Creating a Reading-Friendly Home for ToddlersSelena Mills
Imagine stacks and stacks of books, new and old. They’re piled up in every room, all over shelves, on tables and countertops, at the foot of the bed, strewn across floors and tucked under chubby little arms and under pillows. This is a common, everyday scene at our house. The mess of books all over the place never seems to bother me in the same way that Lego mess, paper and crayon mess or random toy bomb mess do.
When Trevor suggests donating some books whenever we get around to spring cleaning (which never really happens in the spring), or decide that it’s time to do some purging of toys and clothes as the kids grow and their interests/skills develop, I look at him horrified. I can’t really bear to part with books, except the “ones” that were gifted to us somewhere down the road. You know the ones. The ones that bleep and bop and make weird noises and aren’t all that fantastic, from a literary perspective — which matters, even when it comes to books for toddlers.
Am I book snob? Perhaps. I don’t feign to be a literary giant and quite honestly, my once voracious hunger for devouring books wavered after the kids were born. For myself. Something to do with personal time evaporating. For them? I was excited. I dreamed of growing their library and reminisced over all of my own favorite childhood books and authors and how I’d add them to my own kids’ library. I began to frequent bookstores again, not for myself, but for them.
If there’s one thing that I overindulge in for them it’s books. Of course we go to the library and I buy lots of books second-hand and from book liquidators and wholesale warehouses. I used to work down the street from one of the most amazing discount bookstores, it was like the Winners of bookstores. Everything there was cheaper than in the fancy, delicious chains. (Yes, I deem Chapters to be delicious.) I don’t know why (some of the books had weird little black marks on the back pages, and I’m sure some of them had typos or something or we’rent bonded properly), but I don’t care. It was awesome.
Learning to read as a kid is perhaps one of the most valuable life skills that we can teach our children in order to succeed in life. It’s pretty key to their academic success, and to most of us, it’s just a no brainer. Literacy is so much more than reading words. Reading requires the development of listening and vocabulary skills, speaking and the use of one’s imagination. Learning makes children better speakers and better thinkers, both in the critical sense and in the imaginative sense. Reading has taught me an immeasurable amount of things and opened my mind up to thought processes that my brain otherwise wouldn’t have wandered down. I’ve made it a big mission in our home to create an environment that encourages the development of these skills, with tools that foster an enjoyment for reading, as I see before my very eyes with my eldest bookworm, for writing too.
1. Create Relatable Literary Experiences
We often get a lot of ideas from our kids’ books for the types of activities and outings we plan. Exposure to a variety of life experiences is also one of our favorite ways to introduce new books to our kids, books that have a similar or relatable theme to that experience or emotion. We talk about the stories we read and ask them questions about the meanings of new words, different expressions and concepts, helping them learn new vocabulary to describe the book or the activity that we enjoyed together, thus helping them understand the words they read and see.
2. Enjoying Reading-Based Activities Together
We visit our local library a lot together, play word games and integrate vocabulary-based activities into musical and art-based activities too. Participating in these types of literacy-based activities with our kids has helped teach them to appreciate words and books, and they look forward to sharing reading experiences with others who love words and stories too.
3. Make Word Art
We bust out the paint, markers and crayons on the daily and incorporate the books we are reading into the art that we make together. It’s become such a routine that Wyndham creates word art and beautiful mixed media art-stories using construction paper, scissors, glue, feathers, paint, whatever he feels like. He gets into it and I even have little stations set up throughout the house for he and his sister to do these type of word-based art activities easily.
4. Get Organized
I’ve created little reading nooks throughout our home and made sure each room has kids’ books within reach. I love these shelves from Ikea and have them in our bedroom, hung low within their reach so they can select their bedtime or morning snuggle stories and hop up into our bed. I also love using baskets found at the thrift store to stack some books into in various areas of the house too! I’ve found rotating the books and creating themes in some of the book baskets (revolving around seasons, holidays, concepts, emotions, etc.), to be really valuable in keeping boredom at bay and their interest in reading going. I recently purchased some Ikea spice racks to hack into book “shelves” on the wall both up over the top bunk of Wyndham’s bed and hung low on the wall, clustered together in the newest reading nook I’m making for the kids in their room. There are always favorites however, much like with certain TV episodes or movies or songs that I find myself stabbing my eyes out rather than having to read/listen/watch one more time. But such is life with toddlers.
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Selena is a crafty, culinary mom. Regular writer here and on Disney Baby. Part-time mischief maker, all-time geek. Elsewhere on the Internets… via her humble beginnings, mastering in general mayhem: le petit rêve