How to Raise a Book Lover
“What are you reading this summer?”
This may not be one of the questions you expect to hear from a pediatrician during a well-child visit, but it’s always on the checklist for Vanessa Charette, M.D., a Cook Children’s pediatrician in Fort Worth.
Dr. Charette asks this question for a few reasons. For one, she’s genuinely interested and she’s even gotten some great recommendations of books to read to her children.
“I also ask because I want your child to know that adults around them think reading is important and I am hoping this small question may help them grow up with a love for reading,” Dr. Charette said.
It’s never too early to begin reading to your child.
Ear and brain structures for listening begin working between 25-39 weeks of gestation. At about 28-30 weeks, connections between the brain and the ear start happening.
“For the auditory brain to develop, babies need to listen to language, music and all different kind of sounds,” wrote Becky Clem, an education coordinator for Rehab Services and a speech-language pathologist and listening-spoken language specialist. “Reading aloud is a great way to help children learn to listen and talk. Reading aloud to that growing baby in utero is a jump start to listening, talking and future reading. Reading aloud to children of all ages has huge benefits.”
Clem said the first three years of a child’s life is the most important time for learning. Reading aloud to children boosts their vocabulary, listening and talking skills.
Research on reading aloud to children tells us that it:
- Is the single most important thing to help a child get ready to read and learn.
- Helps a child learn more, unique words. Children who know more words do better when starting kindergarten.
- Helps a child’s brain develop. Language development is vitally important from birth to 3 years.
- Helps a child love to read.
- Helps a child learn.
- Helps parents bond with their child.
- Sets an example for children that reading is important and fun.
Of course, your toddler won’t sit still, but Dr. Charette says parents shouldn’t worry about reading the entire story to them. “Look at the pictures, point things out on the pages, have them find things on the pages,” She said. “The Richard Scarry books are great for this and we read them over and over when my kids were this age.”
For the school-age child that maybe doesn't love reading yet: Dr. Charette suggests getting them books on topics they love. Does your child love Legos? Then Lego® books it is. Do they love animals? Then try National Geographic kids’ animal fact books. They have lots of pictures and fun, short reading sections. Is your kid funny? Then try a joke book. But Dr. Charette warns as only a mom can: "This leads to the most ridiculous knock-knock jokes being read aloud to you.”
“For your older school-age or teen child: Be a two-person book club,” Dr. Charette added. “I have done this a few times as my children became older and they loved it when I read a book at the same time they were reading it. It allows them to talk to me about the story. They were so excited to share with another person what is happening with the characters and what may happen next.”
Clem understands that families lead busy lives in today’s world, but she offers these tips for reading aloud into your day and week:
Some ideas for fitting reading aloud into your day and week:
- Visit your local library. Get a free library card for you and your child. Check out books weekly. It’s FREE!
- Visit read aloud storytime at the library.
- Read aloud at breakfast time.
- Keep books in the car to read while waiting at appointments.
- Make bedtime book reading a family tradition.
- Have a family storytime every week.
- Keep waterproof books in the bathtub for a quick read during bath time.
- Read together as a family every day.
- Have older siblings read aloud to younger siblings.
For more on this topic, read Becky Clem's blog, "Raising Bookworms."