We are proud to carry on Banner’s reading legacy with a series of “Little Free Libraries” at the three branches of the preschool that Banner loved so much. We are calling our libraries “Banner’s Bookshelf” in his honor, with the prayer that many children will learn to love books as he did. If you are a parent, what can you do to further encourage your children (or grandchildren!) in reading?
Here are some tips from our own household:
• Don’t assume that young babies and toddlers can’t understand. Read to them even before they understand, because they listen to vocal tone and cadence and learn to mimic language this way. And before you know it, they actually will be understanding. Our daughter’s first word was “book!” at 10 months old.
• Make reading a bedtime story (or two or three) a nightly routine. Let the kids take turns picking the books.
• As you put kids to bed, give them time to read in their beds. Even younger ones can “read” (ie: simply look at pictures and maybe re-tell the stories in their minds) and they see this as a privilege when they stay up a few minutes later, or “read” like an older sibling.
• Take any books you can get. If someone offers you used books, receive them! And buy cheap ones at second-hand sales. You can always read them a few times and donate them if you don’t want to keep them in your permanent library. If you have access to a library, visit frequently!
• Let kids listen to audio books. My sister-in-law is especially good with this one. She incorporates book-listening into car trips and family relaxation times. They listen to books in the background while coloring, doing puzzles, and hanging out.
• Let others read to your kids. If you have a guest in your home, ask your child, “who should read you a book tonight?” Often they’ll look from one adult’s face to another, then pick the guest! They are bursting with curiosity— how will that person read? What will they sound like? How will they act?
• Refer to the lessons in the books in everyday life. “Uh-oh, if you eat too many pancakes you might become a pancake!” (Just like a kid named Otto in one book who loved cars so much he became a car). We have many principles and examples that have become part of our family culture and relationships. For example we talk frequently about a book, "What If Everybody Did That?" if we see someone litter. Or we talk about not being like Bonnie in one beloved book where the little piglet had a “me-first attitude.” Keep an eye out for books that capture your values or what you aspire to be as a family.
• Have fun with the reading. In books that rhyme, see if your child can finish the sentence with the right word. With books we read a lot, we will sometimes insert funny wrong words and our daughter will laughingly exclaim, “That’s not right!”
• Make the reading interactive. Try to ask an age-appropriate question on each page. Can you point to the yellow car? What’s one detail you notice about the illustration on this page? What do you think will happen next? If you were in this situation what would you do?
Perhaps you can pick one or two of these tips to implement right away. We parents
can always benefit from tips we share with each other. We welcome your own tips to get
your kids on the reading bandwagon. Send them in! Happy reading!