I grew up loving books and reading anything and everything I could get my hands on. When I got married, I was determined to give my children a love of reading. Here are some of the things that I did to get them where they are today. (They are both avid readers who read and comprehend well above their grade level who are also very creative.)
When I was pregnant with my first child, my mother sent me a book. No, not a book on pregnancy or even about raising children, she sent me “Oh, Baby, the Places You’ll Go! A Book to Be Read in Utero” adapted by Tish Rabe from the works of Dr. Seuss. And yes, I felt a bit funny at first, reading to my growing belly. Gradually, however, it became a moment to stop, rest, relax and enjoy. And it foreshadowed some of my favorite times as a mom.
I have to confess that we didn’t read to the new baby right away. Hubby and I were both too exhausted and the baby couldn’t have cared less! But as soon as we established something like a bedtime routine, books became an important part of it. I discovered some amazing and wonderful authors for children, like Sandra Boynton and Doreen Cronin. (I still read “Click, Clack, Moo, Cows that Type” from time to time, either to one of the kids if I can get them to sit down or just to myself!)
Books quickly became very important to my son. We got him his own little bookshelf and it filled up rapidly with board books and picture books. We taught him how to take good care of those books (no tearing pages, no coloring in the books, etc.) and he did remarkably well.
As he got older, he started to pick out his own books (I found out that I have a hard time saying no to buying books), and I let him. While I would sometimes insist on adding something that I thought would be good to his pile at the bookstore or the library, mostly I let him choose. So we went through a phase where Captain Underpants ruled! But at least he was reading, and after he read whatever he had chosen, he would also read my choices.
We talked about books, what he liked and didn’t like, which ones he wanted to re-read or share with friends. And we used fiction to fill time. When we were number twenty-seven in the line at the post office at Christmas, behind twenty-six people sending cards and packages to ten different destinations each, I would pick him up and we would have a very quiet story.
“Once upon a time there was a little boy called, …” Usually he was the star of the story and it usually started in the very same post office, grocery store or airport where we were currently being bored. Except in our story, great and magical adventures would befall our hero. At first I would just tell him the story (when he was two or three) but as he got older, he got to get more and more involved.
When his little sister came along, he was happy to be a part of teaching her to love books just as much as he did. (See photo: he was six and she wasn’t quite a year old yet. The book is “The Going to Bed Book” by Sandra Boynton and I can still do the entire book from memory, having read it about a million times over the years.)
Fast forward a bit and today both my kids read a lot. We have just gotten them both Kindles and the beauty of those is the amount of free books that are now available for them. From classics to undiscovered future classics, my kids have a whole new world opened up to them every time they open their e-reader. That doesn’t mean that we have stopped buying paper books, just that we have diversified.
I actually wrote my first children’s book for my son when he was six or seven. There just didn’t seem to be enough out there for boys that were reading fluently at such a young age. I wanted him to have action and adventure that wasn’t too scary. So I wrote some for him. Now, thanks to the magic of Kindle Direct, I’ve been able to share those stories with a wider audience. And every time I get a review or hear from a parent that their child enjoyed my work I feel amazed and excited that I’m able to share my fantasy world with them.
The gift of the joy of reading is a gift they will carry with them for a lifetime. Share a book, a story or a poem with your children today. No matter how old they are, no matter if they are still in your tummy, still at home, off at college or grown with children of their own, talk to them about books and share your favorites with them. It is never too early or too late to give them this precious present.
D.X. Dunn lives in Western New York with a teenaged son and a not quite teenaged daughter. The Distania Chronicles were originally started to give her son, an early and avid reader, more to read. Years passed and that son got older and the Chronicles were largely forgotten. She recently dug them out for her daughter's amusement and was persuaded to try publishing them on Kindle Direct. She really hopes you enjoy them!