As parents, we are constantly hearing about how we want to create a culture of reading in our families. Someone talks about the magical time he has reading to his children while snuggled into bed, or the two hours she spend reading to her little one. I think, “I would love to have that culture, but I would fall asleep reading in bed, and there is no way my little one is going to sit still longer than 30 minutes!”
A culture of reading can feel like a vague notion that seems too hard to achieve. But, then I started to realize what everyone truly means when they talk about a culture of reading. A culture of reading means that learning is valued by parents. It also means that we fill our home with learning materials, including lots of wonderful books. If we as parents value learning and provide the materials that make learning possible, then we will be able to create that culture, no matter how well anyone sits still!
Here are some of the things that we done used to incorporate a culture of reading in our home.
Choose Good Books
I interacted with a wonderful mom one convention who wanted to buy Primer because although her daughter was still young, she wanted to use Primer as a book list. She said that since she was going to read aloud anyway, she wanted to be able to have excellent recommendations on hand that would be well-written and beautiful read alouds. I admired that foresight and wished I had thought of that idea when my girls were little! It would have saved me a lot of worry about finding high quality books at the library when they were little, and I may have escaped the hundreds of times I had to read Llama Llama Red Pajama!
Tapestry provides so many wonderful book choices. If you are looking for a simple booklist, we have a curated list for you! These books include many classics and have also introduced our family to some new favorites. We suggest read alouds to go along with your week of study, but I have also heard of many families who take one of the literature selections and use that for a read aloud.
On top of high quality classics that we enjoy as a family, we also have some family favorites. Most will never reach great intellectual heights, but we delight in the humor of Jeeves and Wooster, and the silliness of the comics of Asterix and Obelix. We have giggled at the antics of Bruno and Boots in This Can’t be happening at Macdonald Hall, and enjoyed the adventures of Curious George. All of these books have helped to bring our family together.
Make time to read to yourself
Your kids will imitate what you do. I realized this one day when my daughter asked me to help her find Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen on an audiobook. I love Jane Austen, and Pride and Prejudice is my favorite of her books. I have a habit of reading short parts of favorite books during lunch, and I tend to re-read that book over and over again. I never thought much about it but it made an impression on my daughter. She decided that if I liked it that much then she wanted to listen to it too. When I model reading it not only helps me develop more interests, it also encourages my kids to read books as well.
Read aloud as a family
My husband excels at including reading in our family time. He will pick up a book that he thinks the girls will like and starts to read a chapter aloud. Soon they are immersed in the book and beg for more chapters every night. But, even when they are fascinated by the story, there are still interruptions. So, we set our expectations low and know that we will need to stop reading to answer a question. A common statement is, “Daddy, pause it!” when the four year old needs to make a rapid dash to the bathroom, but doesn’t want to miss any of the story. We also encourage quiet hands-on activities, like coloring or Legos, during this time. Somehow, when the girls are doing something with their hands, they focus on the story better.
Along with our evening chapter books, I have also tried to read picture books regularly to my four year old during the day. I started to do this because one day I realized that I had not been reading to her all the wonderful picture books that I had read to her older sisters, because my older girls now wanted chapter books or I was reading our history books aloud instead. I set up a simple plan where I would lay out three picture books that I wanted to read to my littlest one. It never failed that she would come and start to look at the books by herself, then quickly turn to me and ask me to read them to her. Somehow this little trick worked and I read aloud books at her level much more.
Audiobooks are amazing!
I am not an auditory person. I get distracted by a lot of noise and barely think to put music on in our house. But, my eight year old loves to listen to audiobooks. She has a story constantly running as she colors, does her math, or cleans her room. She delights in listening to books that are still a bit too hard for her to read to herself, and audiobooks keep up with her insatiable appetite for read alouds! We try to find a few at the library when we get books, but loyalbooks.com has lots of free options as well.
Stop reading boring books
When my oldest daughter first started to read chapter books on her own, she would either reject the book by looking at its front cover, or start it and think she had to finish it even if it bored her. I taught her that she should try books that might not grab her at first, but if the book does not interest her, there is nothing wrong with putting it away and going onto a different book. As an adult, I don’t force myself to read a boring book “for pleasure” when there are so many other fun options. I want to teach her the delight of finding new favorites. Books you read on your own time should be fun!
I follow the same rule when I pick a book to read aloud to the girls. I try to pick one that I am excited about reading. I will make time for a book that interests me too, rather than one I think I should read because someone added it to a list called, “educated people must read.”
A reading culture has helped our children to love to learn and to see value in reading. It has also encouraged close family relationships. Each child has different academic gifts and passions, but the love of a good story or read-aloud time is strong in all of them. I am confident that by continuing in these five things, we will continue to create a home filled with a love of reading and learning.
If you want to get some wonderful read aloud suggestions, see the books Tapestry recommends here!
Year 1 Read-alouds
Year 2 Read-alouds
Year 3 Read-alouds
Year 4 Read-alouds