Raising a Reader

About a year ago we had a playdate with a new friend. During the playdate the mom made surprisingly judgy comment about how many books Tiny owns. I couldn’t believe that she felt it appropriate to make a comment like that. Considering that Hubbin and I are both avid readers and have at least five filled bookshelves, I’m not sure why she was surprised that Tiny had her own filled shelf. The only response that I had for her was this: we plan to raise an achiever and, because books are the key to knowledge, we plan to raise a reader.

Tiny with all the books at 18 months

In a couple days I will be sharing a bit more about my own reading goals for 2019 as I seek balance in my life but today’s post is about reading with kids. After all, reading with Tiny is an important part of my life and an essential part of my own goals to find balance.

I’ve learned that reading with Tiny requires lots of flexibility. She has her own tastes, her own pace, and her own set of ideas about how each session should happen. Sometimes she is completely content to let me pick a story and simply listen. Other times she wants a particular story but only wants to dialogue about the things she sees (dialogic reading). There are times she quits before we finish. And there are still other times that she decides I’m a lazy boy and puts my arms to the test as I balance her and the book to the best of my ability.

Sometimes I leave story time with Tiny feeling gratified and fulfilled as a parent; other times I finish a story feeling like I just escaped wrestle-mania or, worse, pretend playraise a reader 4 hell. But I persist because I know it serves my Tiny and, ultimately, it truly does serve me, too.

Now, believe me when I tell you that there are days that I JUST DON’T WANT TO read *that* book one more time. Or I REALLY don’t want to be treated like a jungle gym. Or I get tired of reminding her that she can’t sit on top of the book if she wants story time to be effective. But I persist… sometimes after a glass of wine.

Reading is such an important part of childhood, though. It promotes speech and language development, it empowers kids and introduces them to the world. If done right, reading with your child can also strengthen the bond you have with your kid, which is why I endure those wrestle-mania reading sessions. Tiny needs that safe closeness with me to reassure her as she tackles the big world.

Even though Tiny has most definitely ditched nap time as a foregone conclusion,  we do have structured “quiet rest” late each afternoon. Although it does sometimes turn into cuddle time while watching a mellow television show, it is more often a time for reading. She is beginning to enjoy “reading” independently now and I take full advantage of those days by pulling out a book of my own. These days she usually reads one of her Highlights or Ranger Rick magazines while I read my own light fiction. But more often she wants to read together.


So regardless of our reading outcome today – no matter the sore arms or tired voice  or dashed plans to read my own book – I’m very grateful to have the time with her now. I actively plan ways to enrich her reading life through books that expose her to diverse topics and expand her world through books that introduce other cultures.

screenshot 2019-01-25 22.08.03

So part of my endeavor to bring more balance into my life through reading is to bring more balance into the selections I read with Tiny, being more intentional in my cultivation of diverse reading material… and being more conscious of the emotional needs that reading fills as well before I lose my cool or open a bottle of wine.

Even if you’re not an avid reader, I challenge you to make space in your life for books, especially books you can read with your kiddo. Knowledge is power. Books hold knowledge. Read to your kids. (Heck, read aloud to your spouse, too… but more on that another time.)


The PGV Pediatrics images came from their Facebook page and the their Instagram feed.

This article by The New York Times titled “How to Raise a Reader” is one of the best articles I’ve come across. Yahoo News did a similar story about the importance of bedtime stories.

If you are struggling to find ways to dialogue about books with your kids, here are two short reads about dialogic reading with kids. It’s so much easier than sometimes feels.

And here are some resources that might help you find some reading material.

  • Bedtime stories are especially good for exploring the world while reassuring your little one. Looking for bedtime stories? Here are some of my favorites.
  • Common Sense Media has a helpful list of books that are great for reading aloud.
  • I love this opinion piece from Flavorwire.com that discusses canonical kids books and suggests some replacements. The commentary can be pretty funny. I have to say, though, that I completely agree with the assessment on I’ll Always Love You.  Book suggestions, whether for bedtime or other, certainly can’t hurt.

Highlights and Ranger Rick magazines have a bunch of different magazines for different age groups and, should the grandparents inquire, subscriptions make great gifts. Tiny really loves getting these in the mail. Each edition has suggestions to help parents engage in dialogic reading, which is so very helpful when you are getting started or when you’re super tired. (just and FYI… Ranger Rick’s customer service is far superior to Highlights; the latter always manages to screw up the first few months of Tiny’s subscription each year.)

If you love classic literature as much as I do, this Baby Lit set is the best! Can I tell you how much I love this collection of children’s books?!?! Whoever came up with this is a genius. You can, of course, find these at many online retailers and several storefront booksellers, too, but I like the link I shared above because you can really see how extensive the collection is.

Looking for a cheaper or more minimalist way to introduce books?

  • You can, of course, check out your local public library. (And if you want to watch someone else do story time, most library systems have great story times for kids, too. Many Half Price Books and Barnes & Noble also have story times.)
  • You might have a Little Free Library near you, too. These are great if you want to keep you home free of books because you take a book and leave one at the same time.
  • And, finally, you can look into Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which is is a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth until they begin school, no matter their family’s income. The books they receive are really great. Be prepared, though, to wait an excessively long time to clear the wait list or even get some sort of response. It took just shy of two years to get a response after submitting Tiny’s name for consideration but she loves getting her ‘special mail.’

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