Last week, someone asked me, "What method or strategy do you use for teaching children to enjoy reading?"
Well. I don't know if you'd really call this a "method," because in our house, it's as natural as breathing. But this is what we do:
We expose our kids to books, early and often. We let them see us reading, we model the excitement and enjoyment that come from involving yourself in a good book. We keep books easily accessible to them. We have bookshelves in basically every room of our house. For our kids, books aren't anything intimidating; they're a part of the everyday landscape. And in keeping with the idea of making books accessible, we take them to the library regularly. Our local library offers some great children's programs, and because we sell it as such, our kids are completely convinced that library is every bit as much fun as the park.
And most importantly, we read to them. There is just no substitute for curling up together on the couch and sharing a pile of storybooks. We also read before bed every night, and we let our kids take books to bed with them. Even the baby. I mean, he's too young to sleep with a blanket yet, but make no mistake, his crib is full of board books.
So the other night, I was collapsed in bed. It was only 10:30, but it had been a really long day. I had taken all four of my kids on a day-long adventure down to Indianapolis by myself, and the day had included a lengthy trip to the zoo in super-hot weather, among other adventures. So by the time we got home, I was pretty much ready to collapse into some air-conditioned slumber. But not my three-year old. We tucked him into bed with a book, as usual, and a few minutes later, I heard the pitter-patter of little feet at my door.
"Mama, I have a question." Wearily I raised my head and squinted into the hall light. "What was this called again?"
I made out the cover of Bill Martin Jr's classic. "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom?"
"No, not that..."
"Um, coconut?" I asked, remembering how he had been confused about those items the last time we had read the book.
"No!" he said, pointing again. "This!"
At that point, my husband passed through the hall. "Tooth?" he asked, glancing down at the picture.
"Yes, that's it! Loose-tooth T!" our son declared. Then, his memory of the alphabet and their various injuries restored, he went back into his room to "read" himself to sleep.
And that's how we do it.