Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How To Raise a Reader

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I have always loved books and reading. Some of my earliest memories are of my dad reading me bedtime stories. Most kids would get fairy tales or children's books. Not me. My dad would read me his favorite books, namely, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Of course, I was too young to understand a lot of the plot. But, I loved hearing about Bilbo and Frodo​ and Sam and Thorin. I watched the animated movie of The Hobbit easily several hundred times throughout my childhood. And, I always requested one or the other of those books as my bedtime story. My dad was always more than happy to comply. His eagerness to introduce me, and later my siblings, to reading fostered a life-long love.

Now, I have my own child: a three and a half month old boy. I want to be able to foster in him the same love of reading and books that my dad did in me. So, my husband and I are already laying those foundation blocks. A few of the other Wenches share desire to pass on their love of reading. They were kind enough to share some thoughts on how they have continued to grow their children's love of reading through the years.

So, to hear more of our stories, and, to see how each of us is influencing our children's reading habits, continue on after the jump!

Raising your child to be a reader starts early, at least it did for me. I truly believe that those early story times with something that, not only interested me, but also something my dad loved (loves, really) so fiercely, instilled in my developing brain that reading was something to love. 


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So, with my own son, we have already started reading to him when we can. It's all short books with uncomplicated subject matter, colors, shapes, etc. But, we do sit down with him and flip pages and read out loud. Sometimes he looks at the pages with interest. Other times, not so much, he finds something more interesting like the shadows cast by the ceiling fan in his room, or the characters painted on his walls. Did I mention his walls are covered in a hand-painted mural of Dr. Seuss characters? My dear brother, who is a trained artist, was kind enough to do this for him. So, even when we aren't reading to him and when he gets older and begins to recognize characters, the first characters he will recognize will be from Dr. Seuss books. 

Even before he was born, for my baby shower, the invitation requested that guests bring a book for him instead of a card. So, he has a book shelf in his room filled with a plethora of various children's books that are signed by the person that gave it to us. That was the most important thing to us. We wanted our child to have easy access to books whenever he wanted to have them. Even if it is to chew on the pages, like he currently does.

We will continue to read to him as he gets older. I'm sure that there will be plenty of children's books. As well as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as well. In fact, I received a hardback copy of The Hobbit for Christmas this year from my dad with this inscription inside: 


Well, I've told you how we are building the foundation of what will hopefully be my son's life-long love of reading. Now, Wench Care is here to tell you how she is continuing that with her son.

Wench Care
Now, my son is a fair bit older than Wench Anne's, but at still only five, it's hard to say he really loves to read. Right now, we are working on finding his book—I'm a big subscriber to the notion that there are no people who aren't readers, merely people who haven't found their book yet. Our reading practice is driven by his interests, and we're leaving books all over for him—things like Magic School Bus and the Giant Germ, The Zombie Kid Diaries, and anything we can find on LEGOs, Nintendoland, Minecraft, and Marvel Superheroes. He picks things up on his own, and he reads a lot more than I can confirm he is. Reading is a reward in our house, and it is something that he gets to see us doing frequently. Often times we will call a break in the day specifically so that I can stop whatever we're doing and we can sit and read our books. Or even listen to a good audiobook. In our house, the best way for us to instill a love of reading in our little ones is by simply loving reading ourselves—and sharing that with him.

Wench Beta's kids are a little older. So, she's gotten a little further into the process of instilling a love of reading.

Wench Beta
I‘ve got 3 kids, 2 girls and a boy, and they all love to read. There have always been a lot of books around them, and books are very popular gifts here in Iceland. From the time they were old enough to hold books and turn the pages themselves, I always let them have a book to look at in bed. Sometimes they didn't want me to read for them, they just wanted to look at the books by themselves even though they still couldn't read. And when I read to them they always wanted to have the book, or another one, afterwards to flip through the pages. Then they usually fell asleep with the book, in their hands, lying by their side, so adorable.


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Today my daughters are 10 and 14 years old and my son is 16 years old. My son doesn't read as much as he did, but still reads quite a lot. He has read various things through the years, i.e., Donald Duck comic books, Captain Underpants, Life Sciences magazines, The Famous Five, Hunger Games, and one of his all-time favorites, Harry Potter, which he has read several times. Currently, he‘s reading The Hobbit, and on his TBR list (and mine as well) is a book that I've suggested to him, written by a new Icelandic writer who has a Ph.D in criminology and has worked as a detective for a long time and used that experience to write a crime book that I've heard gives great and realistic insights on police work here in Iceland. So I figured that since my son wants to become a police officer/detective, it would be a great way to get some insight into that world, and then he might have some questions afterwards that he might want to ask the writer, since we luckily know him a little bit.

My 10 year old reads a lot, and some of her favorite books are the books about Fíasól, written by an Icelandic writer Kristín Helga Gunnarsdóttir, and books that have been translated from the series My Secret Unicorn by Linda Chapman. Once when we were shopping we walked by a bookstore, and my older daughter got to buy the Game of Thrones set, and my younger one, who‘d been asking for few weeks, got to buy the Percy Jackson books after realizing the movies were based on books and wanted the whole set, the English version, and now she's reading, and absolutely loving, them.

My 14 year old is kinda the biggest reader in the family. She still reads almost every night and has read so many books that she‘s lost count. She loves all kinds of genres, and she‘s started reading books that I've read and loved and several that are on my TBR list. "Some" of her favorite ones are Game of Thrones, which she‘s currently reading, Harry Potter, The Millenium trilogy, Hunger Games, The Mortal Instruments, The Fault in Our Stars, Looking For Alaska, Firespell, and the Divergent trilogy (minus Allegiant, which, like me, she hated), and some of these books she's read countless times and most of them are English versions. Now that she‘s started reading books I've read or want to read, it's so much fun talking about them and sharing our thoughts on them or suggesting books that the other one "just has to read". 


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I regularly talk to them and tell them how I hope they'll continue to read as the grow older and not let all the other distractions, especially with all the technology there is out there, take over like has happened for so many kids I know and have heard of. Although, no matter where we've lived they've always loved to read, I think maybe living in the country like we do, and have for several years, has had a little bit to do with how many books my kids have read, especially my older daughter, because there are fewer distractions and more time to read. But that being said, they read much more than many of the kids in school, and the teachers have often said at parent‘s meeting that it's very clear the my kids read a lot. One of the reasons is that they've got a very good vocabulary and are quick and good at reading in between the lines of the topic they're working on in school. It's a wonderful thing when your kids share your love of reading.

Wench Kathi's daughter is all grown up. She did her job so well, that they now have several series of favorite books that they share!

Wench Kathi
My daughter is now considered an adult, though she’ll always be my baby girl! We began reading to her as an infant. We bought lots of books with very lovely artwork, which she loved. (Did she love them because she was a future art major, or did she become an art major because she grew up reading lavishly illustrated books?) We also tried to buy the some of the same books in other languages when they were available. As she grew older, the picture books became more like visual encyclopedias and less like fairy tales.

We graduated to chapter books early, and we’d read a chapter a night together. We read an entire series of artist biographies for children, and years of monthly magazines featuring an animal or one of the fifty states. Then she preferred to read alone, and became a big fan of series like Goosebumps, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Harry Potter, Twilight, and Jane Austen. Though I did not read these books with her, I loved to listen to her fangirl about them. She didn’t always like the books I had saved for her from my childhood—like my Nancy Drew collection—but she did favor the fantasy genres, as I always I had, and she did get to pick and choose from among my 7 huge bookshelves full of everything from Beowulf (I was an English Lit major) to Stephen King plus the library. When I noticed her reading romances in high school, I urged nagged her to read classics, so she hid her reading from me for a while. And when I met the Wenches and started raving about the PNR and UF books I’d discovered, she wasn’t immediately on board with me. She had to remind me I wasn’t reading classics until she got that out of her system, but then she started to get curious about the books I was raving about.

We now love to talk to each other about what we’re reading, the characters, the settings, the new things we learn. We enjoy many of the same series for our entertainment reading: Night Huntress, Fever, Hunger Games, the series that won’t be named or read again, Philipa Gregory historical novels, and the entire Outlander series (which she’s almost done with—I do admire her perseverance on that one!). Occasionally, she has refused to return a book after deciding it is her favorite book ever and she can’t bear to part with it (Stephenie Meyer’s The Host comes to mind). She now has my old e-reader and my entire library of e-books, so I doubt we’ll be running out of books to share and discuss any time soon.

We also love to watch screen adaptations of the books we’ve read together, including our favorite, Pride and Prejudice (the one with Colin Firth!), which we’ve been watching together since she was 6 years old. (That did a lot to ignite her interest in Jane Austen and other classic authors who wrote about women.) Our current tv obsessions include Game of Thrones and—soon—Outlander.

The book bond I have with my daughter is something unique unto us that I treasure. I have enjoyed sharing and learning the joys of reading with her through the years, and I look forward to basking in the glow of our mutual book addiction for the rest of our lives. The gift of reading is truly one that keeps on giving, to the parent and the child, who not only get to live a thousand different adventures, they get to share them all together.


So, as you can see the reading bug has hit a lot of the Wenches' children. And, we are gladly fostering it. I hope that I can be half as successful teaching my son to be a reader as these ladies have. Fortunately, I have plenty of people to go to for advice. Now, in closing, I leave with these gems about reading:
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What about you, Saucy Readers? Do your kids read? Did your parents' reading habits influence your love of reading?

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful post! My daughter is also all grown up. We started reading to her when she was a baby, just like you do, Anne. Later, she wouldn't go to sleep if we didn't read a story to her, sometimes when I was tired I tried to skip a page or two, she wouldn't allow it. Of course she knew the stories by heart. She doesn't read much anymore, not the way she used to as a child. The one thing that stays with her is the love of SciFi and fantasy stories and movies. I know it's a phase in life, she'll be back to books.

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