I remember when Ellerie was six months old I wrote somewhere (blog post? IG?) that we were reading to her more often and someone commented that they had been reading to their kiddo since the day they were born. Like a crazy person, who was in desperate need of a social media break, I felt inadequate. Then I remembered that I spent a long time just trying to catch my breath in the newborn days and IT'S ALL GOOD. It's never too late to start a good habit.
As parents, all we can do, every damn day is try our best. Sometimes my best is another episode of Daniel Tiger. Sometimes my best is pancakes for dinner. Sometimes my best is a giant fail. But the good news is, kids are awesome and forgiving and tomorrow we get a fresh start.
One thing that Paul and I do work on (and again, some days we do better than others) is encouraging Ellerie to love books. We didn't start day one in the hospital, but as she's grown, we have incorporated reading into our daily routine. Below are some things that have helped us emphasize books and reading.
Ask for books as gifts to grow your collection! Around holidays and birthdays when you know gifts will be given or when you're being asked for suggestions, request books! I have done this in the past and really should have done it instead of asking for "no gifts" at Ellerie's 2nd birthday party. Baby's and toddlers are of the mindset that "gifts = toys" and so books work well.
Use the library. For so long I avoided checking out kids books because I worried that Ellerie would tear the pages, but then I talked to a friend and she said to do it anyway. Our library has a great kids section and that includes toddler board books. It's worth a membership just to have some variety to read. And free! Free is great.
Store books on kiddo level. Make sure the books are accessible. When Ellerie was young this resulted in books on the floor all. the. time. Her favorite activity was throwing books from the shelves. But she's gotten used to them now and understands that they are there for reading or looking through instead. Tons of our books have torn pages but I figure that's just part of it. I encourage her to be gentle, tape where I can and move on. Something that helped was removing all the "flap" covers so there is not extra paper on the shelves.
Understand that what "reading" means will change. When Ellerie was six months, I could read her a book from start to finish and she would just sit there and "pay attention." Then we had a long period where she was not having it and I'd make it through just a few pages before she'd be on to the next book or next activity. I kept reading or at least pulling her on my lap to "try" reading anyway. Around two, something clicked and now she'll usually sit very content for five, six (or more!) books at a time. Obviously, these ages are specific to her, and might be different for your kiddo, but know that like everything else, there will be phases.
It's okay to cliffnotes or expand. We have a lot of story-length variety in our collection. Some of our books are short and some are really long. Depending on the attention span of the moment, I will cliffnotes our way through long paragraphs so the gist of the story is still told OR expand on the books that just have one word per page (like "here is a brown dog and her puppy" instead of "puppies"). There is going to come a day when Ellerie knows each book word for word and I can't skip anything, but for now, this works really great. It makes all of our books, regardless of the level, useful today.
Let them "read" to you. Sometimes Ellerie wants to hold the book and "read." At these times, I just sit back and let her do it. It takes forever but she loves it and I'm thrilled that she's engaged in the process.
Point out things on the page. Our doctor's office hands out books at her appointments and at the end of them, there are "tips" for reading. One of them that I love is the recommendation to point to things as you read them. This can mean pointing to the words or pointing to the characters or even pointing out side details in the illustrations. It's a great way to expand short books to make them take longer or get more from a small collection of books.
Ask questions about the illustrations. Another one of the tips is to ask questions. Simple things like "Do you see the mama bear?" Or "how many fish are on the page?" Or "can you point to the yellow star?" It's helped us to make the reading a bit more interactive and I think it's helped Ellerie expand her vocabulary too.
Pick up a few "double duty" books. Anything with a lift-the-flap or something tactile that can be touched has been great for us and encouraged interaction. We love the Spot books for lift-the-flaps and Pat the Zoo is popular around here too. (Beautiful Oops! and Press Here are both gorgeous though a bit more advanced.)
Say yes to books. At our house, official "reading" time is before naps and bedtime. I generally take the nap shift and Paul takes the night shift. We have a routine and pick out five to six books of varying lengths and read through them all while Ellerie drinks some milk and then she lays down to sleep. But throughout the day, if Ellerie brings me a book or asks for a book I try to always say yes and make a point to sit down and read with her...even if it's for the 600th time.
Any other tips? I'd love to hear how you've encouraged reading, especially if your children are older.