Friday, May 14, 2010

Books for Summer!

I love books. I really do. Our house is full of them... full of bookshelves and stacks of books and sorted books and kids books and chapter books and picture books... and it gets a little messy, but I just love it. My kids have been around books since they were born and all four of them came to love them in their own way.

I talk to parents all the time who say that their kids just don't like books at all. They don't like to read, don't like stories, aren't good at it and would rather do anything else. Sometimes that is true but when you find that a child is not connecting with reading at all, you don't have to assume that is a permanent situation. There might be something you can do to help steer them in another direction.

When Noah was born, we read to him all the time. He was the kind of baby that loved to listen and look and soak it all up. He loved the one on one time with a parent that comes with reading and if you even held up a book to show him, he lit up. We kept a little wagon in the family room with bunches of board books in it and, from the time he could sit up independently, he would dump them out and look at the pictures. Honestly, we didn't make him this way... he came this way and we fostered it.

When Benjamin was born 18 months later, he didn't sit still for a second. Showing him books was an exercise in futility because all he wanted to do was explore. He could not focus, didn't want to turn pages, could not listen and we were stumped. Noah spent a lot of time looking at him, completely confused as to why his little brother wouldn't play along.

I could have given up. We thought about it. We tried to wrap our heads around a kid who didn't like books. And then I had an idea! What if I found books he could explore? What if I bought books that made noises and had flaps and were totally hands on? Would he take the bait?

Did he ever! We started with Pat the Bunny and moved on to every book I could possibly find that had textures, buttons, wheels, pop-ups... And in very short order, Benjamin was sold! Books were fun! Books made noise! Books were something you could play with and touch and experience in lots of different ways.

My older boys are 13 and 11 now and both are always wrapped up in a book. Being boys who love to read has been a benefit to them because so much of school is easier for kids who can take the written word and store it up for later use. But, that is just an aside. What they really love is a story that lights up their imaginations and helps them to see something new in God's amazing world.

Summer is the perfect time for reading and for fostering a love of the act itself. If you have a reluctant reader, this is a great time to look at it in a whole new way. How can you make it fun? What is the stumbling block? Is it hard? Is it boring? Is it work? Knowing what keeps your child from opening a good book can help you find a solution that will allow them open up a new joy in their life. Think it through. What do they need? It is totally fine to meet them where they are and make the act of reading a thoroughly enjoyable activity.

When I was a first grade teacher, I used to make space in our week to spend time reading books for pleasure. During this time, I let my students sit or lay anywhere in the classroom that they liked. If you had peeked into our classroom during a free reading time, you would have seen students laying under their desks with their feet on their chairs, sitting on our register while leaning on the windows, curled up under tables, laying on the floor outside their lockers with their feet tucked deep inside... and yes, seated happily at their desks. I loved it. They loved it. And they learned reading could be fun and comfortable and about them.

What should they read? Oh my! I could go on forever on this topic (this is actually one of my speaking topics and in that, I share long lists of wonderful books)... but for today, here are some great choices:

Babies: Pat the Bunny, Goodnight Moon, Freight Train, Babies

Toddlers: Anything with a flap. : ) Books by Eric Carle

Preschool: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Green Eggs and Ham, The ABC Book, Good Dog, Carl

Elementary: Charlotte's Web, Guess How Much I Love You, Fancy Nancy

Upper Elementary: The Chronicles of Narnia, Guardians of Ga'Hoole, Island of the Blue Dolphins
Middle School: The Hobbit, Shakespeare's Secret, A Wrinkle in Time

High School: Eragon (the first in a series)
Also, if you need help finding really good books, look up books that have won awards like:
Caldecott Winners: Picture books
Newberry Awards: Story (normally chapter books)
Caudill Award Winners: Illinois Award for Outstanding book (chapter books, usually)
Monarch Award: Illinois K-3 level Outstanding Book (usually storybook)

What about reading out loud to your kids? Oh yes! If you can find a few minutes, sit down and do just that! Don't get wrapped up in feeling guilty if you didn't get around to it today. Start again tomorrow. I just ordered a book that you might find helpful called Classics to Read Aloud to Your Children. This book includes stories to share with your kids, rated by level and offers a time estimate for how long it will take to read that story. ( For instance, The Ugly Duckling is great for younger kids and will take 9 minutes to read. )

In our house, summer is the perfect time for reading. My kids are encouraged to read 30 minutes a day but most of the time, 30 minutes turns into far more. We will make trips to the library and make room in the day for relaxing and enjoying a book.

So, let's share some ideas! What books do your kids love? What has worked well for you? What advice can you share with others who wander into the blog today? What questions do you have about your kids and their approach to reading?

If we work together now to make a plan for raising readers this summer, what an amazing season it can be in your home! So take a second, leave a comment and let's get ready for what's yet to come!

Blessings on your day!

1 comment:

Pragmatic Mom said...

I have a list of Favorite Books for Reluctant Boy Readers that I'd like to share with you at

I hope you find it useful!

Pragmatic Mom
Type A Parenting for the Modern World