A book is not just words and pages and sentences. It’s a bridge to another world, a window with a different view. It’s a best friend. It’s an abhorrent enemy. It’s a burden, an inspiration, a good cry, a belly laugh, a lifeboat.
Opening that world to children can make them better kids, students, adults, and citizens of the world. But in a world filled with iPads and Xboxes, how do you raise a reader?
1. Start early.
Really early. Like the-day-they-open-their-eyes early. Babies don’t need to understand plot and subtext to enjoy reading. What they enjoy is sitting on mom’s lap, hearing dad’s voice, seeing pictures, bouncing along to playful rhymes. When you read to kids early, they associate affection with books and build a lifetime affinity for reading.
2. Make reading fun!
Blue Baboon Books offers dozens of activities that make reading and being around books an uplifting experience. One of our most popular events is our story time at 10:30 a.m. every Wednesday. Ms. Amy, our story time minstrel, is a wonder to behold with her lively songs, dances, and voices. We also have Science Friday Jr. each Friday at 10:30 a.m., where little ones get the opportunity to participate in sensory play, puzzles, and building activities. We also offer oodles of crafting workshops, book release parties, and clubs. Blue Baboon Books works hard to make the bookstore a welcoming home for kids and families to fall in love with books.
3. Read books YOU like.
There are billions of children’s books out there. And many of them are truly spectacular. Find something you like and read it. It doesn’t matter if it’s above what you think your child’s comprehension level is. If you enjoy it, your enthusiasm will come through. I read the Harry Potter series to my kids the first time when they were 2 and 4 years old. Did they understand the complexities of horcruxes and the symbolism of Dementors? Probably not. But they loved the story of a boy and his friends doing magic, battling dragons, and going on adventures. To this day, they love Harry Potter, and it’s a special connection we will always have.
4. Make reading a priority.
Build books into your daily routine, snuggling up with about two or three books a day. I found it easiest to add a book or two to our naptime and bedtime routines. It was a comforting way to wind down and cuddle before drifting off to dreamland.
5. Let them read what THEY like.
To quote the author of Coraline and other assorted creepy tales, Neil Gaiman: “Every now and again it becomes fashionable among adults to point at a subset of children’s books that children should be stopped from reading. It’s tosh. It’s snobbery and foolishness. There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories.” It truly does not matter what they’re reading, so long as they’re reading. It’s okay to say yes to Minecraft handbooks, magazines, graphic novels, and comics. Whatever they read, they are building vocabulary, expanding imagination, and improving their capacity to comprehend.
6. It’s okay for kids to read books that don’t challenge them.
Parents might get frustrated that their child can read at a fifth-grade level, but he’s only interested in third-grade books. That’s okay! It could be a maturity thing. It could also be a matter of comfort. If she’s reading a book for enjoyment, she should actually enjoy it. If she’s struggling through challenging materials, not understanding the vocabulary or plot, or just not connecting…she’s going to feel discouraged and give up. Just because a child can read at a fifth-grade level doesn’t mean she wants to read at a fifth-grade level. Again, if we want kids to enjoy reading, we must let them read books they enjoy.
Blue Baboon Books is always thrilled to escort readers along their lifelong literacy journeys. We specialize in children’s and young adult literature. We also carry several toys, gift items, and a modest selection of adult titles. We host regular crafting workshops for all ages, story times, and events. For a complete list of our events, visit our Facebook page and click on the events tab.
Sara Ornelas is the owner of Blue Baboon Books. She has a fondness for the written word, having spent 20 years as a newsroom copy editor, public relations professional, transcriber, and substitute teacher. She has a love of literature. Her favorite books are A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, all things Harry Potter, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and Rosie Revere, Engineer, the young adult genre, and dystopian fiction.
Sara lives in Wichita with her handsome husband, Rene; two brilliant sons, Esai and Matias; a demanding terrier named Dobby; and a lovable beagle named Charlie.