My husband and I always wanted a big family. We also decided early on that we wanted to homeschool. When we had five kids in five years and things got a little bleary, we were intentional about at least one thing: We were going to raise readers no matter how busy our household got.
Even though we had a house full of toddlers, we committed to laying the groundwork for their high school and even college years. How did I foster a love of reading in the first five years of a child's life?
1. Value Books
Books—even board books—have always been treated as valuable objects at our house. Before they were officially in school, we showed our children how to handle a book:
- how to gently turn pages
- how to protect bindings
- how to use a bookmark
Today my teen will scour the house for a bookmark for his beloved books instead of harming the bindings by placing them open and face down. In contrast, he will not look for a match to his socks. Mismatched socks, yes. Broken bindings and dog-eared pages, no.
Not that we don’t own a few pen-scarred copies, but we have saved ourselves a lot of money by teaching our little ones how to treat books. Our family priority of valuing books has paid off in worry-free trips to the library and bookstore. With ten kids at home, it is surprising that we have replaced only two library books in thirteen years.
2. Create Pleasant Routines Around Reading
Our earliest reading routine was when I fed the baby. The older siblings knew that when I sat down to feed the baby, they could come over with a picture book from the book basket for me to read aloud. This family tradition created a joyful bond with books as well as with their new baby brother or sister. Every new baby was a promise of new books for the basket. With ten children, the basket filled up very fast!
Nap time and bedtime were for reading great chapter books. Because we had spent regular time reading picture books early in life, moving to chapter books was not a difficult transition.
3. Choose Your Favorite Stories
Share the books you love the most. Read not for the sake of teaching reading but because you want to share cherished stories with your kids.
For example, we love The Jungle Book and other works of Rudyard Kipling. What child can pass up an animated reading of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi or The White Seal? We read through the entire Little House series several times during those preschool years. The kids even looked forward to bedtime, knowing they were going to get to find out the end of a story.
If you need help building your home library for preschoolers, see Sonlight’s Preschool and Pre-K packages for a curated collection of great Read-Alouds that will put your child on the road to a lifelong love of reading.