Friday, November 22, 2013

Passing on A Love of Reading

There are lots of things I hope Henry picks up for Nick and me.  I hope he learns to work with his hands and build things like Nick,  I hope he becomes a good storyteller like me (non-humble brag),  I hope he loves to learn, like both of us.  But one of the things I have been thinking about a lot lately that I want him to pick up from me is the joy you can find in books.  But here's the thing about that hope... I have a fair bit of control on if it actually comes true. And that is extremely awesome. 

Recently I have been doing a lot of research on the benefits of reading* to children for my capstone project** for my MPH, and all of that research added a spark in my desire to read with Henry.  I mean, we read before that, but mainly the same books we owned again and again, with little enthusiasm from me.  He always liked when we read to him, which was often, but I guess I didn't put any thought into making him see how AMAZING reading can be.  Seeing studies about all the benefits a child gains from being read to made me want to do it more, and to make it something he looked forward to. It made me think about how much I love reading, and how I want him to share that with me.

 So we headed to our local library and talked with the children's librarian about good books to transition from from toddler/single sentence per page books (a la The Very Hungry Caterpillar) to things that are longer stories that included chapters, but still had some pictures. That is where we were introduced to Mercy Watson, and it's like I saw the love of reading literally spark in Henry's eyes.  He wanted to read all the time.  "Just one more chapter... JUST. ONE. MORE."  or "How about we go to bed now so we can read some more about Mercy Watson??" or when I am making toast for breakfast "Is it hot buttery toast?  Mercy and Mama both love hot buttery toast!  But Mercy is a pig and mama is a grown up." 

And the love didn't stop with Mercy, although she is a favorite.  Now every week or so we head to the library to get a couple of new chapter books, and every night he cannot wait to find out what happens next.  We tore through lots of Henry and Mudge books, as well as Mr. Putter books, but what Henry really prefers are longer stories.  Something with at least ten chapters, and this has been a challenge.  So many of those books are about older kids, and include things he can't relate to.  But still, he really enjoyed several of the George Brown Class Clown series, and we are now very into the first Melvin Beederman Superhero book but we are truly on the hunt for another book or series that is as perfect for him as Mercy Watson, so if you have any suggestions, PLEASE leave them in the comments.

But the point is, I am not just reading to Henry anymore, I am actively reading WITH Henry.  We lay there together and read the night's chapters, then we talk about what happened and what we think MIGHT happen next.  Throughout the day I will ask randomly what he thinks about our books, and if he wants to read a couple of chapters now, just for fun.  We are going to the library and picking out new stories, and we are sharing our new favorites with Cici so they can talk about their favorite characters together.  And maybe most importantly, I am making a commitment to myself to keep reading fun for him.  To show him how entire new worlds open up to you when you open a book.  And that you can share those worlds with others who read them too. 

I told him the other day that one day soon he will be able to read his books to Mama instead of Mama reading them to him.  And then, someday after that, he might want to read by himself the way Mama does with her books.  "But"  I promised him, "when that happens, Mama will still read the books you are reading, so we can talk about them together when we are done.  Because there is nothing better than sharing a good book together!"  He smiled and said okay, but the promise was more for me than for him.  I promise to keep reading to him, even when I feel too busy.  I promise to try my best to make reading fun.  I promise to read what he reads, and talk about characters with him, because as an avid reader I know, the next best thing to reading a great book is talking about it with someone else when you are done.  It's something I want to start sharing with him now as we laugh together over silly Mercy Watson, and truly I never want it to stop.

*Not to get too preachy here, but it is the single most important thing you can do for your child's educational future.  Seriously.  Reading to children daily is incredibly important.  Please make the time.

**One of these days I will tell you the details of my capstone/research project, but today is not that day.



  1. Ok, finally got commenting to work. At least I hope so! Try the Junie B. Jones books, you will both love "All About Sam" by Lois Lowry (there are other Sam books as well), "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" (prepare to cry but it has a happy ending), and that reminds me don't forget "The Velveteen Rabbit". Probably too soon for the Narnia books but those are my favorites. Keep reading - you are doing the best thing you possibly can for him!!

  2. Ok, we have so much to talk about. First of all, thanks for the Mercy Watson recommendation! We are headed to the library tomorrow, nd will be sue to check for them. My daughter is the same age as Henry, and she has the same love for chapter books. Some of the things she has enjoyed probably wouldn't be his cup of tea (Disney Fairies chapter books, American Girl books...) but I do have some good ones that we have loved. We spent the better part of this year reading all of the Little House on the Prairie books. Now, I know, they have a grl protagonist, but they are just so, so good, and are a great way to expose kids to a totally different way of life (covered wagons, building a homestead, etc). At the very least, check out Farmer Boy, which is Almanzo Wilder's story. The books are long, but written very simply, so not difficult for a 4yo to understand. My daughter loved them so much that she had a Little House on the Prairie birthday party this year!

    We liked The Boxcar Children a lot, partly because I told her I read them when I was a little girl. She also liked the Mrs Piggle Wiggle books. I thought they were a little weird, but it's all about silliness, so hard not to be a hit. We read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and have tried some other Roald Dahl books, but they have been too scary for her. We read one Junie B book, but I thought she was kind of disrespectful, so we didn't pick up any more. Geronimo Stilton mysteries are kind of fun and silly, but we've only read a couple of those.

    Finally, I follow a GREAT blog that has a ton of fantastic lists of early chapter books, by subject, by year, by girl or boy protagonist. It's seriously a treasure trove! Go check it out!

  3. My twins are 4, also, and I didn't think they'd be ready for chapter books, but they just love them (although they didn't seen to care much for Mercy Watson for some reason). They love the Little House on the Prairie books and the Magic Treehouse books. I was concerned that there wouldn't be good material for them to read themselves in a few years when they are reading chapter books on their own, but I think that won't be that case. Also, they can re-read these books and enjoy them again. I have the following that were recommended by my sister for this age: James and the Giant Peach, Charlotte's Web, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Stuart Little, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mr Popper's Penguins. But, I think you should try the Magic Treehouse series. Hope this helps; I'm right there with you! Oh, and I made them personalized bookmarks for their special chapter books. Any little thing to make reading that much more special.

  4. I keep thinking of more we've enjoyed! The Wizard of Oz, Winnie the Pooh, Mr Popper's Penguins, Charlotte's Web, Homer Price...ok I'm done now. :)

  5. I love this post and I can't wait to hear what your capstone/research project is about.

  6. I agree with the Magic Treehouse books! Both my boys love them. They were 5 and 6 when we started reading them. Captain Underpants is also very funny. They begged me to read Captain Underpants. Diary of a Wimpy Kid. They just discovered these they are now 7 and 8 and they can't get enough of those. My next stop is the Box Car Children! I loved those when I was little. Check out the scholastic website.. they may have some ideas on some good chapter books. I love that my boys love to read. That was the one thing I really pressed upon them. I cried when my oldest started reading on his own. Nothing makes you more proud than to have your child read to you.