The second way to establish a culture of reading in your home is to make reading a reward!
I can remember our library doing a promotion where if you read twenty books over the span of three months, and recorded all the books in a list, you could turn the list in at the library and they would give you a coupon for free pizza! The problem was that we didn’t need the motivation thanks to the pre-established culture of reading. In fact, the library told my mother we were not allowed to get any more coupons. Me and my two sisters and read 60 books apiece in the first month of the competition. 9 free pizzas was enough for the library to cut us off. But we kept reading!
First, don’t make reading the task that must be accomplished before your child earns the reward. This will take all of the joy and excitement out of reading and turn it into a chore. Rather, making reading the reward! “You can read your book after you’ve made your bed and put your clothes away.” Or “if you get all the toys in the yard put away before dinner you can spend some time reading!” Treat reading the way you want your children to treat reading.
Second, use positive terms to describe what you read. “I’m excited for this evening when we all have a chance to sit down for a bit, I can’t wait to find out what happens next in the book I’m reading!” Or “This memoir I have been reading is so interesting. It’s really helping me understand what life was like for people like us in the 1800s.” I can remember my mother reading Barbara Bush’s memoirs when I was younger. She spoke so glowingly about the way it was written that I asked if I could read it. That book has 592 pages! As a 12-year old it was a big book with few pictures but I read every last word. Thanks to my mother’s excitement I wanted to know exactly what made that book so interesting!
Third, make sure your child has a book or set of books that is “theirs.” There were many series that my sisters would check out from the library that I would end up reading. Yes, I’ve read countless Nancy Drew mystery stories, and I know the names and back stories of ALL the original American Girl Dolls. But there were a few series that my mother said “these are for your sister's. You can’t read them.” And vice versa, there were some books that my mother told my sisters, “these books are for David.” She did not do this to make us jealous or discontent, but rather to make us happy to have something that we were reading for ourselves and that we would have to verbally share with others. It built excitement and gave us a chance to share what we were reading with the rest of the family.
Next week we will look at how you can share reading with your child!
- Written by David Baral, illustrations by Patrick Farley, 2018