I wanted to write a post about how to get your kid to love books since I gave birth to a bookworm myself. But that wasn’t surprising, since I myself was born into a family of bookworms.
My mom used to read several books a month and since the money was tight, she used to buy them second hand, read them and return them to the store to get discount for the next. Our visit to the second hand book stores was every Sunday and I still remember the smell of the books. She then discovered the public library near our house and proceeded to read every book they owned.
When I was seven, I got a gift for Christmas. It was Penelope Delta'sDelta’s book of “The secrets of the swamp” and I was mesmerized. I needed help reading and understanding some words but I was totally and irrevocably hooked to books! I read all my sister’s books, all the books from the public library that were fit for a seven year old (and some that weren’t) and I went on to loving reading for the rest of my life. It’s no lie that during the most stressful times of my University exams, I used to stop reading for the exams and read literature to help me relax!
Natalia has developed an unprecedented love for books since she was 12 months old. We had bought her some hard stock books which she could hold in her hands and we read them to her. She then progressed from those to books for older kids. She now asks us to read to her 10-15 times a day.
Here are some things we did naturally but later on I realized that they were the things that led to Natalia’s love for books.
Change your voice
When you read to a toddler you need to understand they have a short attention span. If you read in a monotone, flat voice they will soon get bored and ask to move. It will be much more exciting (for you too!) to read by coloring your voice according to the book. For example, when something unexpected happens in the story, build some excitement in your voice. Also, try to change your voice according to the different characters of the book. If it’s a larger animal, make it with a little bass, if it’s a small kid, make it a little higher in tone. That way the kids will distinguish between the different characters in the book and they’ll follow the story with interest.
In Emma’s Yarlett book “Simon, Stella and the moon”, (στα Ελληνικά: «Ο Σίμος, η Στέλλα και το Φεγγάρι», εκδόσεις Ψυχογιός), which Natalia loves and with good reason, I make my voice different as I talk as Simon, and another one as Stella. And then as the reader of the book when I get to the point of the book that sums the twins’ problem: the fact they can’t share, I make my voice bored and dull to show Natalia in a gentle way that this is wrong. She totally gets the changes and when the two kids “break” the moon, Natalia screams: Craaaaatsssss. It’s so entertaining to watch!
Get them involved
Most of the books for kids aged 0-2 have some movable part for the kid to interact with. That’s one of the things little ones love. They love to be involved in the book. Natalia loves to play with the cards that make Mimi the spider go up and down the drain in these happy little books of the Read and Have fun series (στα Ελληνικά: Διαβάζω και Διασκεδάζω, Στο κήπο, Στη Βόλτα, Εκδόσεις Μεταίχμιο).
The first book with normal (not card stock) pages Natalia fell in love with was Richard Byrne’sRichard’s Byrne “This book just ate my dog” (στα Ελληνικά: Αυτό το βιβλίο έφαγε το σκύλο μου, Εκδόσεις Διόπτρα). I can’t begin to describe how wonderful this simple little book is and how it singlehandedly promoted Natalia’s love for book into the sky!
Nick used to read it to her sitting next to her on the couch. Then when the book prompted the reader to spur into action Nick helped Natalia the first time to stand on the couch, turn the book sideways and shake it. That was it! Natalia lived for the time in the afternoon when she could shake the book and call out BOO!!! at just the right time!
Getting them into the game is much more productive towards making them love book reading, than simple reading to them is.
Use the illustration
Apart from the deeper meaning a book may have, the illustration plays a vital role especially in books for children. For kids who don’t know how to read yet, the image is the story itself. So the illustration has to be telling the story too.
One of Natalia’s favorite books is Birgitta’s Sif “Oliver” (στα Ελληνικά Όλιβερ, εκδόσεις ‘Ικαρος). We’ve read it so many times she knows it by heart. What makes this book great – apart from its lovely meaning – is the amazingly detailed illustration. There are so many things to mention and point to the child, every time we read it we discover something new.
Take the time to look at the designs in the book and seize the chance to teach the child something new. “How many balls do you see here? What is that kid wearing inon his head? Oh, look, what kind of animal is that?” All these questions will excite the kid and make him/her learn.
Give them a choice
Don’t turn story reading into your own agenda. If you have a small variety of books, let your kid decide which one he/she wants to read. Don’t get frustrated if they choose the same book over and over again. They have the right to like what they like, don’t they?
Natalia's latest book "obsession" is David Litchfield's "The bear and the piano" (στα Ελληνικά, Ο Αρκούδος και το Πιάνο, εκδόσεις Μικρή Σελήνη). She asks for it several times a day and we really can't say no to her. This is one of the sweetest books about friendship we've ever read and we all enjoy it very much!
If you want to enrich their reading, take a close look at their favorite books and see what they have in common. Is it the illustration style? Is it the meaning? You can start building your kids library from there.
It’s important to remember that if they include one book into their daily routine, your goal is reached, no matter what book they choose!
Read in another language
Kids are like sponges. They learn much easier than adults do, so why don’t you start them early on?
When Nick had to travel to Italy a while back, he asked me what to get Natalia as a present. I said, why don’t you get her a kids book in Italian? That way she will always have something from Italy and we can read her the book in Italian. Maybe she will pick up a word or two? Guess what? Natalia knows the whole book “La rabbia di Matteo” by Ian de Haes by heart in Italian.
Now we have started reading in English too. She loves the rhyme of the Angeliki’s Darlasi book “The fates” and she’s steadily learning words in English.
For me it’s marvelous to be able to read to her in English, since it’s a language I obviously love, books tailing the Myths and Legends of my country.
Kids see, kids do
If they see you read, they will read too! If they see you holding your smart phone (guilty but in my defense I am reading books on my Kindle app) all the time, they will want one too, so choose wisely what you want your kid to mimic of you!
Set a good example by reading books so the kids can see that and be like you!
In it for the cuddle
One of the best things reading with Natalia has to offer is the cuddles. Seating together on the couch, our sides touching, my hand over her shoulders holding the book open. Do you get the picture?
Toddlers need connection, they need healthy attachment, gentleness and warmth to thrive. Book reading gives them all that and your undivided attention too. So even if they are in it for the cuddle, they will soon be sucked down the wonderful world of written words and illustrations.
Even if you don’t practice attachment parenting, these are great ways to get your kids to like and eventually love book reading.
Do you have any tricks of your own? I’d love to read them!
Lots of love