Make Reading Fun

10 Tips to Raising a Reader

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Have you ever grown frustrated because your child simply won’t read, says they hate reading (GASP!) or they seem to think reading is a chore?

Well I have news for you... it doesn’t have to be that way. I firmly believe that statement that’s quoted all the time - everyone’s a reader, and some just haven’t found the right book yet! One of my biggest passions is to help children develop a lifelong love for reading! My children are absolute bookworms and beg me to read to them all day long. The time we spend reading on any given day outweighs screen time 9 times out of 10, in fact!

I don’t think that my children grew to love reading by accident (although it may be in their genes, given that their mama has always been a bookworm, too). In all seriousness though, I believe their father and I set them up for this reading journey through specific actions in our home. Want to learn more? Read my tried and true tips below that can be used with children at any age and are sure to help foster a love of reading for your child!  

1. Book Ownership is Key

My children are surrounded by books at all times.We own hundreds, if not thousands of books. Not only does book ownership positively impact a child's reading level, but owning lots of books also increases the likelihood that children will pick up books and grow a love for reading. Investing in books for your home library is investing in your child's future! Did you know that a child who owns one book is 15 times more likely to read above the grade level expected for their age than same-age peers who don't own a book (stat cited by a study performed by the National Literacy Trust)? Can you imagine the impact owning hundreds of books can have on your child's reading success?

2. Make Books Accessible

Would you say that you use things more when they are within arm's reach? I know I do! The same is true for kids! So this next tip is about strategically placing books all over your home and especially in those high traffic areas including next to your child's bed, on the kitchen table, in the bathroom, and even in the car! Regularly rotate out the books that you store in these key placements around your home to keep your child's selection fresh. If you're worried about book storage, look around your home and gather up containers, bins, crates, tubs, baskets, and even canvas bags. You'd probably be surprised by what you already have that you can use!

3. Make Books Inviting

Not all book displays are created equal. Let's be honest, book spines aren't really inviting. What I've found to be helpful in my home is to face books on the 2. Make Books Accessible Would you say that you use things more when they are within arm's reach? I know I do! The same is true for kids! So this next tip is about strategically placing books all over your home and especially in those high traffic areas including next to your child's bed, on the kitchen table, in the bathroom, and even in the car! Regularly rotate out the books that you store in these key placements around your home to keep your child's selection fresh. If you're worried about book storage, look around your home and gather up containers, bins, crates, tubs, baskets, and even canvas bags. You'd probably be surprised by what you already have that you can use!shelf that I want my children to pick up. I periodically rotate the faced books and my kids gravitate toward them!

4. Read Aloud to your Child Most Days

Notice that I didn't say EVERY day. Even as a book lady, I can't say I get the chance to read aloud to my kids every single day, so if we make it a goal to read aloud 10-15+ minutes MOST days, we will be still making a giant impact on our children and their literacy and language development. We will be building stronger bonds with our children, enhancing their vocabulary, soothing and entertaining them, and building their knowledge for eventual success in reading. Reading aloud to our child activates the pleasure center in their brain, which conditions them to associate books with pleasure, not to mention it reduces stress for them AND us!! Reading aloud shouldn't stop when children begin to read independently, either. The same benefits to reading aloud that I mentioned above still apply as children get older. Some additional benefits to reading aloud to big kids include modeling fluent reading, helping them build awareness and empathy, and exposing them to new texts, authors, and genres. I challenge you to read aloud to your children (no matter their ages) 15 minutes today and MOST days!

5. Read Books Again and Again

Even if it drives you nuts, there are numerous benefits to reading a book over and over by your child's request. They are getting more familiar with new vocabulary, becoming aware of pattern and rhythm in text, and increasing their fluency, comprehension, and confidence!

6. Let Your Child Pick Books

Some teachers and parents get so hung up on a child's reading level that the child's interests are overlooked.While there is a time and a place for appropriate leveled reading practice, perhaps more importantly, we need to also allow our children to pick books to read for pleasure that may or may not be on their "right reading level" but that are read for the purpose of fostering that lifelong love for reading that we want them to have. The last thing we want is for reading to become a chore or task to simply be "checked off" as this mentality can be detrimental to a child's enjoyment of reading for the pleasure of it. So next time you visit the library or bookstore, let your child pick some books out, too!They will thank you for it!

7. Introduce New Books Often

Even though you may be thinking to yourself that your family already owns a lot of books, there will come a point when your child will outgrow your current selection. Just like a child's body grows, so does their brain and it's recommended to introduce new books to stimulate them in new ways and to keep their selection fresh. So next time you find yourself shopping for new clothes for your kiddo, consider picking up some new books for your child as well! Another idea to go along with this is to rotate books out to keep novelty in your child's selection. If you are limited on book shelf space, box some up and store them and create a rotation schedule! Store books by theme, season, or holiday and bring them out at the appropriate times of year. Our Christmas books get new life when we pull them out around the holidays!

8. Be Intentional About Screen Time

I will be honest. We limit screen time in our home and there are a plethora of reasons why we do so. One of the primary reasons is screen time seems to lead to an increase in behavior problems in our oldest child. This isn't to say that we never use screens. We do incorporate educational videos and TV shows sometimes, and we sometimes have family movie nights or we will watch an episode of a favorite show in the evenings as a treat. But if you come into my home during our homeschool day, my kids will tell you the rule - the TV doesn't come on during the day. We used to watch TV a TON. Then I learned about national screen-free week a few years back and Iran a challenge in my VIP group, complete with prizes! More than anything, I was eager to model this shift for others and to inspire them to try this challenge. What we learned was 1) we didn't die without screens, 2) we can be creative and make our own fun, and 3) we have lots of books and toys to keep us entertained. Fast forward to today.If my kids are suddenly quiet in the next room, 9 times out of 10, it's because they are looking at their books! Walking around the corner and seeing my kids contentedly enjoying books is so heartwarming. It reminds me whyI do this important work.

9. Be a Reading Role Model

It is said that we are our child's first and greatest teachers. Our children look up to us and follow our model and habits on how to behave in so many areas of life and ding is no different! If our children never see us pick up a book to read ourselves, how can we expect them to grow a love for reading?

10. Recognize that Not All Books are Created Equal

Being a book lady, you may consider me to be a book snob, but I'm here to tell you that if you pay careful attention to the books out there on the market and start comparing them with a critical eye like I do, you will likely come to agree with me that not all books are created equal. I make sure to curate a collection of books in our home and that we borrow from the library that are high quality, engaging, and that contain good plot development, moral characters, beautiful illustrations, delightful stories that draw you in, humor, entertainment, and positive messages. Always try to seek out reputable book lists and award-winning books and publishers (like Usborne and Kane Miller) when selecting books to share with your children and you will be sure to find rich literature.

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The Screen Debate: My Thoughts and Reflections

The Screen Debate

You may not be surprised to hear that there is a lot of buzz and debate around screen time for kids. Screen time can be, but is not limited to television, YouTube, video games, apps on handheld devices, scrolling social media, snapchat, etc. With it being National Screen-Free week, I thought I’d share my stance on screen time for children and while I don’t claim to be any sort of expert, I’d like to share my personal anecdotes with you! So here is my personal opinion on the matter...I don’t think screen time is necessarily bad BUT I do think there should be healthy boundaries around screen time for developing children and I believe that screen time should be quite limited and this is how we choose to view screen time in our home. Screen time is occasionally used in our homeschool (educational videos/apps/television shows), and beyond that, screen time is a treat. You may be surprised to hear that several days can go by without my children asking for or viewing a screen of any kind.

Reflecting Back

It wasn’t always this way! 3 years ago, my daughter (only child at the time) watched TV ALL.THE.TIME. TV was (and still is) her vice of choice and mindlessly watching TV shows and movies was her favorite past-time. I worked full-time as a teacher, but when I was home from work or on school breaks/summer, the TV was usually on for hours a day and she was GLUED to it. The more she watched, the more she wanted to watch. She would literally demand and beg for “more show.” She had plenty of toys, but she rarely played with them. Sometimes she watched TV while we slept in, took a nap, or got a few hours of work done! I hate to admit that the TV sometimes babysat my child, but that’s essentially what was happening. It pains me to also admit that my daughter was ADDICTED to something and she wasn’t even 3 years old. Reflecting back on this time in her life, I would say that her attitude, mood, and behavior were terrible. You may be thinking, WOW, I do some of this too! I’m not here to bash you or your choices as a parent. I am here to share my experience and the things that I recognize in hindsight because these realizations are eye-opening and not something that I take lightly and I urge you to consider and reflect on the habits of those in your home and to make changes or adapt to what you feel is best for your family situation.

Along Came National Screen-free Week

I distinctly remember having a home visit with our parents as teachers volunteer and something she said stuck with me - “A child’s brain is more ACTIVE while sleeping than it is when watching television.” YIKES! Around this same time, I was working hard at my business and I remember learning about national screen-free week. I decided to take on the challenge with my family and to also set a challenge in my VIP group (much like what I’m doing this week in my VIP group, complete with prize opportunities!). I got a lot of people involved and shared hundreds of alternative activities to using a screen. As you can probably imagine, it was an eye-opening experience!

Others’ Feedback

Some people made it the whole week screen free and shared their perspectives on it, and it was so eye-opening. While it was a challenge for many (and many couldn’t do it and dropped out), some reported that it was easier to go screen-free than they thought it would be. Others stated that they realized that a lot of the time, the TV was on in their home unnecessarily and they would like TV use to be a more deliberate decision moving forward. One person reported that with a little more creativity, her kids don’t actually miss the screen. Many seemed to realize how connected their families were to technology.

My Takeaways From That Challenge

That year, I also found it easier to go screen free than I thought it would be. I agree with the sentiment that with a little creativity (and distraction!), my child didn’t miss the screen. The first few days were harder than the rest but she was a toddler at the time and when presented with other fun activities to try, she gladly obliged. It was nice to see my daughter actually PLAY WITH HER TOYS that had been previously collecting dust. Family bonding improved, my daughter was more creative, and her mood and behavior improved, too! See some photos from our last 2 years' Screen-Free week challenges below!

Our Current Situation

Now that I work from home and homeschool, there WOULD BE the opportunity to watch television ALL day, but we simply choose not to. My children know the rules and the TV doesn’t come on during the school day (in MOST cases!), so they rarely ask for it. Sometimes we use educational videos to supplement our homeschool in limited quantities. In the evenings or on weekends, the children sometimes watch some TV as a “treat.” That’s how I would classify television in our home - a “treat and not the norm.” And when I pick television shows, more often than not, I opt for educational shows (think PBS kids, Super Why, Daniel Tiger, Octonauts, The Magic School Bus, Curious George, Little House on the Prairie, Clifford the Big Red Dog, The Berenstain Bears, etc.) versus mindless television. I will admit that even today, I sometimes see the addictive tendencies and behavior and attitude problems spring up from my daughter if she gets the opportunity to watch some TV and this is when the TV is promptly turned off and we prompt her to do something else. My 2 year old son on the other hand doesn’t pay any attention to the TV most of the time, and I think that’s telling. He hasn’t grown up with heavy television use during their waking hours. We know that many other children their age have their own tablets, but we choose not to get one for our children. We’ve thought about it, but at this time, we don’t see a need for it and we could see it being another addictive vice for our daughter. We do own a first generation iPad that the children use to watch movies for LONG road trips, but it’s not used for much else.

What Do They Do All Day?

You might be wondering, what in the world do my children do all day if they don’t use any screens?! We homeschool, so a lot of time is spent at the table working through our morning basket, reading and math lessons, and tea time in the afternoons. When we aren’t at the table doing schoolwork, my children can be super independent and really could get by without screens at all! They CREATE, make art projects using recycled materials, draw, color, entertain each other, read Usborne books, do activity books, play with toys (I highly recommend open-ended toys like wooden blocks, legos, and toys that allow them to use their imaginations like baby dolls and little people sets, as these are the toys that both of my children can occupy themselves with for HOURS!), or we are out and about for family outings, play dates, field trips, museums, library programs, parks, nature walks, and more! My kids have amazing imaginations and a strong bond with one another; they are super-creative, and they have great vocabulary, and a knack for storytelling. I don’t think my children would be this way if I had continued on the same path of letting them zone out in front of a TV for hours a day.

Final Thoughts

While you might not be ready to try a screen detox with your family, I urge you to consider and carefully reflect on your family’s screen habits to determine if there is any need to make changes and adapt. Here are some questions to get you thinking?

Ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Do your children display addictive tendencies when it comes to their tablet, video games, television, etc?
  • What is your child’s behavior, mood, attitude like when/after they consume screens?
  • How would you rate what your child is consuming on screens in terms of mindless to purposeful or educational?
  • Are there any boundaries you could set around screen time that you think your family could benefit from?
  • What times of day do your children struggle most with boredom when they ask for screens? Are there alternative activities that you could offer?

10 Reasons Why You Should Read Books Aloud to Your Kids

As a lifelong bookworm as well as a former gifted teacher with Masters credentials, turned homeschool mom and book lady, I have been passionate about reading and spreading literacy all of my life. I know the benefits of reading aloud to children from birth all the way through high school (which is well beyond the time period by which they can read independently). Through my line of work as a former educator, now book lady, and on my homeschool journey, I’ve read a lot specifically on the topic of reading aloud.

Some books I recommend on this topic include: 

  • The Enchanted Hour - Meghan Cox Gurdon
  • The Read-Aloud Family - Sarah Mackenzie
  • The Read-Aloud Handbook - Jim Trelease

To save you some time, I wanted to round up a little summary of the top 10 read aloud benefits that I’ve come across in these books and in my own personal experience reading aloud to my own children!

1. Promotes Positive Brain Development

In the human brain, it is said that “nerves that fire together, wire together.” Early learning experiences make the brain connections and wiring stronger for children. Studies have shown that early and frequent access to books and shared reading experiences with adults result in significant differences in brain function and development when compared to those who don’t have similar book access and experiences. All of these experiences lay the groundwork for future thought and reasoning. The American Academy of Pediatrics even advises doctors to recommend daily reading aloud for their patients, as it “stimulates optimal patterns of brain development,” among other important benefits. By frequently reading aloud to children from an early age, we can help condition their brains to associate reading with pleasure, too!

2. Prepares Children for Academic Success

It is said by the 1985 Commission on Reading that “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” Also, studies have shown that regardless of family income, and even more effective than expensive tutoring or private education, the more children are read to, the higher their test scores are!

3. Exposes Children to New Vocabulary

Books, (including picture books!) expose our children to far more sophisticated vocabulary than what we use in typical conversations with one another. Something to note is that kids’ listening comprehension level is always higher than their reading comprehension. This means that they can understand stories with more complex vocabulary that are read aloud than what they could understand if they were reading on their own. Personally, we love reading aloud unabridged classics as part of our homeschool reading, partly for this reason! The wonderful thing is kids are hearing the words in context and can quite easily figure out the meanings of these new words without further explanation from us, in many cases. They then go on to surprise us by putting their new words to good use when we least expect them to!

4. Helps Nurture Empathy & Compassion

Through the power of stories, we can step into the shoes of another person. When we become engrossed in a story, we are stirred, we can feel the human-to-human connection. Books can transform us, as they can change our perspectives, open our eyes to different events, cultures, and experiences than our own. We can begin to see the world that we live in from a different point of view. Studies show that people who read fiction are more empathetic and compassionate to those in our real lives. Stories teach us how to love others deeply. Reading aloud gives both our children and us an education of both the heart and the mind.

5. Promotes Good Listening Skills & Imagination

Children who are read to frequently are used to listening and have learned that paying attention leads to rewards - they get to experience great stories! It is no surprise that children from read-aloud families often have great attention spans, which is a fantastic life skill that will also aid in their academic success! Then consider the positive effects on a child’s imagination during a read aloud, especially in the case of novels - children must actively bring the sights and sounds of a story to live in their own imaginations. They meet characters and experience things that they would never experience in the real world, as a result!

6. Helps Us to Live a Thousand Lives & Experience Vicariously Through a Story

Our children are going to face challenges throughout their lives and oftentimes, the stories we read together give them an opportunity to “practice” living through an experience vicariously. We cannot protect them from everything or shoulder the burdens that they will face in life. By reading aloud to them, we can provide them with frequent opportunities to “practice” to prepare them for these challenges and teach them to be courageous and heroic, even as children. The stories found in books can give our children experiences well beyond what they could ordinarily experience. In this way, they can “live a thousand lives” before they ever even leave home.

7. “Furnishes” the Mind & Creates Background Knowledge

Regardless of personal experience, the more a child reads or is read to, the more background knowledge they will bring to their learning experiences, and the more they can connect to and grasp new learning in the academic setting. Reading aloud to kids “furnishes” their minds with new cultural experiences, useful bits of general knowledge, renowned characters, stories of the real and imagined past, beautiful images through illustrations, works of art, and practical wisdom that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.

8. Plants Desire to Read

Perhaps even more important than teaching children the skill of reading is the importance of cultivating our children’s love for stories. If they LOVE stories, they WILL have a desire to read on their own accord. Interestingly, the more children (and adults!) read, the more they want to read, and to find out what else or what next, as it gives them great momentum to keep going! We can only hope that through reading aloud to our children, we will instill that lifelong love for reading so that they might seek out great books for years and years to come!

9. Provides a Reading Role Model

When we read aloud to our kids, we provide a good example for them on how to read well - how to enunciate our words, read with expression, pronounce unfamiliar words, and pause in the appropriate places. Hearing these good examples will aid them in their reading journey, as these are skills that they will need for reading (and oral communication and writing!) success as well.

10. Strengthens Bonds of Love

It is said that children are made readers in the laps of their parents. When we put aside technology and we read aloud to our children, we become more connected, and secured to one another. Stress diminishes, and we experience feelings of warmth and relaxation. All parties experience positive physical sensations and even chemical changes as a result of reading aloud. A study was conducted on the effects of reading aloud on NICU babies and it was found that babies that listened to their parents’ recorded narration were cited to experience calming effects such as stable heartbeat and breathing during sessions. In this age of technology and distraction with so many adults and teens attached to their phones and devices, integrating family read aloud experiences has proven to have emotional rewards, therapeutic effects, and positive opportunities to build relationships for all who are involved. Our children will treasure their memories being read to for years to come.

In conclusion, the benefits of reading aloud to our children abound! In case you couldn’t tell, we are giant advocates for reading aloud to your children from birth to high school as much as you possibly can!

Here at kidsbookfort.com, we would love to help enrich your read aloud experiences with your children using Usborne Books and Kane Miller titles, some of the best children’s books on the market today! We are always happy to match your kids up to books that are best suited for their ages and interests. Reach out anytime to ask for book recommendations. We love being book matchmakers!

Are you a homeschool family like us? Definitely check out our other homeschool posts, follow me on instagram, or join my VIP group.

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Brittany the Book Lady

I was first introduced to PaperPie (formerly Usborne Books and More) at a young age when my mom had purchased books for our family. I fell in love with the books and the company's mission to promote literacy throughout the country.​

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