Read With Your Kids to Enhance Conversations
Our kids grew up teething on books. Not only the plastic kind that kids gum on before they have teeth, but the early childhood ones that have single words like ball on one page. Kids gummed up the spines of their earliest favorite books into soggy messes. Pages would fall out of books that were read often. Many homes have kids’ toys spread about, but our home was littered with books. Books were on shelves, in toys boxes, under beds, and on coffee tables. Books were woven into the fabric of our lives.
One study tells us children ages eight to ten discovered that reading creates new white matter in the brain, which improves system-wide communication. White matter is the tissue that carries information to other parts of the brain and processes information more efficiently.
Make Books Available
Books are a goldmine of interesting information and can allow kids to create fantasy places in their minds. While electronic books take up less space, I'm a big fan of physical books while kids are young. Eighty-eight percent of the Americans who read e-books continue to read printed ones as well. There’s something we find special about turning the pages of a book together. Kids can explore new places and learn new things. You don’t have to push a book on kids if they are always accessible, and physical books offer an alternative to electronic engagement. If you prefer electronic books, though, Kindle, Audible, Goodreads, and Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, are low-cost or no-cost options.
Make reading as fun as possible. Anything that’s too much of a chore isn’t enjoyable. My kids are very different readers. One likes fantasy and magical places, the other like the world of comics. We thought our youngest wasn’t going to be a reader, but we always kept books around. The key to fostering a love of reading, I believe, is to keep books accessible. If you have young kids, check with your local library for storytime offerings. Many use puppets and games to engage children.
You can visit the library as often as possible for new and exciting material. Often we visit the local library every week to make new reading selections. We made an effort to find deals on websites like Thrift Books to own books kids like enough to read over and over.
Foster Connections, Not Competition
Make books into friends. And librarians too. When kids carry books like their favorite stuffed animal, you’ve got a good thing going. Foster reading as an enjoyable pastime. My kids run up to librarians to get help searching for a new series of books they learned about at school. Librarians, who we grew to know by name, gush at being able to help kids fall in love with books. Often, they can make suggestions about other books kids might enjoy. Be a frequent visitor of the library, and you’ll develop friendships that allow kids to read books before they find their way to shelves for general circulation.
Please don’t compare your kids and their abilities. One of ours could read circles around the other one for a long time. The other one just wasn’t as interested in reading, until one day she was. When you focus on what kids want to read, they’ll pick up a book of their own choosing when they are ready. When there’s no pressure, reading books can be a fun, pleasurable experience.
Build Essential Skills
Reading grows spelling and writing skills. Kids lose the fun pronunciation of words they don’t fully understand until they see the words in print. Conversation and spelling skills naturally improve the more time kids spend between the pages of books. The Flynn effect says reading increases intelligence. If my kids are evidence, I believe it’s true. As beneficial as I think reading is, I’m a big fan of letting reading be a fun experience for as long as possible. There’s plenty of time for teachers to mandate which books to read, how many, and how often. Kids who develop a love for reading do so out because they enjoy the freedom to choose reading books that bring them pleasure. Psychology Today says:
“There is also evidence that readers at all levels — even adults — use the decoding processes learned through phonics to read words that are new to them throughout their lives.”
Skills are important, so too is the psychological connection that happens when you read aloud with kids. When you connect on an emotional level, you remember heartfelt stories.
Connect Conversationally and Relationally
My favorite part of reading with kids is not what reading does for them, but what reading does for us. Reading builds up our relationships. Excited readers are sharing readers who merge the characters of their books with real lives. We’ve had some of the best conversations by talking about books. Kids come to the table, having just left a character who’s become a friend, and want to tell others about what their friend just did. If only they’d open up about their school day like they open up about their books.
Turn off the TV and turn on connections of kids’ minds. For us, this often happens before bedtime. You can cuddle with kids and enjoy deeper relationships because you took the time to care about the characters they care about. There’s a big difference in reading with and to a child. You read to an infant. You get an opportunity to read with kids. Be sure to ask questions to show you are engaged in the story with them and let kids take control of turning the pages. Laugh, worry, cry, and grow with characters they’ve come to enjoy and develop bonds that can last a lifetime.
Grow with Books
Learning to read is a complicated process, but reading books becomes easy when you enjoy spending time together. Don’t forget to read with kids instead of reading to them. Reading together is about more than building the fundamental skills of reading, writing, and communication to increase their intelligence. More important than the skills kids learn are the relationships caregivers enhance through reading together. Read with kids today and build deeper connections for tomorrow.