Get In a Good Book, Part 2
In 2015, it was reported that the average child spends 6.5 hours PER DAY in front of a screen. How much of that is wasted time digesting a show or a game that really does not enhance anything in their brain? How different would be their education, their intellect, their understanding of the world around them, if they spent 6.5 hours a day with their nose in a good book instead?
In February, we looked at four benefits to reading (mental stimulation, improved focus, knowledge, and life perspective). I was mostly encouraging YOU to pick up a book and read, but in this article, I want to challenge you to get your children involved. It is so important for children to be reading. They reap all of the same benefits of reading that we do, and when they start young in life, it will positively impact them for their whole lives.
Here are some ways to get started:
Start reading to them early.
There are lots of good baby and toddler books out there, that can help you teach numbers, colors, and letters long before the children are school age. Starting to read to your children earlier than you think you should (before they are really looking and understanding what you are saying) teaches them to enjoy books and to sit quietly with you. They will associate reading books with fond memories of snuggling with Mommy and Daddy, and will start to recognize and understand more than you think they might! I was so excited to make bedtime reading part of our routine, that I started reading to my son, nightly, when he was only 6 or 7 months of age. That may seem a little early to some, but when Baby Sister joins the family this fall, she’ll also join in on that routine from her very first week!
Encourage planned AND spontaneous reading.
Having a set time in the day for reading will ensure that it is happening every day. This can be right after breakfast for a family devotion time, in the mornings as a “schooltime,” even before they are school age, in the afternoon for a “quiet time” that can continue even after they outgrow naps, or in the evenings right before bed. All of these are good, planned times, but pick one and try to stick with it so that it becomes habit.
If you make consistent, planned reading time part of your routine when your children are young, they will follow through and begin reading on their own! It makes my heart so happy whenever I peek into my 2-year-old’s room and see him curled up with a book, “reading” to himself, or to one of his stuffed animals. He much prefers to be read to, of course, and brings me books throughout the day. But since I can’t always be available to read to him, it’s nice to see him start to have an interest in doing it himself. We’re building and cultivating in him a lifelong love of reading and learning!
You can encourage spontaneous reading by just making books available! Baskets and small piles of books throughout the house (while also limiting the screens they have at their disposal) will encourage your children to browse through them on their own. Especially when they are very little, it can be easy to want to keep the books out of reach, since very young children tend to want to chew and destroy them. First, remember that books are replaceable, and when you do see them chewing or ripping, use that as an opportunity to teach them how to respect and treasure books. I’d rather sacrifice a couple of books early on, and have my children be familiar with them and begin to enjoy them earlier, than to preserve all my books at the risk of losing that influential time in my child’s life.
Pick good books for your children to read.
It might be tempting to fall into 1 of 2 ditches here – either picking only books that offer good instruction, or picking only the silly books that they prefer to read. There needs to be a balance between the two! Make it enjoyable for your kids, by finding books on subjects that they enjoy, about characters that they will get attached to, and books that will make them laugh. Reading something is better than reading nothing, and there’s nothing wrong with there being a good amount of entertainment in their reading. However, do make them read books that they might not prefer, especially as they get older. Introduce them to new authors and subjects, and teach them the value of reading something that they don’t necessarily enjoy, but can still learn from!
Model what you want to see in them.
Let them see you reading, and enjoying it! Go to the library with them, and pick out books for yourself, too. Talk to them about what you are reading and learning, and it will encourage them to share the same with you. You will probably want to screen most, if not all, of what your children are reading before just handing them books, so use that knowledge of what they are reading, to open up good conversations and ask them questions.
While this hasn’t been the main focus of these articles, let them see you read and study your Bible, which is, of course, the most important Book of all. When I think back to when I was a little girl, if my mother wasn’t working around the house or the garden, she was sitting in her chair and reading – usually her Bible. Then, when she had finished her daily reading (she read through the whole Bible every year), she would pick up a book that she was working on. It was perfectly natural for me, even as a young child, to want to do the same as her!
So have you read any good books lately?