Raising Readers: The Example of an Older Child

Jan 30, 2015

The selection of our very first chapter book to read aloud was a long and agonizing process. Aaron was three-and-a-half at the time, and I was very concerned about it being a positive experience so that he would want to do it again (and again) (and again).

I finally decided on The Mouse and the Motorcycle, and I can still remember introducing (essentially, selling) the book to him: "See? This book is divided into chapters. We read one or two chapters at a time. Then we put in a bookmark to save our place and we come back to it the next day. There are only a few pictures, so you just listen and make a picture in your head instead. Isn't that awesome?!"

In the three years since that time, we've read dozens of chapter books. A few days ago, I realized, with something of a start, that Bradley is now the same age as Aaron was when I made the grand chapter book introduction.

But Bradley needs no introduction.

As the third child, he is very well acquainted with the concept of a chapter book. Although he has yet to listen to one from beginning to middle to end, he has been listening in on snippets for years. He knows Ramona and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and Charlie Buckets. He knows what a chapter is (the other night, he asked, "What's the name of Chapter 7?" and when I told him, he said, "Oh! Chapter 7: Alone in the Dark. Dad! Do you know what Chapter 7 is called? Alone in the Dark."). He knows that there are only scattered pictures (and often asks, "Is there a picture yet?").

This prompted me to think about all the other things I haven't taught Bradley but he has just absorbed through the examples of his older brothers.
  • A pleasant afternoon can be spent looking through a stack of books
  • The idea that letters on the page make words
  • How to listen to a picture book
  • What speech bubbles are
  • How to listen to an audiobook
  • The library is a thrilling place
  • We treat books with respect
  • It's exciting to receive a book as a gift.
But most importantly, he has learned that reading is fun, enjoyable, and exciting. He has observed and applied with virtually no instruction from me.

Of course, it's easiest to have the "example of an older child" if that older child is a member of your immediate family. But cousins, friends, and, yes, even adults can also provide a wonderful example. In retrospect, I'm wondering if I could have utilized someone else's example a bit more with Aaron (or even now, who might provide that example for him for the new reading experiences that are still coming down the pike).

I'm very interested to hear from all of you about how the examples of others have influenced your child's love of reading? For those of you who have only children, do you feel like there was a particular person (or people) who provided an example that got your child hooked on reading? Or, like me with Aaron, have you had to make a special effort to introduce new ideas?


  1. I loved The Mouse and the Motorcycle when I was little! I'm a second child, so I'm sure I saw my older sister reading when I was little. As we got older it was definitely more important to me, but I think my parents' love of reading also set that example.

    1. For sure! I definitely wasn't trying to discount the example of parents, which I believe plays a huge role in children's love of reading. In this case, I was just trying to show that the example of an older child can really decrease the learning curve so that a lot of knowledge about reading and books just comes naturally, even effortlessly, to younger children.


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