Research shows that children who live in literature-rich households succeed more than those who do not. It is worth it to create a home environment that promotes and celebrates reading. As I’ve said before in this blog, you are your children’s first teachers and they learn so much from watching you. When you model reading for pleasure, your children will learn the joy of reading as well.
Everyone’s lives are busy—so many of us have demanding jobs and children have so many after-school activities. But it will be so worthwhile to set aside time in your busy schedule to have a designated Quiet Reading Time. Not only will it boost your children’s literacy, but I think you’ll also find it a welcome respite from your own bustling life.
I should note that Quiet Reading Time is different than reading your children books at bedtime. Quiet Reading Time involves all members of the family reading their own books or magazines independently in the same family space (often a family room, study, or living room). The first trick is to make sure everyone has a comfortable spot. If needed, your child could bring in a pillow or chair from another room. (Just make sure your child isn’t so comfortable that he might fall asleep!) To make your life easier, it might be worthwhile to have the same reading spots so no time is wasted with children arguing about who is going to sit where.
Quiet Reading Time can happen even with younger children who are not yet reading independently. Just be sure that such children have a large collection of picture books that they can look through independently. (Sometimes it helps to have some books that your child is very familiar with so they don’t need help figuring out what is happening in the story.) With younger children, you might find that they try to “read” the books out loud to themselves. This is an important step in pre-reading and should be encouraged. If they’re talking too loudly, you can just remind them to keep it down so that everyone else can read.
Sometimes children like to bring a stuffed animal or other toy to “read” to and that’s fine too. Young children need to practice what it feels like to read on their own, so resist the urge to stop your own reading to read to them. If they keep asking you to do so, remind them that you will read stories to them at bedtime.
While it is tempting for one or more of the parents to use this Quiet Reading Time to get stuff done around the house, I would strongly encourage all adults to be present for Quiet Reading Time. Your children watch you very closely, and it will be so important for them to see that you take the time to stop and read for pleasure. And how nice for you to take a break from all the household and work stresses to allow yourself time to read.
How long your Quiet Reading Time lasts will of course depend on your schedule and also your children’s stamina. Young children probably can’t last more than 20 minutes, but with time they’ll be able to increase their reading stamina. While it would be nice to devote an hour each day to Quiet Reading Time, the reality of your schedule may mean that you only get to participate in this a few days a week for perhaps only 20-30 minutes. That’s okay—any time spent as a family reading for pleasure is time well spent.
If time allows, you might want to close your Quiet Reading Time with an informal discussion of what everyone’s been reading. Sharing your interest in your own book will convey your own love of literature and your child may also want to talk about what they’re reading. What fun it will be to have such worthwhile literary discussions.