Here are twenty terrific tips from Valerie, who blogs at The Almost Librarian.
· We read together every day. If at no other time, each of my children gets to choose three stories to read before bed. We also read stories when we have ten minutes here or six minutes there, such as before we go out.
· My children see me reading. They know I love to read and that I take out books from the library, too. I point out when I use reading during other parts of our day – reading a recipe, reading directions on a game, reading dosages on a bottle of Tylenol.
· I know some stories by heart, like The Napping House and Silly Sally by Audrey Wood and Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson. I’ll start reciting these when we’re waiting somewhere – like a long line at the grocery store.
· We go to the library every week – my son shouts “Yeah! It’s library day!” I let the kids pick out books, and I choose books too, so we get a broad range of styles, genres, authors, topics and concepts. We also get videos, CD’s, audio books, and computer software to try out. I’m sure the circulation desk people don’t like to see me coming, because it isn’t unusual for our tote bag to have 20+ items in it. Some books we love, and read over and over. Others aren’t so good, but because we’re only borrowing them, it’s not a big deal if we don’t care for them.
· While mass market books that feature familiar characters from TV are not my favorite, I don’t dismiss or discourage them. My kids love these books and choose them all the time from the library. The children are reading, they’re making connections about their lives so it’s all good. I mix in some other trade books they might not have chosen on their own, and that’s how these kinds of books get introduced. But by all means if your child loves Dora the Explorer, find some Dora books to check out.
· We take advantage of free library story times and other offered story times when it fits into our schedule. Take a look at your local book stores, including the big chain ones such as Borders and Barnes and Noble. Many of these places offer free story times. Also, our Pottery Barn Kids offers free sing-alongs and our Lakeshore Learning offers free craft days – check out places like that.
· I keep books in baskets and on shelves in almost every single room in the house. The books are at their level and can be touched, browsed, and loved. I even let my toddler explore real paged books and if a page rips, we tape it up. They are learning to respect books and how to take care of them. They are also more likely to spend time “reading” on their own because they can reach the books at any time.
· I have sight word labels in their bedrooms tacked to the wall by clear contact paper. I printed out words in a large, simple font - door, window, chair, lamp, CD player, toys, etc. Then I cut out each one individually and adhered the labels with the contact paper to the wall. We don’t talk about them all the time – only when the words catch their interest.
· If we’ve read a story that was a favorite, I try to work it into playtime. For example, we read 1 2 3 Valentine’s Day by Jeanne Modesitt and then when we were creating our own valentines, we made plans to bring them to neighbors. On the day we delivered them, we repeated the phrase from the book “Mr. Mouse with a big red box goes up to the door and gives two knocks” and then we knocked twice.
· We keep a chalk board and chalk accessible at all times and regularly use other writing tools such as crayons, markers, colored pencils, pens, regular pencils, and various kinds of paper (notebooks, typing paper, construction paper, note cards, and even huge bulletin paper that I tape to the floor). The other side of reading is writing and I want them to make connections regarding how these two components fit and work together. I try to take advantage of opportunities to create real and useful writing. For example, I didn’t have dinner plans for one night and everyone was shouting something different that they wanted fixed. So for one night only, I became the short order cook and every member of the family could order from a menu. I worked with my 4-year-old to create the menu in writing and pictures and then he went from person to person taking the orders.
· For their artwork, I ask them to tell me about their drawings and then ask permission to label the actual drawing with the words that they dictated to me. And sometimes I’m told “no” – they don’t want writing on their art and that is totally fine. But other times, they are happy to see words that tell others what their intended meaning was. Then we hang a lot of their art work on a couple of doors in the family room.
· We use the postal service when we can. Instead of buying birthday cards, we make them. I bought a huge box of blank cardstock cards and envelopes that will take us years to go through and we make cards – coloring, using glitter glue, using collage or pictures – all kinds of art. But then we talk about who the person is and we write what we need to write. We address the envelope, affix our stamp and go to the mailbox or post office. This is another way to incorporate the early literacy skills of reading and writing into an authentic, every day scenario. Plus, unless they are lying to me, relatives and friends adore getting a handmade note. (Another tip- use artwork that comes home from school that is on large sheets of easel paper as wrapping paper for birthdays and holidays. It’s a great way to recycle and the kids love having their art being used in a fun way.)
· We publish our own books when we can. For example, create a counting book – we took a picture of our one dog, two Spiderman toys, three baby dolls, etc. Then we printed out pages with our text (or you can hand write the text) and the kids pasted the pictures onto each page. Then we assembled the pages into clear three-ring sheet protectors and bound them with brads. Wah-lah! A book that they authored, illustrated and can read by themselves. You can be so creative with this activity – all kinds of writing and illustrations and all of them are wonderful.
· We keep a Tupperware shoebox sized tub in between the two car seats and it’s always filled with books. When we’re in the car, they can browse and read.
· We also use a lot of audio books on CD from the library to change up listening to music – we listen to them in the bedrooms while we’re getting dressed in the mornings or falling asleep at night and we listen to them in the car. There are so many awesome audio books with great voices, music and sound effects. Definitely worth checking out.
· When we’re going somewhere like the doctor’s office, I bring a small backpack with some toys and a bunch of books. They might not start the wait with the books, but we almost always get to using them.
· One favorite spring-summer-fall activity that we like to do is take a picnic lunch outside or to the park and I bring a bag of books. I used to do this with my preschool class as well – sometimes sitting outside in the sun on a colorful blanket exploring books is awesome.
· Part of why we read books is because we like the story aspect, so I try to encourage story telling. I constantly ask my kids open-ended questions so that they’ll tell me stories. So not “What did you have for snack at school today?” which yields a one phrase answer, but “Can you tell me about snack today?” which might still yield the one phrase answer, but might also solicit a story about the kid who did something really funny at the snack table. And sometimes we just make up silly stories or change the characters from a familiar story or song into us so that we’re the ones who are, for example, Freddy-Bear.
· We play a lot of board games. While games for this age do not involve print reading, they involve loads of communication skills and other kinds of ‘reading’ such as reading the color from a card and ‘reading’ the picture on the game board. All important early literacy skills.
· When relatives ask what might be a good birthday or holiday gift idea, I sometimes ask for books instead of toys. I ask for a particular kind of book (trains, princesses, cookbooks, etc) or a favorite author. I also make book plates to put into special books. I found free clip art that I thought was cute, typed up the words “This book belongs to Charlie” and printed the labels out on card stock. I used spray adhesive found at any craft store to fix the book plate to the inside cover. Even very young children have such a sense of self and pride when they OWN that book.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cantaloupe99/2803939683/
Check out some blog entries on Day 1 of Share a Story - Shape a Future!