It’s 12:30pm on a Saturday and my youngest daughter, Violet (3yo) is napping with her dad in my room.
I’ve been sitting and reading a book for about 20 minutes when I notice that my oldest daughter, Roree (5yo) has been extremely quiet for most of those moments.
Feeling like an awful mother, I decide to see what she’s up to, fully expecting that she has fallen asleep herself in the middle of the playroom floor, which wouldn’t be the first time.
Instead, I find her lounging on her bed with a book in her lap and two piles of books on either side of her.
My heart absolutely soars.
She doesn’t look up. She just continues reading quietly to herself, so I rest my head on her tiny shoulder (well, mostly on the pillow) and listen. When she’s finished, she places the book on top of the pile on her right and grabs another from the pile on the left.
When she’s reached the bottom of the pile, she turns to snuggle with me and I ask her if she does this often.
Thinking nothing of it, she shrugs and says, “Sometimes at night, after we go to bed,”
I knew that Roree and Violet rarely actually sleep when I put them to bed at 7:30pm every night. I’m ok with them staying up later, playing quietly until they’re fully tired. Either way, they both still come charging into my room at 6am the following day.
“Do you read to Violet at night?” I ask her.
She nods, then sighs. “But she always falls asleep.” She says this as if it is a great insult to her reading abilities.
Again, my heart is fluttering around us at the image of my 5yo reading my 3yo to sleep every night.
It almost makes the hundreds of fights those two get in every day bearable.
Roree just finished Kindergarten and only within the last few months learned to read. Since then, she’s been devouring books like crazy. She tells me it is because she wants to be in my book club (I’d told her when she’s old enough to read the books we read, she is more than welcome to join. She interpreted that as: When she’s old enough to read, period).
But I know the truth. I see that glint in her eye when she gets her hands on a new book.
Right now she’s obsessed with Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious, but soon she’ll be running her fingertips along all the spines in the YA section at Barnes and Noble like I did when I was a preteen… Anxious to jump into another word.
This girl is going to be a book lover just like her mama, her two aunts, and her grandma.
Of my three siblings and myself, three of us are avid readers just like our mom.
Growing up, there wasn’t a book my mom would deny us. Anything else we wanted, we had to justify, but if we handed her a book and asked if she would buy it? The answer was always yes.
I grew up seeing my mom curled up with a good book and a pen nearby to write in the margins. Reading has been something we shared as a family for as long as I can remember.
And, now, it’s my turn to make sure that my girls (hopefully) grow up with their noses in books, just like I did.
I can’t tell you how excited I get to think about the worlds that have just opened up for Roree.
Her journey into this place of infinite possibilities is just beginning and I can’t wait to witness it.
If you’re like me, hoping that your littles turn into bookworms, here are some ways I’ve been encouraging my girls’ love of books and suggestions of my own:
Start Before They’re Born
Instead of cards for my baby showers, I requested that guests buy their favorite book from childhood and write their message on the inside cover.
This built the girls’ library from the start. I also asked my siblings to pass along any books that their children grew out of so that I could add them to the library.
I also took to reading out loud when I was pregnant any chance I could get… I’m not saying this had any impact, but at least the sound ended up being soothing to them once they were born.
Read Every Night – No Exceptions
As a working mother, time is most definitely quality over quantity.
I try to be very conscious of my time with the girls and one of the best ways to bond is at night when we read together. Both girls look forward to this time and they love picking out which books we’ll read before bed.
Now that Roree can read, she actually reads to me!
Let Them See You Read
For better or worse, our kiddos look up to us. If ever there is a time when the girls are playing by themselves, I consciously try to choose a book instead of my phone or laptop or TV.
Listen to Audiobooks in the Car
I make sure to have several children’s audiobooks on my phone since the girls and I have a long drive to school each day.
Make Going to the Library an Adventure
Most of the children I see at the library lately are there using the computers and tablets. While that’s fine, I figure my kids get more than enough screen time.
The library is about books for us. The girls get so excited when we go to the library because they get to choose ANY books they want (within reason, I try not to check out more than 10 at a time!).
I also always let them put the books in the book return and scan the books at the self checkout.
Make a Fun Reading Tracker
When Roree started reading, I thought to myself, “How freaking amazing would it be for her to have a list growing up of EVERY BOOK SHE’S EVER READ in her lifetime?” And so, she and I started recording all the books she’s read. She likes going to her book tracker and writing it down herself.
Change “I’m Bored” into “I’m Reading”
When the inevitable, “I’m sooooo bored,” makes it’s appearance, my first suggestion is always, “Let’s read a book!”
Bring a Book
If I know we are going to be at a restaurant that has a long wait or in a waiting room, I grab a book instead of a tablet for the girls.
Celebrate with Books
Lost a tooth? Learned how to ride a bike? Go to the book store and pick out a book!
We celebrate these little achievements with an hour or so at a physical book store and let the girls pick out a book as their prize.
Have Them Write (and Make!) Their Own Book
Roree’s favorite thing to do these days, aside from reading, is writing and illustrating her own books. She knows where the paper is and she’s allowed to use the stapler, so I let her make her own books from scratch.
She gives them as gifts to friends and family and makes them for herself to read to Violet.
Michaels and other craft stores also have blank, premade books (under $5 for 3!) that kids can write and draw in!
Write a Book for Them
I still have the book my mom wrote and illustrated for me when I was Roree’s age. It was simple and stick figures, but it was my all-time favorite book. Writing a book specifically for your children – particularly when you make them the characters – is such an exciting and fun way to get them to love reading.
My Mom’s Advice
When I asked my mom how she turned ¾ of her kids into avid readers, my humble mother replied, (in true my mom form)
Guess I never cared WHAT you read, as long as you read it. And we’d talk about it. Whatever subject you were interested in, we’d get books about it …. even boy bands. Even spooky stuff. And we always loved making up stories. Whatever you could get lost in. Heck … you are better than me, look at YOUR kids.
Oh, mom. She is the most selfless person I know. She had whole parenting thing down without even trying.
Meanwhile, I feel like I’ve had to research and struggle every step of the way!