Recently, Jen of Jen Robinson’s Book Page discussed an article by Liz Bury in the Guardian reporting on a study that found that “only 13% of parents read to their kids at night every day of the week.” The title of the article is: “Children’s bedtime stories on the wane, according to survey.”
Jen brings up the good point although parents aren’t reading bedtime stories, that doesn’t mean they aren’t reading during other times throughout the day. I recently went on a plane trip with my 7 month old, and they best way we could keep still on our laps was to read to him. He, surprisingly, doesn’t have the patience to watch anything on a screen, and I enforce the AAP no screen time until age 2 recommendation. Well, sort of. Every once in a while, the little guy watches some baseball games with his dad. But on the plane, we read to him a pop-up book. By the end of the flight home, he had figured out how to open all the flaps in order to see the pop-up animals. Granted, we read the same book about 5-10x during the flight, but its encouraging to see him so engaged with print, and to figure out how to work a pop-up book at such a young age.
We read to him every night as well, but some nights he’s just to fussy, or we’ve been out all day and he’s asleep by the time we get home. I try reading to him in the mornings, when he is at his most alert and is attentive for multiple stories. For his bedtime, we read the same 2 books each night, because he won’t sit still for anything new, and he cries if we even attempt it. Our bedtime books are Goodnight Moon and Lets Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy.
In her post Jen discusses the organization Read Aloud, which has been created to promote reading aloud to children for 15 minutes a day. The website offers some amazing promotional downloads for distribution and conversation starters. On a personal note, Jim Trelease has been one of the biggest proponents of the read aloud movement, and his book has been very educational for me as a parent of an infant and as a librarian working with young children. Although I know that reading aloud is important (as do most parents) it’s often the WHY that is elusive or hard to explain, particularly why 15 minutes. Reading Aloud builds vocabulary, yes. But it does so much more.
It doesn’t matter if you read in the morning before breakfast, or after lunch during quiet time, or before bed. It matters that you:
- Always have books around that you can read to your child, whether they are your family’s own books or library books.
- Try to say yes when your child asks you to read aloud.
- Make reading part of your daily routine, no matter how busy that routine is, by fitting it in somewhere.
- Keep reading together fun!
- Keep reading aloud to your child even after your child can read to herself, for as long as she will let you. (Jen Robinson Book Page)
My guy is little, but right from the start, I’ve been reading to him. He would fall asleep as I read him Steinbeck or whatever other book I was reading (except Catch-22, he cried and fussed whenever I picked up that book in particular). I leave board books out on his play mat along with his other toys to make it a regular presence in his young life. He bites them, opens the pages, stares at the pictures and has recently learned to flip through the books transferring the page from one hand to the other. I have books in virtually every room in our apartment for him to look at. I’ll often catch him staring at the bookshelves in the living room.
One of my biggest struggles, as a librarian and bookworm, is how to pass on the love of reading, without forcing it on him, and making it a chore rather than a pleasure. I try to just let him come to the books, which he readily does. I plan on being open minded about what he wants to read (comics, newspapers, non-fiction, etc). I plan on ignoring the fact that books are somehow “boy books” and “girl books” and just let him have free reign in the library. My parents did that with me, and I turned out OK, despite having gotten my hands on the book Interview With the Vampire at age 11 after my parents wouldn’t let me watch the movie.
What are your read aloud strategies with your children?