Reading begins at home, long before our kids are in a structured school environment. They sense how we feel about reading from an early age. If we make it a comfortable, enjoyable experience - priority, really - then our kids with have that association, too.
Yes, just the simple act of having books in the house tells children from an early age that reading is important. Let them thumb through the books, whether "children's" books or not, and get a feel for what words on a page look like. They will become more and more comfortable with the form and shape of letters and words; while it won't guarantee that your child will be an early reader, it will promote comfort with the whole idea of reading.
Set aside time every day to read with and to your child - and not just at bedtime. Make reading time a part of your regular routine. Every afternoon, just before the evening routine gets underway, or first thing in the morning, or any part of the day really. This sends a signal to your child that reading is a part of life, not something special or out of the ordinary.
If you want your child to have good, regular reading habits, you have to have them, too. Read regularly (beyond the time you are reading with and to your child), and read a variety of books, both
fiction and non-fiction. Yes, we can get so much information from the Internet, and electronic readers are great for some books, but sometimes there's nothing like holding a book in your hand,
flipping through the pages and referencing back something you read before. Let your children catch you really savoring books.
Encourage your partner to do this, too. It is as important for our children to see their fathers reading regularly as it is for them to see their moms reading. Reading is not gendered!
You local library, of course, is a tremendous resource. Get your child their own library card as soon as they are allowed and use it! Check out books, go to programs, and use more time at the library as a reward.
Gift giving occasions are an ideal time to promote a love of reading. You could establish a tradition of giving your child an excellent edition of a favorite classic for each occasion, thus building up your child's library. Your child may outgrow a certain plastic toy, but she'll never outgrow, "Black Beauty."
Many community centers, schools and libraries have started to establish parent-child book groups. These are especially wonderful for older children; young adult novels have content interesting to both parent and child and can help start some very important and interesting discussions between the two of you and your wider group. Mother-child book groups may be the most common, but if you can find a father-son for your husband and son, they could have a great bonding experience.
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