|Sprout got a library card at 6 weeks old!|
- Read to your children. From the beginning. Even when they're newborns, they love hearing your voice. You can get special black & white books designed for their developing eyesight, but I don't see that as essential. It's the interaction with you that's more important at this stage. So far with Sprout, we've progressed from 10-page board books to Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. We read to him every night before bed, at least one book, often three or four. He has also started to 'read' books on his own, explaining the pictures or telling what he remembers of the story. He also recites bits of his favourites during odd times of the day.
- Encourage your children to participate in the reading. For toddlers, you can ask them to name pictures in the book, or elicit the last word in the sentence of a rhyming book. Dr. Seuss is great for this: Me: "I would not eat them with a..." Sprout: "Fox!" Me: "I would not eat them in a..." Sprout: "Box!" For preschool age kids--maybe age three to five--let them point out letters in the words & use your finger to follow along the text as you read so they see the word & connect them with the sound. When they can read themselves, take turns reading sentences or get them to read to you as much as they like. Just keep it fun!
- Buy your kids books. It doesn't have to cost a mint--used books are just as awesome. I buy lots from Wee Ones Reruns, our local kids consignment store for $2-5 each, usually. I'd say this applies mainly to younger children who will want to read the same book again & again, not so much to older kids who will read a novel once. However, there are still books you might want to have around for kids who've outgrown picture books--reference books on basic science & anatomy, collections of poetry, kid-friendly cookbooks...
- Go to the library often. Lots of public libraries have great children's story times or activities for different ages of kids. Many are during the weekdays, but in Vancouver there are weekend & evening programs aimed at working parents too. Best of all--they're nearly always free! BONUS TIP: The Vancouver Public Library allows even newborns to have library cards & DOESN'T charge fines on overdues for children if taken out on their cards.
- Read books yourself. Modelling is important too. Kids need to see that reading is something that everyone does. My parents did this & I have fond memories of curling up at the opposite end of the couch, each of us immersed in our own novels. At that time--about 30 years ago--I was reading Nancy Drew & Bobbsey Twins novels (not exactly great literature) but it hooked me on the world of the imagination that you enter when you get lost in a book.
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