After I had my first son, I was determined to start reading to him at an early age. I read to him from whatever I was reading as he slept when he was a newborn. It might be the Bible, or a health book I was into. It definitely was not a kid book. But I knew he liked to hear me read, so I just read out loud whenever I could. When he could sit up in my lap, I’d read him board books. I’d point out the animals or colors. When he could point to pictures and tell me what everything was, I felt like my hard work was starting to pay off. Over the years, we’ve accumulated quite a collection of Little Boy Approved Books. My oldest son had favorites when he was at least 6 months old! Now that he is almost four and I’ve been able to introduce him to new books almost every week. But he still has favorites. He even has started having a favorite genre.
The first boy remembers details very quickly. He can even sight read if we practice one book over and over. But…a week or two later if I come back to the same book, he will forget the sight words. He’s still so little, I can’t expect him to remember everything. This only shows me how he will learn. He will be like me; memorizes quickly, but tends to forget after a while. This can come in handy! It just requires extra patience and practice when you need to remember something for the long run.
My second son is two and a half. He was different than his brother, in that books didn’t hold his attention until just recently. I would try reading to him when he was little, but he would basically swat the book away, or want to look at the cover over and over. This was ok! I didn’t let myself freak out or think that he wasn’t as smart as his brother. Boy #2 is opposite of Boy #1, no doubt. Their learning styles are proving to be completely different as well. Now, he will sit with me and enjoy reading a story! My take-away from this is…don’t give up when one child takes his time! This describes my second-born on everything. The boy takes his time, and his own timing is what makes him unique. I’ll cherish that instead of becoming anxious about it. Because once he learns something, it sticks. Slow and steady wins the race for him.
My third son is only five months old. So far, he reminds me of his oldest brother. He will stare intently at bright colored books, and almost reach out to grab the shapes. I wonder if a baby is really confused when they can’t grab a picture? In my experience with three boys, it only helps their coordination and curiosity!
When I’m reading a story to my two older boys, the baby will sit in my lap quietly, almost like he’s listening. With two older brothers, I hope my baby will easily transition into loving to read. I don’t have a degree in education. I’ve never taught any other children except my own. This is just my experience and I wanted to share what works for us.
Here’s my words of encouragement and tips for other mama’s who read, or want to read more, to their child:
It will pay off. Struggling to keep the book in your hands while your little toddler swats it away will be worth it. If you find a book with all the pages ripped out, don’t get too mad. Keep books available to your kid, even if you know it might get destroyed. I know all too well the frustration when all the little tabs are ruined in a book. But you know what, this means my boys have been exploring that book and learning that ripping paper makes a fun noise! (Maybe not so good…) I like this quote from The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Baur, “Give her (or him) sturdy books that she can look at alone. A torn book or two is a small price to pay for literacy.”
Asking your child questions about the pictures in a book truly expands their vocabulary and comprehension. My older son’s vocabulary is pretty impressive for a soon to be four-year-old. I credit some of it to his natural need to know everything. He asks questions himself now, when I’m reading to him. This makes me happy.
Don’t be afraid to read books that you think might be over their heads. They take in a lot more than we give them credit for. And it makes them smarter!
Find fun audiobooks. Many sources I’ve came across recommend listening to audiobooks with only a voice reading so the child will focus on the language only. But, really, I enjoy listening to audiobooks with background music and sound effects. I think my boys like this better, too. There is a time and place for the words only, but a Captain America audiobook wouldn’t be the same without some cool sound effects! The trip-trapping of Billy Goat Gruff wouldn’t be nearly as realistic if there wasn’t a sound that went with it! All that to say, audiobooks are a great way to interest your child in a book! They can follow along even when they can’t read.
Go to your local library when they have a story-time. This way, your child can listen to someone other than you! In my experience, this is a great way to grow their interest in libraries, crafts, and stories.
Choose your reading time with your child when your kid is showing interest. Stop them in the middle of something important to them, like playing with army men locked in an epic battle, they will not want to read! Find a good calm time in your day. Every family’s day looks different. It might be after lunch, or it might be before naptime. Your child will readily sit with you and read a few books if you do it at the right time. (Never ask, “Do you want to read?” The answer will most definitely be no. Instead, say, “Ok, it’s reading time!” They will happily trot over to you and beg you to read. Again, my experience.)
One thing I always like to do: bedtime story. Now, this varies and looks different some nights. This can be a great time to re-read favorites. Sometimes, I’m so exhausted, I’ll read a tiny bit of a chapter book we’re working through. Sometimes, I can only squeak out a made-up story about a bear. But no matter, they always like something to think about while they’re winding down.
In conclusion, I’ll just share with you my personal goals for my boys when it comes to reading. With my oldest, I really want to see him reading easy books this next year. We are almost through learning the alphabet and their sounds. I’m using Jessie Wise’s book, The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, and it’s a great phonics source. I’ll keep ya’ll posted on how it goes!
I want my middle son to really increase his vocabulary and speech. Like I said earlier, slow and steady is his game. He already knows letter sounds, and I really think he will be quick at learning his alphabet. He is just taking his time articulating what he’s learned. Expanded vocab and clearer speech. This is my goal for him this next year.
My baby…well, he can just keep being a baby. His time to learn to read will come soon enough.
Look for my post about Little Boy Approved Books for further ideas! I want my boys to love reading like I do.
For you mamas (or daddies!) out there, I highly recommend the books I mentioned above. Want to check them out? I first read The Well-Trained Mind from the library, but realized I will be needing this book very often. I highlighted and bookmarked in it once I bought it. I go back to it frequently. (If you want to purchase the books through my links, they are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission from Amazon.)