When we become parents, we think we know everything, right? We’ve read all the parenting books. Then the doctor hands you this perfect baby and you are humbled to find that this little creature will be the one teaching you invaluable lessons.
In the case of loving to read, I actually learned it from my oldest son. I showed him these black and white flashcards that were supposed to stimulate his brain within hours of his birth. I read to him every night…and he turned into a voracious reader.
I couldn’t buy the child books or I’d go broke. We were in the library constantly. I encouraged his love of reading and was a bit jealous that he loved to read so much. Why can’t I be like him? Finally, 5 ago I found THE book that flipped the switch in me and I’ve been an insatiable reader ever since.
Now I’m a huge advocate of encouraging kids to read. So when Sarah from The Orthodox Mama wanted to share Reading Activities for the Whole Family, I was so excited to see what she had to say. There are so many fun ideas in this list, I think I’m going to start # 7 with my guys. We all sort of log our books read into Goodreads, but I sense a little more healthy reading competition is needed.
Please give Sarah a warm welcome to Mom’s Small Victories as my guest today!
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Reading Activities for the Whole Family
By Sarah Wright from The Orthodox Mama
I love to read. That may be a bit of an understatement. I read constantly, incessantly, and joyfully. As a child, I was the one who hid under the blankets with a flashlight so I could finish another chapter of Anne of Green Gables. I remember vacations by which book I was reading at the time. (Trip to the Black Hills? Emily’s Quest. Trip to Washington D.C.? The Lord of the Rings trilogy.)
As an adult, I became an English major just so that I could read a ton of great books and talk about them with really smart people. Then I became a middle school English teacher so I would be able to read for a living. It’s literally my job to help kids love to read. How cool is that?
Now I am also a parent, and I am doing all that I can to share my love (ok, my obsession) with reading with my three children. I want them to be not merely adequate readers or proficient readers. I want them to be voracious readers.
My guess is that you, as a parent, would also like your child to discover the joy of reading. So, how can we do it? By making reading part of our family culture. By making reading as natural as breathing in our households.
Here are a few Reading Activities for the Whole Family that can help build your family’s reading culture.
Just because your kids can’t read yet doesn’t mean you can’t encourage them to love reading! In addition to building a literacy-rich environment (teacher-talk for having TONS of books in your house!), you can try:
Look for letters everywhere. Point them out on signs, in newspapers, on cereal boxes. Help your children make the connection between these strange squiggles, letters, and words. These activities are fun both for little kids and older ones.
–Name Game: Kids find all of the letters of their names in signs while in the car.
–Alphabet Game: On road trips find words on signs that begin with each letter of the alphabet.
–I’m Going on a Picnic: One person starts the game and says, “I’m going on a picnic, and I’m going to bring apples (or apricots, or avocados, etc.).” The next person will bring a “b” word, and the game continues through the entire alphabet.
Help your children love stories. Tell classic fairy tales. Talk about your childhood. Make up stories. Anything! Then, encourage them to tell you stories. You can give them a starter sentence (for example: There once was a princess who only wore the color green….) to help them get going. You can also ask your kids to retell stories. See if they can tell you “The Three Little Bears” before bedtime. What funny twists do they add?
Finally, set aside time each day for reading. Read great children’s literature to them—both picture books and chapter books. Young children can understand simple chapter books like The Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Boxcar Children long before they can read the books themselves.
Activities for All
If you have older children (or a mix of younger and older), try these activities:
Family Book Club
Choose a book to read and discuss as a family. You can each get your own copy, read it aloud together, or listen to it as an audiobook. Depending on how structured you would like to be, you could assign one person to be in charge of each chapter/ section. They can ask questions or find a related activity to do together. Books that have been made into movies are often nice to do, as you can all pop some popcorn, watch the movie, and have a great debate on how well the movie represented the book.
Listen to Audiobooks
Incorporate audiobooks into your daily lives. Perhaps you can all listen to an audiobook during lunch, while you’re preparing dinner, or in the car on the way to soccer practice. Again, having a shared reading experience can create meaningful conversations and inside jokes.
Institute Family Reading Time
In our house we have a daily family reading time—a time during which every member of the family is reading their own book. We think it is important for our kids to view us as readers. It can be easy as a parent to only read to our children. However, we should also read alongside our children so that they can see the value we place on reading in our own lives.
Family Reading Challenge
Creating a family challenge can add to the fun of reading. Perhaps you want to read all of the books by a certain author (such as Roald Dahl) together. Maybe you will read that year’s Caldecott or Newbery Award winner together each year. Perhaps you will track all of the books you read individually, and when your family total is over 50 you will celebrate with a special dinner. Be creative and have fun!
8. Book Talks
In my classroom, my students give “book talks”—short, informal talks about a book they have just finished reading. They give a brief teaser (no spoilers!) and share what they liked or didn’t like about the book. You can start doing this in your family—perhaps at the dinner table. Even the adults can get in on the fun (modifying a bit, perhaps, if the content isn’t appropriate for kids). Who knows, you just might get your next book recommendation from your middle schooler!
Road Trip to the Library
Add a trip to the library into your weekly or biweekly schedule. Try to get to know the librarians and ask them for their recommendations for yourself and your children. Each member of the family can bring their own library card as well as a bag for their own books. My six-year-old loves checking out his own books each week and may or may not be on some sort of mission to read every graphic novel in the kids’ section!
Blind Date with a Book
This activity takes a bit of planning from Mom and Dad, but it is totally worth it! Think about the books that you loved as a kid. Did you enjoy Charlotte’s Web, The Outsiders, or Where the Red Fern Grows? Collect several of these books (either from the library, your own home, or bookstores) and wrap them up as presents. Next, on an index card write one sentence with a very vague description of the book. For example, you could write, “A boy gets two dogs and changes his life” for Where the Red Fern Grows. Place the index card on the wrapped book. Finally, have each child look at the index cards and choose a book to read. Only then can they unwrap the book and look at the cover! You’ll enjoy reminiscing about the book while they are reading it and have great conversations when they are finished.
Encourage your child to love reading, and you will introduce them to new worlds. As George R.R. Martin said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only once.”
Help your child live those lives and explore those worlds. Let them read.
Sarah Wright is an Orthodox Christian, wife to her husband Dan, and mother to three young children. She also is a full-time middle school teacher and has just written her first children’s book. Sarah writes at The Orthodox Mama, a blog about faith, family, and frugal living. Some of the most popular posts include The 2016 Reading Challenge and Children’s Books That Are Totally Worth Re-Reading. You’re invited to head over and take a look.
About Be Our Guest Fridays!
Be Our Guest Fridays is a weekly feature where I feature guest posts by my favorite bloggers and authors. I started this feature as a fun way to give back to the blogging community. I am excited to share with you these creative, inspiring and knowledgeable bloggers and authors. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, leave me a comment on this post and I’ll be in touch.
I love the idea to have a family book club. I started reading to my kids as babies and the older two have always loved to read. I turned the youngest into a bookworm once I started staying home with him and we’d read together everyday snuggled under a blanket. It’s like a Pavlovian response now, when I tell him it’s time to read, he brings the blanket…that’s my boy! I attribute their love to learn with the fact that they love to read. I’m glad they turned into bookworms at a young age.
I have a bucket bookish list goal to read 1,000 books with kids. My kids and I have read 343 books together so far and my youngest loves scanning the books into Goodreads and giving them a rating (EVERYTHING is a 5* in his opinion). I started a book club in my middle son’s class and Superhubby has even come in dressed as Batman for our book club. My Superhubby is a devoted comic fan and the boys have very varied reading tastes, it makes for quite an eclectic collection of books in our house. We have been known to raid each other’s bookcases.
How do you encourage reading with your children or the young people in your life? Do you volunteer to read in school or get excited at school book fairs? What sorts of books do you like to read with your kids? What bookish activities do you like to do with them? Let Sarah and I know, we’d love to hear your thoughts!