Both of my sons love books and are great readers. That is why I get asked by parents and teachers what Reggie and I are doing with them at home. In all honesty, the answer is “not much” at this point. We rarely even read to our kids now that they are 6 and 9. We did read to them in their early years though and I think that these 5 foundational tips helped us to raise boys who love to read:
1. We read a lot.
I read a lot. I have loved books since I was a little girl, so I’m constantly reading books and magazines in addition to online material. My husband Reggie mainly reads textbooks (he has been a student and/or teacher as long as the kids can remember), the Bible and Sports Illustrated. When they are little, kids tend to follow their parents’ example.
2. We read a lot to our sons before they learned to read.
Almost every night, Reggie or I would read to the boys before they went to bed. They memorized their favorites to “fake read” before they even learned the different sounds that letters made. We would dramatize their little books as we read. We all still have fond memories of Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb. We used to “drum” to it as part of the reading…great memories. We parents really are our kids first teachers.
3. We read with them.
Once the boys started learning the different sounds that letters made, we would co-read stories. They would read the small words and we would read the bigger/more challenging ones.
4. We let them read to us.
Michael (9) has outgrown this, but Sean (6) will still grab a book and ask if he can read it to us. (The answer is almost always, “yes”!)
5. We let them read what THEY want to read (beyond what is required for school).
In order to do this, we expose them to a lot of different reading material. Trips to the comic book store, libraries and local book stores are still common occurrences. I remember being a bit embarrassed when Michael chose to read a comic book for “Read Aloud Day” in Kindergarten, but I let him pick. By first grade, he was reading Harry Potter. (I would ask, “Do you understand what you are reading…and he did!)
Sean, on the other hand, was initially more of a reluctant reader. “I’m a writer, not a reader,” he would declare. “The best writers tend to be readers,“ I would respond. He didn’t buy that. Oh, well. Beyond what he needed to read for school, I didn’t push the issue. This school year (first grade) is when he started really enjoying books. The turning point was when his older brother Michael finally “allowed” him to read his Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series. Now, Sean is on to Harry Potter. You just never know what will spark a boy’s reading!
In any event, I hope these five tips are helpful in causing your sons to love books and stories. I would also add to let them make up their own stories, write them down and illustrate them. Also, ask them what they like/don’t like about the stories that they do read. That will help you to know what types of related books to expose them to in the future.
Most of all, I would say to encourage reading but don’t stress your kids out about it. Beyond what is required academically, pushing reading really is an unnecessary battle/steals the joys of the written word. Every boy is not going to love to read, but I think that following the above tips will definitely help tilt the probability in your favor.
For Christmas this year, I was thrilled that the boys included books along with their electronic picks as gift wishes. Michael wants The Heroes of Olympus, Book Four: The House of Hades, The Son of Sobek and The Kane Chronicles Set. Meanwhile Sean wants The Third Wheel (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 7), Ricky Ricotta’s Giant Robot Vs the Voodoo Vultures from Venus, and Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot vs. The Stupid Stinkbugs from Saturn.
*12/18/13 UPDATE: The boys are also really excited about the Boy-Made: Green & Groovy by Laurie Goldrich Wolf book/craft kit that I received to review from Downtown Bookworks. It’s a great pick for elementary school aged books. There are some other supplies that you will need on hand (i.e. contact paper, craft foam and oak tag) for some of the projects in the book. Overall, I like the fact that both boys (who are outgrowing traditional kids crafts) are excited to craft again. It’s no surprise that the create your own “weapons” – body armor, helmets, shields and such – chapter is first!
If you want other great book picks for boys, see The Best Books of 2013 for Kids over at my Amazon affiliate partner. Books (that the kids actually want!) make some of the best holiday gifts!
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