, your children) the introduction to your home. Some people like to sweep off the welcome mat and put up a seasonal wreath, I suggest dusting off the shelves and displaying seasonal books. It makes my heart skip a beat when my child gets sidetracked with a book from the entryway. I feel as if I’ve caught a fish!

2. Reading is Natural

“If parents want to raise children who voluntarily choose to read, then they must show the importance of reading for pleasure by modeling reading themselves and by reading a variety of materials at home, including books and novels.” Children are most likely to follow your example, so your example should be to read often. Model reading as a natural part of your day. Use it to get information in the morning, to learn something new in the afternoon, and for pleasure in the evening. Set the example that reading takes priority. In fact, you may even choose to ignore your child because you're reading a book or magazine! Honestly, there are so many times we brush off our children; we're busy cooking, or we're busy on the phone, or we're busy on the computer. If you're going to ignore your child, make a point while doing it; the point being "I'm reading! This is important!" And when your child wants to later ignore you because she is reading, you can crack a little smile. I have a picture of my daughter from when she was about a year old. I was sitting on the couch reading a novel, and she was sitting next to me flipping the pages of another novel. Perfect. That same child is now ten years old and reads about 1,500 pages in books per week. She got the message. Books are a natural part of our life.

3. Books are Beautiful

Books are not just for reading; they are for admiring. Much effort goes into creating the cover of a book, and children's books especially have beautiful artwork. Rather than just shelving them with their spine showing, pick a few to showcase with the full face of the book revealed. Rotate the books in this way throughout the month. Forward-facing bookshelves are available in catalogs such as Pottery Barn Kids, or you can make your own from a simple wooden display shelf. You may choose to arrange books by theme or by a specific author. However you do it, your children will be quickly drawn to flipping through their colorful pages.

4. Books are Valuable

Because books are the secret to our freedom, because they feed our souls and pave our futures, they must be treated like gold. It will be every toddler's tendency to throw a book, or school child's temptation to shove a book in a bag, but this must always be treated as a great offense! Teach your child from the very beginning that books are a commodity to be cherished. Pages should be flipped with care. We use bookmarks and try not to break the spines. If a page is ripped, it is mourned and tended to delicately. We love and respect books. Always.

5. The Library is as Common as the Grocery Store

Our children spend plenty of time with us at the grocery store; they know where the cereal aisle is and where to find the milk and eggs. The same should be true of your local library. Several studies have revealed that children who are reluctant readers are likely to have less access to a variety of reading materials than children who are avid readers. A school library is not enough. Expose your child to the public library in regular and frequent intervals. Send a strong message that you cannot live without the library. Declare that you are going in for five minutes and stay for 30. Go in to pick up one book and come out with ten. Rejoice and be giddy in the new treasures you are bringing home. Designate a special spot in your home for library books and keep them ever-changing. Books are food for thought. Always keep it fresh.

6. Audiobooks Count

One of the biggest reasons children who are avid readers are more successful in school is because of their sheer exposure to language. It may seem time consuming to read aloud to your child, and there are many times in the day when you cannot put everything down to read. Rather than defaulting to the TV, use this time for audiobooks. When your child is young, give her the actual book to flip through while she listens to the story. If you don’t have the book, give her a piece of paper and some crayons to keep her busy while she listens. Listen to stories together in the car, and as your child gets older, give her audiobooks to listen to while cleaning her room. This is a great way to make sure your child is listening to material just slightly above her reading level, thereby exposing her to new sentence structures, writing styles, and vocabulary. The library, which you’ll be visiting frequently, has many audiobooks available for loan. For purchasing audiobooks, try There are also free podcasts available, such as Storynory, that streamline a fresh supply of stories for children. I always find it humorous to look at my ten-year-old “spaced out” with her iPod and headphones, knowing that the reason she’s lost is not because she’s listening to some questionable music, but rather because she’s listening to one of her favorite audiobooks.

7. Prepare for Takeoff

Books are a platform; use them to take off. Find an interest of yours or your child's and use books to help you gain knowledge and momentum. Start with something that is small and happens naturally. For instance, growing a plant. Read a few stories about seeds and how they grow, such as The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss or Mrs. Spitzer's Garden by Edith Pattou. Also, find some preschool-level science books on the same subject. Discuss with your child the items you need and the time it will take to grow your seed into a plant. The idea is to teach our children that the source for learning new things is books. In future years (6) you will find your child researching projects on her own, such as how to build a tree house or how to rebuild a small engine. You are teaching a lifelong love for self-directed learning.

8. Books are Food for Thought

Charlotte Mason, a great philosopher of education, believed that you should have tea time daily to discuss books. This may be a bit unrealistic for some families to achieve, but do find time to regularly discuss your current book. If possible, take an evening or two to read a book your older child has just read and then discuss it together. You will both love the opportunity to learn and grow together through literature. On occasion, flip the scenario around. Read a children's novel and then hand it to your child expressing your interest in the book and why you think she would enjoy it. A discussion on books leads to a discussion on life, and that helps us live in better harmony.

9. There is no Room for Twaddle

Twaddle is defined as something trivial, insignificant, or worthless. I realize you may be confused at this point, because aren't all books worthwhile? This is a debatable point. While I agree that any book is probably better than no book, I do not believe all books are worthwhile. There is an endless stream of high-quality literature in this world. I could spend all of my life reading only high-quality literature and never get to all of the things I want to read. With that in mind, do not spend your time or allow your children to spend too much of their time reading twaddle. You'll know it when you see it. It's fluffy, redundant, and the vocabulary is weak. The message of the book is unclear or underwhelming. Just because something was published does not make it valuable. If you are unsure of where to find high-quality literature, try a search for certain book lists. You can search Newberry Award books, Caldecott Award books, or Accelerated Reader book lists. You can also search literature-based curriculums, such as Sonlight Books, used by homeschoolers. Keep this list with you and bring it to the library!

10. Read Together as a Family

Find time every day to read together. If you miss a day, don't fret, just pick up and read something together the next day. Depending on the ages of the members of your family, you may choose to read a few picture books together at night or read a chapter or two aloud from a chapter book. Our first read-alouds as a family were the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I will never forget falling asleep with the girls as my husband read aloud. It took us almost a year to read the entire series. And my dad loves to remind us of the days when he read Edgar Allan Poe to us by candlelight just before bed. I assure you that left an impression!

As with audiobooks, try to read things aloud that are slightly above your child's reading level. At the same time, don't be afraid to get out an old favorite and read it together just for fun. My older girls will still gather around me when I'm reading my preschooler a picture book. Sometimes it may be fun to read aloud a short story or a couple of poems. However you choose to do it, make sure you are reading together as a family. It instills a great love for books, and each other.

Creating an exceptional environment for literature takes time. It is a lifestyle. If you are not in the habit of doing some of the things suggested above, be patient. Work on it slowly. Perhaps give yourself a year to incorporate these ideas. Before you know it, reading and a love for literature will be a part of your family’s life. Embrace your journey and bask in the joy that will result from welcoming books into your family. You'll know you've succeeded when you tell your child, "Put down that book and come to the dinner table!"

Charlotte Mason, The Original Home Schooling Series. (London, England: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trubner, and Co. Ltd., 1925).

Risley, T.R. & Hart, B (2006). Promoting Early Language Development. In N.F.

Watt, C. Avoub. R. H. Bradley, J.E. Puma & W.A. LeBoeuf (Eds.). The Crisis in Youth Mental Health: Critical Issues and Effective Programs. Volume 4, Early intervention programs and policies (pp. 83-88). Westport CT: Praeger.

Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. The Condition of Education 2006 (NCES 2006–071), Indicator 33. (2006).

Carrie Kerr lives in central Illinois with her husband and three children. She holds a master’s degree in speech-language pathology and enjoys reading and writing on issues that pertain to attachment parenting, child development, and philosophies of education.