What I Learned as a Mom of 8 Kids about Reading to Your Children
Reading stories to children when they are young is one of the best ways to help them increase their vocabulary and grow their imagination. Storytime with children is a special, magical time to bond with your child. As a mom of eight kids, I loved the time I spent reading stories to my kids. They would all gather around, and I would read them their favorite stories. Reading to your children daily has many benefits that will help them throughout their lives.
7 Benefits of Daily Reading for Children
- Reading to your child daily will help them develop better vocabulary and communication skills. It’s no mystery that the more words children hear, the bigger their vocabulary will grow. Each different story offers new words and new ways to use words that are already familiar.
- Reading to children stimulates their creativity and imagination. As your child experiences new worlds and fun and silly creatures it helps their imagination and creativity to grow.
- Reading to children helps foster a lifelong love of reading. Children who love to read do better in school.
- Reading stories to children is a great way to teach lessons and ideas. Learning through stories is an effective way to teach values and morals without making your child feel defensive. It’s easier to talk about the actions of a character in a story and what the consequences are.
- Reading time is a wonderful time to bond with your child. There is truly something special about the time spent reading with a child. That time of bonding and enjoying eachother will create special memories that will last a lifetime.
- Reading to children helps them understand the world around them. There is so much to learn about our world from the people around us, to the animals that live halfway around the world and so much more. Reading books together about the subjects that interest your child will help them better understand our world.
- Reading stories to your child can help them learn how to deal with their feelings and emotions. Reading stories can help children understand that it’s ok to feel sad and what to do when their big emotions overwhelm them. Stories can help children develop greater empathy for other people’s feelings too.
I have always believed that children can never have too many books or too many balls. Reading and playing are important parts of children’s development. My house has always been full of bouncy balls, beach balls, sports balls like basketballs and volley balls, and almost every other type of ball you can imagine. My home is also full of books. I have non fiction books about trains, dinosaurs, the ocean, rhyming books, silly books, inspirational books, classic books, just about every type of book you can imagine. As a mom of eight very different children, I have books that fit many types of interests and personalities.
I love the quote from Frank Serafini that says, “There is no such thing as a child who hates to read only children who have not found the right book.” We are blessed to live in a time when there are so many wonderful children’s books available. There are subjects and styles to match any interest and every child. So, with so many books to choose from, how do you pick the right books for your child?
How to pick the right books for your children
- Lose the idea that there is a right type of book for your child to read. I used to have this idea that certain books were better than others. I wasn’t thrilled when my sons wanted to read Captain Underpants and other silly books. I had to learn that reading is supposed to be fun. There is no such thing as the right type of book. The right type is the kind your child enjoys and relates to.
- Reading is reading. Does this seem simple? It might, but it wasn’t always simple to me or my children’s teachers. I used to lose sleep about why my son was spending all of his time reading instruction manuals and websites about Minecraft when he was supposed to read books. Then one day I was talking to some friends, and I realized he was reading! He was actually reading a lot! Why was I so concerned? Just because he wasn’t reading a book didn’t mean he wasn’t reading. I had to convince some teachers that reading a web page about how to build worlds on Minecraft still counted as reading. Try not to let your idea of what reading is supposed to look like stifle your child’s love of reading the way I almost did.
- Let your children choose their books. Yes, you will have favorites you want them to hear, and suggestions of books you would like them to read, but if you want your kids to love to read, let them choose what to read. It’s ok to give them guided choices sometimes, but the more they feel in control of their reading, the more they will love it.
- It’s ok if they want to read the same books over and over again. Here is another of my old hang ups. I wanted my kids to be exposed to many different books, so I didn’t want them to read the same ones over and over. Guess what? It’s fine to read the same book again and again. Books can be a source of comfort and there is nothing wrong with reading a favorite story many times.
- Think of reading books as a friendship. Different books have different feels and personalities. Some children like fun rhyming stories with silly characters like The Blomes and The Smooms and the Impossible Bridge. Other children want books that help them learn about the world like Dinosaurs: a Visual Encyclopedia. Find books that match your child’s personality and ones that compliment your child’s personality. There are very few (if any) books that are perfect for every child.
Lifelong readers are better learners, have greater imaginations, and have a better understanding of the world around them. We all want our kids to love to read. Finding the right books can help them to be excited to read, but if you want to really raise readers, you need to set an example of reading for your family. If you make reading an important and fun part of your family, your children will be more likely to develop a lifelong love of reading.
How to instill a love of reading in your child
- Set an example of reading for fun. Do your kids see you curling up with a good book? Do you talk about the books you are reading or the ones you want to read? I know we as parents often feel like we don’t have time to read. If you can sneak in 15 minutes of reading when the kids are awake and can see, it will set a powerful example! If you can’t do this (and believe me I understand!) try leaving the books you are reading, or want to read out on the coffee table with a bookmark so they can see that you love to read.
- Have family reading nights. There is something magical about good snacks, PJ’s, and good books! Try scheduling weekly or monthly family reading nights where you all read your favorite books in the living room or another place in the home. This family tradition will bring the family together and help your children develop a lifelong love of reading.
- Read them books you love. I loved sitting down with my kids and pulling out the books that I loved as a child. I was blessed that my mom saved many of my favorite books from my childhood. The well-worn pages of these books often had doodles, and some are ripped. There are even some that my sister made into plays for us to perform. She marked the lines that we would each act out. It’s fun to think back to that time now and share that with my own kids. The stories are good, but I think my kids like the doodles and personal touches we made even more than the stories. It gave them a glimpse of who I was at their age and how much I loved to read these stories. If you don’t have books from your childhood, think of stories that mean a lot to you or remind you of your childhood or other special memories. Your love of the stories will be contagious.
- Read in different settings. Make a cozy reading corner with blankets, pillows, and maybe stuffed animals to enjoy the stories. Try reading in a blanket fort by the light of a flashlight. Read on the beach, in the park, or in your back yard. Teach your kids that reading is something you can do anywhere.
- Make story time fun time. Show your children that you are excited for story time. Make it something you all look forward to. Have fun and be silly.
- Makes books available in your home. You don’t have to have as many books as I do, but make sure your children have access to books. I like to give my kids their own bookshelf in their room where they can keep the books they love and the ones they are reading right now. Keep books where your kids can reach them and let them know it’s ok for them to pull them off the shelf and look at them when ever they want to.
- Expose your children to a variety of books and stories. Like we talked about before, there are so many different types of children’s books. Give your children a chance to sample different types. Go to the library and let them browse for books that they find interesting. And remember, it’s ok if they just don’t like a book. There are so many others to chose from.
The books you choose to read to your children is going to vary depending on what you want to get from that book. Often, probably most often, you and your child are just looking for books that seem interesting and fun. It is all about fostering the love of reading. That’s wonderful! The more children read the more they will enjoy the benefits that I talked about earlier. Most of the time, the books you read should be books your children choose, but sometimes you want a book that will address a specific need. Books are valuable tools to help kids gain skills, learn valuable lessons, and learn how to overcome challenges.
6 Ways to use Stories to Help Your Children
- Use books and stories to instill a lifelong love of reading and wonder. This is what reading is about. Your children will love reading when they are able to choose the books they want to read and they are able to see reading as fun instead of a chore. Be careful not to take the fun out of reading by being too worried about what they are reading and how long they read.
- Use books to bond and have fun. Storytime is a wonderful time to snuggle up and enjoy time together. Books that work well for this time are books you both enjoy. Silly books are great for this special time. Books that express how much you love your child like I Wish You Happiness by Michael Wong are also perfect books to help you bond as you read together.
- Use books to teach life skills like making friends. Making friends can be hard for children. As parents we want to help them, but sometimes we don’t know what to say. Reading a story together is a wonderful way to teach these skills in a way that our children can understand. Teaching through stories helps our children to see the problem from a different perspective. Books like The Blomes and The Smooms and the Impossible Bridge can help children understand how to make friends and how to be a good friend.
- Use books to teach empathy. Books and stories are a perfect way to teach children about the importance of empathy. Books like Ricky the Rock that Couldn’t Roll, The Blomes and The Smooms and the Impossible Bridge, and Rosalee the Seeker help children see situations from different points of view and help them understand the importance of accepting people who are different.
- Use books and stories to teach values. Whether you are teaching the importance of telling the truth, or teaching about kindness, using books and stories is a great way to teach these lessons in a way children will understand and want to listen. Books like I Can Sleep When the Wind Blows that combine bright, fun illustrations with short engaging stories really help children learn and remember important lessons.
- Use books to build confidence and emotional resilience. As parents, we want our children to know how special they are and to have confidence, but sometimes hearing that from a parent just doesn’t have the impact we wish it did. Books like You are Special by Max Lucado can help children understand their value and increase their confidence.
If you want to learn how to be a better storyteller and how to help your children become active participants in the stories you read together, see these blog posts.