Thursday, July 23, 2009

Starting Early

Books fill every nook and shelf in our house. I sometimes fear the second story will collapse with the weight of my children's books. One thing I've never been able to deny them is the request for purchase of a book. And they like to keep them all. They do reread them, their favorites over and over again.
There are many reasons to be proud of our children but one thing in particular about my brood lifts my spirits. They're an active bunch, all of them playing multiple sports through high school and two of them through college. One is still in high school and following the footsteps of her brothers in many ways. But all of them have always had a love of books as great as their love of sports. I was so proud of my sons when they packed books to take along to their summer sport camps right beside their cleats or basketball shoes. Just yesterday my daughter asked me to take her to Borders to purchase some fresh reading for hockey camp.
Often other parents ask me how do you get your children to read? I have no sure answer but I know it must start early. Like many parents I read to my children from a time before they could talk. We looked at picture books and made up stories to go with the pictures. Once they could speak, we took turns making up the stories. We went to the library and all those summer programs they offered for children. We brought bags of books home each week and read everyone of them.
As a writer, it is refreshing and inspiring to know there are so many upcoming consumers of the written word. I love going to the bookstore and seeing all the young people shopping and buying stacks of books. As a parent, it is rewarding to believe I influenced my own children to love the written word. I can't imagine a relationship with my children where we didn't discuss books or critique together the movies made from our favorite books.
The past three weeks, my fifteen year old daughter has risen early each morning to volunteer in a summer reading program for children held at the local elementary school. It's been a learning experience for her to help children with something that comes so easily to her. She's also enjoyed the rewards of sharing something that brings her so much joy. She's passing on the love to a new generation of readers.
There are many ways to measure our success as parents, members of the community and writers. Even something as simple as donating a book can make that small bit of difference in a child's chances of loving reading. Even if I never have a blockbuster bestseller, I can look at my sons and daughter and know I've been successful at one of my goals as an author. I hope we all can pass the love of reading on to someone else.


Hart Johnson said...

My kids got read to in utero, and every night after. I am the working parent at our house, so for them it was their special mom-time. Still, their personalities are SO different in relation to books.

They are both able readers, but my daughter, from the beginning, cared more about the entertainment value--she wanted a story (ideally, starring her), where my son as a toddler liked cadence and words.

She is 14 now and really only reads when 'there's not a better option'--during the school year we enforce a minimum homework time and if she finishes before it's over, she is to read (we did this to keep her from rushing through) and we try to encourage her to read before bed, which she does between texting *rolls eyes*.

My son on the other hand, an incoming 6th grader, still loves me to read to him and then reads on his own for at least 90 minutes. In the summer there are a few exceptions (Wednesday Wipe-out is on, some Fridays we rent movies) but almost always. He even has been known to sit and read on a Saturday (though only if his friends are busy).

I think the difference is in the processing. My daughter's approach leaves her remembering little. She enjoys it and then is done. My son interacts, anticipates, predicts. He is much more engaged. It is how I read, though I didn't do that until later in life, so I am hoping one day my daughter does too.

Your facebook note asked WHICH books: both of them learned the thrill of chapter books with Harry Potter, but that may be because JKRowling was teaching their mama how a master writes a book.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Same here, WT, my husband read to them in utero, and we read every night after they were old enough to sit in our laps.

My husband hid "The Foot Book" under the couch because Number One would sit in his lap, have him read the book, then take it out of the right hand and put it in his left to have him read it again.

It's interesting how my kids (now 14 and 10) have such different styles, too. Number One reads a book a day during the summer, and often during the school year, too. She's been reading things like Romeo and Juliet, The Great Gatsby, and Great Expectations, because she knows they'll be required reading in high school.

Number Two likes to read just as much, but has slightly less patience for sitting still that long. She often has four books going on at a time. She'll stop one, restart it months later, etc. It's definitely tied in to personality.

Oh, but I think the VERY most important factor in getting kids to read is to read yourself. If you're not a reader, how can you expect your kids to be? Emulation is much more powerful than instruction.

Great topic, Sue!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Sometimes as an avid reader, it's difficult to understand how anyone doesn't enjoy it as much as we do. I do know people who grew into their love of reading, but I think most readers start early. And hearing how different children respond to the same early exposure really points out how little we actually understand personality development and nature versus nurture. Thanks for the comments. It's so interesting to read other people's experience. As a teacher, I sometimes wish I could pull parents like you two into parenting classes as guest speakers.

Ella Drake said...

We read to them from starting in utero, too. We still read to them. Oldest is ten, and they're all heavy readers on their own, usually one book at a time until they're done, but not always. I hope it continues.