Wednesday, March 9, 2016

If You Want To Raise Lifelong Readers, Put the Books Down

Raising readers is a hot topic these days. That’s understandable given all the research that indicates children who read for pleasure do better in school and in life.

The practical suggestions for how to raise readers are plenteous: model reading, read aloud to your kids, have a dearth of age-appropriate books available, participate in storytime (at your local library or bookstores), spend time at the library – the list goes on.

While these are helpful suggestions, I’d like to offer a different one: Put down the books. That’s right. If you want to raise children who love to read, put down the books and tell your kids stories.  

Even though it seems counter-intuitive, think about it. Long before any civilization had a written tradition, they had an oral one. Knowledge was passed down from generation- to-generation all by word of mouth. That knowledge was shared in the form of story. 

Long before they had the neuroscience to explain why they were doing it, the earliest people were telling stories. Today we know why stories are so compelling. Our brains process stories differently than they do facts. Stories engage more parts of our brain.

Science aside, kids love a good story, especially if they are the star of the show. You don’t have to be a gifted storyteller who can do accents or know all the words to the Three Little Pigs. You just have to be willing to tell stories, on repeat.

Need a few examples to get you started? 
  • Talk about when you were a child - These stories are cult favorites in our household. The one about my little brother who used to go to the grocery store with a Cool Whip bowl on his head, it’s a classic. 
  • Each year growing up on our birthday, my mom and dad told us about the day we were born. We’ve carried on this sweet tradition with our own kids, although for us it’s the day we met. My kids never tire of hearing their adoption day story and heaven help us if we leave out a single detail, down to what we ate for breakfast that morning.
  •  Tell stories about the mundane - the tooth they lost, the time you thought they were hurt falling off the swing but they got up laughing, etc…
  • Don’t forget the milestones - Talk about first steps, the first time they ate ice cream, their first home run or dance recital.

 On Friday, we’re going to pick the books back up. I’m going to give you a children’s book guide that pairs books by age and interest. The guide includes categories for: The Curious Soul Who’s Naturally Naughty, The Transportation-Minded and The Explorer Who Can’t Sit Still. 

See you Friday!

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