Raising a Reader: Several Ways to Support and Encourage (But Not Push)

T is reading. And I don’t mean a word here and there or figuring out some phrases on signs from the pictures or surrounding context. What I mean is, T is picking up books he’s never seen before and reading them. To us. About one every night now on average. And he freaking loves it.

It. Is. Awesome.

T in a book box long before he actually made one for school.

T in a book box long before he made one for school.

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On a play date a couple of summers ago, T had to "read" (recite really at that time) his friend one of his favorite books, "That's Disgusting." It was disgustingly cute.

On a play date a couple of summers ago when T was four-years-old, T had to “read” (recite really at that time) his friend one of his favorite books, “That’s Disgusting.” It was disgustingly cute.

T has always loved books. I started reading to him nightly when he was three months old. We’ve had a long-established bedtime routine that’s included on average about 20-to-30 minutes of reading a night. It’s rare that we miss a night either. In fact, when we do miss it, T calls us out on it… and we double up the following night at his request.

In June 2013, T read his first book to us independently aloud. It was, "Dancing Dinos Go to School."

I don’t think I ever mentioned the first time T read a book to us all by himself. It was earlier this summer when he picked up one of several reader-style books at Grandma Shirl’s house and fought his way through reading it all by himself. It wasn’t easy for him, but he wanted to do it, and so he did it. Maybe I didn’t mention it before now because after it happened I thought it was a total fluke (which it did sort-of turn out to be actually). In fact, while we celebrated it with him when it happened, we really didn’t go too overboard about it or make mention of it after the moment passed by. We didn’t want to push. Maybe the dinos were going to school, but T was just getting out for the summer.

A few of T's handmade books from school. His class makes about one new one per week depending on the curriculum and/or special holidays upcoming.

A few of T’s handmade books from school. His class makes about one new one per week depending on the curriculum and/or special holidays upcoming.

Usually the books that T makes at school focus on one of the sight words they are working on for the week. They also pull in seasonal fun to keep things interesting.

Usually the books that T makes at school focus on one of the sight words they are working on for the week. They also pull in seasonal fun to keep things interesting.

It wasn’t until several weeks after that when T really read aloud like that again. Meaning, it didn’t really recur until school started in September. After T made his Kindergarten book box, the books started coming home at a rapid pace. Some are seasonal while others highlight certain sight words that the curriculum focused on in a particular week. This nice mix of book themes and his involvement in creating the books (coloring them, filling in the sight words, some even have dedications at the start of the book!) definitely reignited a desire for him to read independently. It also ignited a desire for him to improve his coloring skills quite a bit, but that’s another post for another day.

C and I took T to the library the other week. They discovered a new section with books that appeal to budding readers. Read on, guys!

C and I took T to the library the other week. They discovered a new section with books that appeal to budding readers. Read on, guys!

From there, T’s love of reading aloud to us meant many more library visits and him checking out even more books than our usual 10. As the visits continued, I noticed that we found ourselves moving into the “early readers” shelves of the children’s area more and more and farther and farther away from the preschool book baskets.

T's recently discovered the "Fly Guy" series of books, all thanks to our local library.

T’s recently discovered the “Fly Guy” series of books, all thanks to our local library.

Every "Fly Guy" book starts out very much the same way. This has helped T relate all of the books as part of a series in several ways: Writing style, characters, and themes.

Every “Fly Guy” book starts out very much the same way. This has helped T relate all of the books as part of a series in several ways: Writing style, characters, and themes.

Inside page peek of "I Spy Fly Guy."

Inside page peek of “I Spy Fly Guy.”

Some more options from the "Fly Guy" series. T plans to read them all!

Some more options from the “Fly Guy” series. T plans to read them all!

Most recently, we discovered the “Fly Guy” series by Scholastic ; now that T has read three of the books to us, he is determined to read us every book from the collection.  I totally get it, T… when I find a series I like, I too want to keep going to see what happens to the characters on their next adventure.

Here are other ways to support and encourage those budding readers in our lives:

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The Pyramid of Books, a wish tower for teachers at T's school, allowed shoppers to take a ticket or two and buy books for their children's classrooms.

The “Treasures of Books” pyramid, a creative way that our PTA presented shoppers with the teachers’ wish list at our school’s “Reading Oasis” book fair this fall.

T chose this book for his classroom from Mrs. K's wish list. He read it to us before giving it to her.

T chose this book from Mrs. K’s wish list as a gift for his classroom. He read it to us before giving it to her.

Our PTA went above and beyond to turn our library into a Reading Oasis with these amazing props.

Our PTA went above and beyond to turn our library into a Reading Oasis with these amazing Egyptian-themed props.

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Book Fairs. Our school recently held its fall book fair. This was a week-long event that held hours before and after school for kids and parents (and anyone else in the community really) to stop by and hang out, browse, and/or buy books in a fun and creative atmosphere. Members of our school’s PTA took the time to transform our school library into a “Reading Oasis” complete with mummies, a teachers’ “Treasures of Books” pyramid (where each teacher had a stack of book wish tickets for shoppers to take and fulfill with their own orders), and other fun decor that just made being there like walking into a picture book. Branded by Scholastic, our book fair had a decent range of materials appropriate for preschool-through-middle school level readers in a fun setting, making it a wonderful place to start that holiday shopping, too!

T won the summer reading grand prize for 2013! But that's not why we visit our local library (but it sure doesn't hurt our efforts in raising a reader). Thanks to our friends at the Bayshore branch of the Long Beach Public Library!

T won the summer reading grand prize for 2013! But that’s not why we visit our local library (but it sure doesn’t hurt our efforts in raising a reader!). Thanks to our friends at the Bayshore branch of the Long Beach Public Library for always being so welcoming to families of small children with their ongoing programs and events.

T won even more rewards this fall for his avid reading habit!

T won even more rewards this fall for his avid reading habit!

The Library. I can’t say it enough: Support your public library, RMT’ers! We are firm believers that the library remains a wonderful community resource not just for the stockpiles of books and information that can be found there but even more so for the sense of community that such a place fosters. It’s a place where we can begin to teach our children at a young age how to share with others through the concepts of borrowing, lending, and taking care of public property. Oh, and by the way, the library is still free (three weeks free per book at our libraries anyway; movies and music cost a nominal weekly charge), and most have wonderful free or low-cost programs and events targeted for the youngest readers in the family, too.

Some of T's latest haul from the library. I think you can see which books he chose and which one I put into the mix.

Some of T’s latest haul from the library. I think you can see which books he chose and which one I put into the mix.

Let the reader pick the majority of the books. Your kid wants to read you another Star Wars book? OK. And another book about trains? That’s OK, too. Puppies and fairies? Yup and yup. It’s all good actually. Whatever the budding reader wants, please, let them have it (as long as it’s appropriate, of course!). While the kids might not choose exactly what we’d choose for reading material, it’s not about our interest, it’s about theirs… and it’s about fostering that love of reading, RMT’ers! Does that mean we never toss a few of our own choices into the mix? Of course not. In fact, I’ve been working off of this suggested reading list for Kindergarteners, tossing one or two selections from that list into T’s library bag each visit.

Right now, these are the chapter books that C and I are reading aloud to T. Just because he can read aloud to us now, that doesn't mean we've stopped reading to him.

Right now, these are the chapter books that C and I are reading aloud to T. Just because he can read aloud to us now, that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped reading to him.

Keep reading to your kids, even well after they start reading by themselves. We never pushed T to “learn how to read.” All we did was read to him on an extremely regular (daily) basis. Maybe it was a bit too extreme, eh? Well, I can’t say we regret having read to T as much as we did so early and so often. In fact, I can’t say I’ve ever heard anyone regret that, like, ever. Anyway, despite the fact that T is now reading independently more and more as the days go by, he still very much wants and desires C and I to read to him nightly. And that’s a-OK with us.

RMT’ers, how do you encourage the budding reader(s) in your lives? Please share your tips here!

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