How to raise a family of readers? Reading in our household is an integral part of our family culture: our children are read to from birth through to their teenage years, reading independently is nurtured, and reading as a pastime is highly valued. Our children are surrounded by books as our home literally contains thousands of books: books purchased, gifted and found at book sales. Both my husband and I are readers as are our children; conversations, activities and movie watching are entwined around our love of reading. Simply, reading is something we do as a family.
Reflecting upon how we have grown a reading culture, I decided to ask our adult children and teens who have been nurtured in this environment to contribute their thoughts as to how we’ve managed to raise a family of readers; the younger children also wanted to contribute. The children’s insights are fascinating, and it was enlightening to hear reoccurring themes.
Essentially, our children felt the key components of raising readers in our family have been: our family read-alouds, the emphasis placed on the value of reading and the time allowed for this, our insistence on quality literature, the teaching and nurturing of burgeoning readers, sibling interest and passion shared, a family culture created, the sheer amount of books they are surrounded with, and my willingness to search for books of interest for each individual child and my quest to provide them with these books, whether via our own shelves, the library or purchasing. Admittedly, scouring book lists and searching for the ‘morsel to tantalise the taste buds’ of some of our children is an endeavour that has consumed many hours over the years. I’ll allow the children to speak for themselves.
The Children’s Thoughts
Question: “Why do you think you are a reader? What did we do to support reading in our family?”
Anna Maria – 25
“You read read-alouds to us as children. We enjoyed a wide range of quality literature; you made sure the books we read were quality books. Lots of emphasis was placed on reading. You bought lots of books; we went to book sales and the library. You modelled reading and you talked about books.”
Carpenter – 23
“We had a ready supply of books and options. You found books in the genre I liked and supported me in my love of series. Would search to find books I was interested in and were willing to buy the books and series if we couldn’t find them at the library. You would go through our shelves at home and find books I might be interested in and give me huge piles to select from.
Read read-alouds to us, taught me to read, and encouraged me to read. When I was younger and learning to read, the ‘reading caterpillars’ (a family competition) motivated me to learn. I was also motivated by them later.”
Einstein – 21
“From a young age reading was encouraged. When learning to read we received lots of praise; when we had progressed and began reading short books and later chapter books we received lots more praise. Learning to read was a big deal. As we continued strengthening our skills it was all praiseworthy.
We were encouraged to read; a love and care of reading was fostered. I love reading.”
Michelangelo – 19
“You taught me to read, provided books at my level of reading ability. We had a good selection of books and you found books and series of interest I would enjoy. My older brothers and sisters shared their enthusiasm for and encouraged me to read particular books. Our rule of having to read the book before watching the movie created interest.”
Princess – 17
“I grew up surrounded by books. You are constantly suggesting books for me to read. I’ve always loved books and I can’t imagine not having them in my life.”
Jelly Bean – 14
“You found books I was able to read that were interesting and made sure there were library books all around that I would like so I would want to learn to read. It helped having a supportive Mum who didn’t get angry, who was patient when I was learning to read.”
Jack Jack – 12
“I read interesting books because I have to know what happens next! We have 8500 books, and we have to read the book before we can watch the movie.”
Jem – 10
“You taught me to read. Reading is great fun, I enjoy reading.”
Bass – 7
“I like reading. You are a good teacher.”
A reading environment doesn’t automatically translate to early reading. In fact, not many of our children learnt to read at a young age; indeed, most began reading at an average, or later than average age, with a couple not reading independently and for pleasure until the age of eleven. Our goal however is to create a love of books and reading within each of our children and that we have succeeded at.
Our desire and commitment is to expose our children to primarily quality literature; whilst we are by no means purists, the benefits of exposing our children to rich literature and ideas which are manifold are now playing dividends.
We are in the enviable position that whilst ‘reaping the fruits of our labour’ with our older children, we are still able to experience the wonder of walking with our five-year-old as she begins to discover the magic of the written word for herself, as well as continuing to enjoy picture books and transitioning to listening to chapter books with her older siblings.
I encourage you to begin creating a reading culture within your family today. Begin with one chapter at a time; snuggle, share, cry and laugh together. The rewards are rich indeed.