I come from a family that loves to read. A good night for my family would be one in which we were all curled up in comfy chairs in the living room with a book. The silence was punctuated by someone saying, “Can I read you this part? It says…” I want that for our family, but we’re not there yet. So how do we get there?
Here are a collection of suggestions to foster reading in our families. Please add your suggestions in the comments!
- Turn off the screens. Don’t let reading be the last thing you do at night– let it be the first thing.
- Invest in comfy chairs. Nothing beats a squashy chair and a fuzzy blanket to promote getting lost in a book.
- Buy good lamps. Sorry, but a can light in the ceiling isn’t good enough. A lamp over your shoulder is the best thing for seeing your book. 100-watt bulbs. Failing that, a headlamp for reading under the covers will work.
- Go to the library. Frequently. It took us a few trips to get familiar with where our favorites are at our local library, but now we know where the books are. (Hint: they are behind the prominently displayed DVDs.)
- Cultivate a librarian. Growing up, we had 2 librarians who loved our family. When a new book by one of my dad’s favorite authors came in, Wendy set it aside for him until he came in (every Monday and Thursday.) They knew what I loved to read and were thrilled to share their favorites. We are missing the librarian we just left at our old library: she was the one who introduced us to The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Here There Be Dragons.
- Read to your little ones. Read the same book over and over and over to your baby. She doesn’t care what the words are– she just wants to sit on your lap and hear your voice. But your toddler wants to hear the same book over and over and over. Don’t give up, even if you can’t. stand. to. read. it. one. more. time.
- Read to your preschoolers. This is when we can branch out to longer books, more engaging stories. Winnie the Pooh. Beatrix Potter. Use silly voices.
- Keep reading to your elementary school children. Sure, they need to read alone… but they still need to snuggle with you and soak in the good stories. (See #2.) Recently I read where Charlotte Mason recommended against reading to older children “lest they get lazy.” I disagree.
- Use books on CD. Some of our favorite books are ones we listened to in the car. It sure beats bickering about who’s looking out someone else’s window.
- Keep several books going yourself. Books are like vegetables: if your children see your enjoyment of them, they will crave them as well.
- Read as a family. The books we read together are like friends. We talk about them often, referring to them like family. “What you did then was just like Lucy, when she recognized Aslan.” Don’t give your older kids an out– secretly they want to be included, even if they pretend to be too cool for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
But here is where I need you to weigh in: how long should someone be allowed to read independently at bedtime?
- a) 20 minutes max
- b) till the end of the chapter
- c) till a fixed hour
- d) till their headlamp batteries run out?