Caring For Our Kids

Raising readers

Book clubs for kids are becoming very popular

Getting our children to love reading is one of the most important things we can do as parents. At school, they learn the basics of how to read, but inspiring a love for reading happens at home, and it requires some time and patience on our part. I remember my dad read to us every night, and this is something that I feel strongly about passing down to my children. It’s hard sometimes after a long day — it may be the last thing I feel like doing, but then as they snuggle in next to me, negotiating how many stories we can read, I know it’s all worth it. Here are some tips that our family is using to build an early love for books and reading.

START EARLY
It’s never too early to start reading with your child — even babies enjoy looking at pictures, hearing your voice, and eventually turning the pages. Establishing a regular reading routine from the start is beneficial, that way books will become a natural part of your child’s day, and one he or she will associate with fun. Also, the good news is most babies and young children can hear the same story repeatedly and still be amused by it. The book may be chewed on or have ripped pages before the story gets old. For older children who may be just learning how to read, reading to them and having them identify words and talking about sequencing or characters is a good start.

CHOOSE WISELY
Finding books about topics your children are interested in is a good first step. If you are like our family, a trip to the bookstore or library can be quite exciting, but it can also be a bit daunting. For boys, I look for books that are not too violent or aren’t completely awash with potty humor. For girls, I look for books with strong independent girls as the lead characters. Don’t get me wrong — there is a time and place for fairies and princesses, but I also like to balance that out with active, smart, adventurous characters.

Part of choosing wisely for both you and your child is to be prepared. Just as it is easier to get through a grocery store with a list, the same can be true for book shopping. We usually sit down and make a list of books, oftentimes relying on the resources of a few great websites. For girls, I highly recommend A Mighty Girl (www.mightygirl.com); they have great book lists for all ages and subject areas that focus on strong, courageous female characters. Another great website is Common Sense Media (www.commonsensemedia.com); they have nearly 3,000 reviews of books for all ages and interests. This month they have a great feature with wonderful picks just for boys.

FORM A BOOK CLUB
Another great way to get your school-aged children excited about reading — and one that is quickly gaining in popularity — is to form a book club. My daughter and I have been part of a book club since she was in kindergarten. We meet monthly with a moderator who picks the book and leads the discussion. He does not have a child in the group, which seems to work well, but there are books clubs where parents take turns as the moderator. We read the book together, and then the discussion is for the girls. They are asked about vocabulary in the book, themes and characters, and there is always time for each child to read aloud. This has been a wonderful way to keep my daughter engaged. She knows this is something special that just she and I do, and she loves talking about the books with her friends.

One of my favorite things to do is to get lost in a great book. To now see my daughter reading on her own and begging for a few more minutes each night of “quiet” reading is very rewarding. One of our favorite things is listening to her read my son to sleep, which is a wonderful way for all of us to end the day. There are so many great books that I can’t wait to share with them. I can only hope that whatever device they read from in the future, they will always treasure the feeling of diving into a good book.

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Liz Farrell is the mother of three young children. She was formerly a television producer in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. E-mail: liz@marinatimes.com

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