We share a love of books and reading (although she likes science fiction quite a bit more than I do), and you've probably heard her name mentioned on the blog before because she's the reason why I stuck with Middlemarch last year. Ever practical and down-to-earth, I think you'll enjoy hearing about the way she's fostered a love of reading in her home.
Let me just start by saying that I am a Sunlit Pages superfan. I am lucky enough to know Amy IRL (in real life – see? I’m hip) so I know that her blog isn’t a carefully curated game of smoke and mirrors. She is actually that awesome. IRL.
Now, I’ll be honest, when I read Sunlit Pages, I am 90% inspired and 10% overwhelmed (the ratios skew toward overwhelmed if a glue gun is involved). When Amy asked me to write this post on Raising Readers my initial thought was, “what could I possibly have to add?” because probably the most thoughtful thing I do to foster a love of reading in my kids (my son is 8, daughter 4) is follow this blog for suggestions!
But Amy and I are Book Friends. I’m sure you know what I am talking about. Yes, we have kids the same age (we met while pregnant!) and we are both stay-at- home-moms (or co-workers, as I like to say) but the core of our friendship is our mutual love of books. We are in the same Book Club and have even branched out to our own mini-book clubs (Middlemarch, now Crossing to Safety). So, how could I say no?
As a way of introduction, I should mention that I am a bit Type A. I am a physician by training and one does not survive medical school and residency without organization skills. I am a planner, a researcher, an organizer. I subscribe to Consumer Reports, I was buying BPA-free plastic before it was trendy, and this is what we look like during a smog-filled inversion:
So I guess I was a little surprised when I realized I haven’t been exactly meticulous with respect to my children’s reading education (it’s also surprising that I am fairly messy – my husband is nodding in the background). I have spurts of effort where I try to be more thoughtful and intentional about encouraging a love of reading. (These spurts usually involve searching Sunlit Pages and putting a flurry of holds at the library.) But mostly I depend on it just soaking in somehow. But I do have one tip.
Are you ready for my secret technique?
Ignore Your Children.
I am confidently teaching my children that reading is important by showing them that it is even more important than them sometimes!
I remember when my son was learning to walk and I moved the furniture around our small apartment’s living room so as to form a sort of pen. He wandered around and around the pen holding on to the furniture while I sat in the middle with a book, periodically looking up to smile and clap.
I still do that. My kids build forts, set up imaginary shops or play in the backyard, and I am reading.
One thing I am always careful about is reading an actual book. Since I get the majority of my books from the library, this is not difficult. But I don’t want there to be any confusion about why I am ignoring them. Mommy is not on the iPhone, she is not playing Plants vs. Zombies, she is READING. A book. It’s Important. Even when I listen to a book with my headphones while cooking dinner I make a point to tell them that’s what I am doing.
Ok, I have one more.
Let Them Have Farts.
There appears to be no end to an 8 year-old’s fascination with farts, poop, burps and all other manner of grossness. I have just decided to accept it and move on. When I think back to my favorite books as a tween and teen I would be remiss if I didn’t note that in addition to James Harriet and Beverly Cleary, my addiction to Sweet Valley High was profound. So when my 8-year- old wants to read Calvin and Hobbes before bed or checks out Captain Underpants at school, I shrug and am grateful he is reading.
I come from a long line of Bibliophiles. Long before everyone was sitting in the same room ignoring each other by looking at their smartphones, my family was sitting in a room ignoring each other while immersed in our books. My mom has over 500 titles on her Amazon reader account, and it is only 5 years old. My dad spends more time planning what books to pack for a trip than clothes. This is considered normal behavior:
(One of my father’s bookcases)
So, I guess what I’m saying is that in justifying my parental laziness when it comes to encouraging my kids to love books, it boils down to this:
It’s never occurred to me that they wouldn’t.