I feel so fortunate that I was bought up in a house full of books and had parents that enjoyed reading and would encourage us with this beneficial past time.
So how as a natural learning parent can I instill this love of books onto my own children?
Naturally, of course.
Children are always learning from example, so if they are living as a part of a book-loving family with reading as a normal everyday activity, then they are more than likely to embrace this as part of their everyday existence also.
It is really quite simple, if I want my children to love reading and books, then this needs to be something I am modelling myself.
When I am reading, it is wonderful to be able to share what I have learnt with my family, for example new recipes, health information, a new movie being released, nature facts, news stories etc. This illustrates to children just how amazing this skill of reading is!
Becoming a story teller is also a natural way to instill my love of books onto my children. This is one of my most favourite activities to share with my boys. I love reading aloud to them with lots of animation and fun. My husband really enjoys listening also. We have just finished reading Matilda, by Roald Dahl. It has been especially enjoyable doing the grumpy, harsh voice of the Trunchbull and then the soft, sweet voice of Miss Honey. I remember with great fondness a very theatrical storyteller we had as a teacher in primary school. He once read us The Hobbit and I still recall parts of the story, as it was told with such animation and expression.
We have been reading aloud to our children from when they were tiny babies. Even when they were still in my womb, I was reading them postive affirmations to enhance that feeling of love right from the start.
Mem Fox (a popular Australian childrens author) states that the best way to encourage my child to read is to read to them everyday. The LOVE of books and literacy is way more important than my child being at a particular reading level by a certain age. Coaxing a child to read a book they are not interested in is NOT going to instill a love of books and reading.
My husband loves to read articles from magazines, newspapers and online to the boys that he knows will interest them, such as nature, surfing, funny stories, heroic tales etc. This is a beautiful connecting activity that we can all share in, adults and children alike.
I find I naturally talk with friends about books we have read and I hear my children do the same with their friends. This is a natural way for comprehension to develop, when children share the meaning of a story with friends or their Dad when he arrives home from work. This just flows so naturally and is not at all like the structured worksheet type comprehension activities, which can be boring and contrived.
We also share large piles of books with our friends and they do the same, so we always have something to talk about, for example how much we loved a particular story. Yet our friends may have loved something different about the story, so then the boys learn to see a different perspective.
Our local library is one our most favourite weekly excursions. We even have two shelves on our book case allocated exclusively for our borrowed items. This is primarily so books won't get mislaid or lost and also for ease of finding our favourites. We have 3 cards so we are allowed to borrow 60 items at any one time! We feel so grateful to have such a wonderful resource so close to home to support our natural learning.
If you have read Indoor ideas....for rainy days then you will have seen that we have heaps of fun acting out stories, with props, such as toy animals, costumes, blocks etc. Everyone has a part to play and there is lots of laughter and learning while the boys recite lines and parts from the story naturally, as it is really enjoyable to do so. Our favourites are Bad Jelly the Witch, By Spike Milligan and Crocodile Beat, By Gail Jorgensen & Patricia Mullins. According to Kathy A. Zahler, dramatisation remains one of the best ways to involve children in the reading process and to motivate them to read on their own. (50 Simple Things you can do to Raise a Child who loves to Read).
There are so many pracitical reading opportunities in everyday life that my children witness me doing and they participate in themselves. Names on mail, signs in supermarkets and shops, road signs, brand names etc. It is amazing to learn just how much my children can read just through everyday being out in the real world! My eldest son was 5 years old when he told me 'Murwillumbah is 20 km away, Mum'. So he was able to read this familiar name of our home town and also recognise the distance from a road sign.
Parents who are not aware of the natural learning principles worry about how we know if our children are learning to read, if we don't make them read to us. As I just illustrated in the previous paragraph, our children are often showing us their skills at reading, and as we only have one or two children rather than 20-30 children, it is easy to keep track of where their reading ability is at.
My youngest son is currently very interested in letter recognition and sounds, so we facilitate this with lots of games, related books and a fun computer program called Reading Eggs, which he loves. My eldest son, is reading and writing and still needs a little help spelling and reading certain words. It is amazing though that because he is interested in dinosaurs he can read really long dinosaur names that I find challenging, yet has trouble with some simple everyday words. So he is learning to read in a very organic way, with no structure and reading levels to hinder his own natural flow.
The one thing I am required to do as their parent is to TRUST that they will learn to become fluent readers in their own time, with no force or coaxing on my behalf. Just lots of immersion into books and wonderful stories, and extending on this love of literacy through watching movies and live theatre of the books we have read. We just finished watching Matilda the movie after first reading the book. It is really exciting to see a book come to life on screen and then we compare differences between the book and movie.
I feel really blessed when I look up and see both my children sitting on the sofa with open books, completely absorbed into the world of literature, with no outside pressure or coersion, just a genuine L O V E of reading a good book.