Ok, so full disclosure: I’m an English teacher. Like, I have a son named after my favorite literary character (“Atticus”) and a daughter named after a Louisiana epic poem (“Evangeline”). So, yeah. To say I love literature is an understatement. Which meant that when I became a mother, one of my greatest priorities was fostering a love for reading in my kids.
Though it hasn’t always been easy, my husband and I have made it a point to establish some household guidelines entirely around reading. And I’ve seen enough episodes of “Intervention” to know that there’s a word for our behavior: enablers. We unabashedly enable our kids’ addiction to reading. If you’re interested in developing reading addicts in your home, here are some things to consider:
“If you build it, they will come.”
Is there a location dedicated to reading in your home? In your kid’s room? Sometimes they just get so bored they’ll check out a book if it’s within reach. (This sometimes happens when my kids get punished from everything else.) Consider converting a cozy corner into a reading nook!
“More is caught than is taught.” We try to make sure our kids see us reading. My husband likes to read after bedtime when it’s finally quiet in the house. I’ve gone so far as to ask him to please read while I’m covering homework and supper duties just so the kids have an opportunity to see him read, even if it means I’m doing more work. Yes, I know it sounds desperate. I’m trying to make addicts here, people!
Talk about It
I read a lot on my cell phone. Ok, I also waste a lot of brain cells on social media and memes. But I *also* read articles. So I make it a point to talk to the kids about what I’m reading on my phone, even talking about different ways to read and different types of reading materials.
“Guess what? I’m reading this article about honeybee extinction …”
“Today I read an article about the weirdest tourist attractions in each state, and you’ll never believe what was in Louisiana!”
I’m like walking click-bait for reading.
I really want them to get a lot out of these simple conversations: hear the word “read,” make sure they know that I read every day, hear how excited I am about it, have discussions about it, see that it can be about any topic known to man, and understand that it never goes away. Even grown-ups read.
Invest in the Goods
I’m talking time and money. We spend a lot of time around dealers. Yep, libraries and bookstores. This is where I let the building and the experts do all the work. I let them get their own library cards and check out books like grown-ups and talk to librarians about books and book-related events and attend story-time and hold books … !
We spend like half our weekends in Barnes & Noble. This started because the kids thought the train table was the greatest thing they had ever seen. It was entertaining and free. Perfect! Then it began … My book enabling started innocently enough. I would buy one book here, one book there. I told myself I could quit whenever I wanted to. That I was still in control.
But my husband faced me with the truth: I was an addict. “We can’t buy a new book every time we come,” he tried to reason. “We can’t spend half our paychecks on children’s books!” It didn’t work. I didn’t care if we went without luxuries like toilet paper. By GOD, we would have books! All the books! “Mommy, can we get this book?” “Yes! You want another one? Look at this one I picked up!”
It’s still bad. It’s especially dangerous when we make trips without Daddy.
(He cut me off from buying new books a long time ago because our buying started to exceed their reading. Then last week he made a Scholastic book order exceeding $50. Clearly we’re both addicted, but only one of us is in denial.)
Break all the Rules
This one is an extension of the one before, and it’s especially tough for me. I’m a hard-nosed rule enforcer when it comes to my kids. But as strict as I seem, all of it falls to pieces with books.
Bedtime is at 8, sharp. “Can we read?” “Ok, but just for a few minutes.”
When we go out to eat, nothing comes in the restaurant with us. “Can we bring a book?” “Sure!”
No extraneous snacks. “Can I get a treat if I finish my chapter book?” “Ooh, how about ice cream?!”
You’re punished from everything. You’re grounded from oxygen. “Can I still read?” “Always.”
And, as you may suspect from my ELA background, I’m sort of a traditionalist. I throw all the classics at these kids. But when they beg to read DogMan for the 12th time this week when I really want them to try that chapter book that they insisted I buy last month? Absolutely. Do you, kid. What am I gonna do? Tell them no? To READING?! They’re literally begging me. The answer is yes.
That book I ordered will still be in our library when you’re ready for it. And probably 37 more by that time.