How To Create Passionate Readers In Your Kids

I’m a yoga teacher and have been teaching solidly for the past eight years. However, very few yoga teachers come to the profession straight out of college and often have a few careers under their belt before they get around to teaching yoga. I think this is great, because experience is the best teacher and wisdom comes from experience, and wisdom is a wonderful yoga teacher quality. And so, ME TOO, not that #ME TOO, but the other me too, of having had a few other career incarnations before becoming a yoga teacher. I have a Master’s in Library Science and I used to be the Managing Librarian of the Children’s Department in a public library. So I know about kids books and reading and I’d like to share some thoughts about how to create passionate readers in your kids.

  1. Populate your home with reading material and have it easily accessible and everywhere- books, newspapers, magazines, journals, etc. Of course we all have phones, tablets, iPads, computers, etc and we can read on them, but ideally you want your child to develop an appreciation for books and the printed word, because this is what will truly engage their imagination. Digital reading is fun, convenient, efficient and exciting. But your child should learn to get excited by the content of the material and not just by the medium/delivery method of the material. Later they can use electronics and most certainly will, it’s inevitable. But especially for babies and toddlers, the printed word is paramount because it’s also about health and safety- the blue glow from screens and the magnetic fields from electronic devices are potentially harmful for young, developing bodies. It might damage their eyesight, it creates short attention spans and might stunt social development skills.
  2. It must be about PLEASURE! Reading is not necessarily supposed to be efficient, especially when you’re reading for pleasure and not just work emails. And this is key in encouraging and fostering a love of reading in children. Reading is about ideas, exploration, self-reflection, mindfulness, enjoyment, study, and intimacy. And all of these characteristics can be emotionally messy, they take time and attention, do not fit neatly into neat boxes or necessarily follow linear paths. A real printed book does not require charging or batteries that may need to be replaced, it also doesn’t have a screen that might crack when dropped. In contrast, baby and toddler books are available in plastic and other waterproof, chew proof, and stain proof materials, so they can be used anywhere- in the bath, in the crib, in the highchair and thus can become a beloved companion and a source of comfort.
  3. Use reading as a reward because sometimes you just need to bribe your children, we all do it! So, instead of using food like sweet treats (probably better not to encourage emotional eating) or money, which can lead to other issues around values and ethics, how about reading? Reading as a reward reinforces the notion of reading as pleasure and is a pretty guilt free bribe. They can have extra reading time at bedtime or on occasion maybe you can promise to buy that new book. It makes books and reading covetable and valuable.
  4. Your children should see you reading, everything! Yes, of course your phone and computer count, but that’s NOT enough. Read those books, newspapers and magazines, and anything else like mail, catalogs, greeting cards, etc. Reading and writing are inextricably linked so make sure they see you writing too, maybe keep a journal, so they can watch you write. It’s rare to be a great writer without being a prolific reader. And read aloud as much as you can because it has innumerable benefits! Beyond the traditional bedtime story read aloud all day- articles, recipes, bills, instruction manuals, warranties, whatever you have to hand and show them what you’re reading, explain it and stop to ask your child questions. Ask the “five W’s”, who, what, when, where, why and the “one H”, how. When you go a restaurant hand them a menu to look at and read the menu aloud together too. If there’s a takeout menu available bring it home so that they can play with it and pretend to read it and then order. It doesn’t matter what you read, just let them see you and hear you reading because it’s bonding, it helps them with vocabulary, intonation, context, comprehension and spelling.
  5. Get a real, physical calendar and write on it, even if you prefer your digital calendar, just use the real calendar so that they can see you write on it and then read aloud what you have written.  Physically handwrite grocery and shopping lists, so that you can read them aloud together and they can hold the list when you go out shopping together; children love being responsible for something and love feeling involved in the process. When you’re shopping, especially for groceries, read the ingredients aloud. This has a twofold purpose: 1. it’s another chance to practice reading, 2. it can teach them to be savvy consumers and create healthy eating habits if you point out what’s healthy and what’s not. Definitely ask for a printed receipt and hand the receipt to your child to “read”, even if they are only one years old and have no clue what it is or why, it doesn’t matter. This will get them into the habit of seeing and eventually reading the receipt and later can be turned into a money/financial lesson about budgeting, counting change, credit card usage, etc. Send cards for birthdays, holidays and other events and instead of just writing their name, as early as possible, give them a crayon, marker or pencil and have them sign their own name, so that they can begin to develop an awareness of “pen to paper”.  Use old cards and magazines for projects. Cut out words and make collages of new words and create signs for the house, “kitchen”, “my room”, “bathroom”, “closet”, etc. and tape them up. Perhaps even order their own personalized stationery so they can feel like an adult and certainly have them “write” their own thank you notes, etc. Printed word rubber stamps are also super fun!
  6. Get a library card and go to story time! But also become an active member of your local library and volunteer at book sales and other library events. Support bookstores, literary festivals and spoken word events. Go to garage sales and buy books, maybe even find CD’s or old LP albums with lyrics so that you can read them together. And while new books cost money and so do stationery supplies, there is so much available at low or no cost, so don’t be fooled into thinking that raising a voracious reader is financially prohibitive, it’s not. Many cities support reading initiatives for children and some neighborhoods have free “little library” boxes . All of this establishes daily reading habits and the significance of the printed word. There are so many opportunities to share the act of reading, if you look for them.

Monique Marco is an Ashtanga-based vinyasa yoga teacher who loves urban life and eats dark chocolate every day. She's also a certified make-up artist and image consultant specializing in natural skin-care, beauty and eco-fashion.

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