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How to Interest Even the Youngest Reader

My little Ele, from the time she was mobile (she was walking by ten months) never wanted to sit still long enough to read a book. She didn't even care to sit still for a movie, whereas her sister would close-out the world around her if she could just stare at a screen. Brielle would sit with me for hours to read book after book after book, but Ele was as opposite as they come. Working with reluctant readers taught me not to push her. Knowing that if I made her sit with Brielle and I while we read would only make it worse, so I set my mind to interest her in books.

Make Reading Time Intriguing

The key to any reluctant reader is grabbing their attention. I do this differently (obviously) with a reluctant junior high reader versus an eighteen-month-old, but the concept is still the same. Make that book so intriguing that it piques their curiosity enough that they cannot resist coming over and being a part of the fun. Ele loved to laugh and play and tickle and be silly. If I could find a book that encouraged her favorite things I knew I had her hooked. I'd always invite both the girls to read with me and once Brielle and I were laughing, playing peek-a-boo, singing a song, whatever it was she'd always peek over my shoulder and would eventually join Brielle on my lap. My encouragement here is to not be afraid to be silly, to sing, to laugh at yourself. Little people love it!

That is still true today. Ele will fight whatever is planned until I have an activity laid out that intrigues her, Brielle, on the other hand, dives right in.

Find Quality Literature and Fill Their Shelf with Their Favorites

Here are some of our favorite books that Brielle and I had so much fun with, but grabbed Ele's attention well enough that SHE asked me to read it to her! As a result, they are staple books that are well-loved and enjoyed over and over again.

Visit Your Local Library and Book Store

Get involved, go to storytime (even if you spend your time chasing your kid around at first). Helping them see value in a place with endless access to free literature is priceless! Just because you don't think they're "getting anything out of it" doesn't mean it isn't worth your time. I've heard moms say that too often. If you value reading and the places that encourage reading then your kids will too. Plus, this is an amazing opportunity to teach them the skill of sitting still for 5-10 minutes. I always prepared Ele ahead of time, If you can sit with mommy through one book we will play with the Lego's afterward. Then the next time I'd increase that to two books. Before long she sat through the entire storytime and enjoyed the craft that followed. Today the library is one of her FAVORITE places and loved activities that they sponsored (like a stuffed animal sleepover where she dropped off her stuffed animal and the librarian would take pictures of all the awesome activities that toy enjoyed doing at the library or when they dressed up as their favorite book character). Those are moments I encourage with uninterested readers because their fondest memories now revolve around books!

She also loves visiting book stores (like pictured) because it's a special occasion that we can only enjoy once in a while (cause self-control and budgets are difficult combinations in a book store for me, haha). We grab a special drink and make it a grand experience that has yet to disappoint.

Make Memory Books

One of the biggest things (that I honestly haven't kept up with as well as I should) are family yearbooks. The girls LOVE them. It was one way I could get Ele interested in sitting through a book because the pictures and stories are of people she knows and memories that include her!

Let Them Be silly!

Ele has always been silly and ornery. We can always count on her for a goofy, laugh-filled, creative time. As an adult, I can squash that or I can encourage it. Sometimes it's hard to encourage because I get irritated or it doesn't help her focus on the task at hand. And I do believe that there are times to be silly and there are times when it is inappropriate, so teaching and enforcing those times are extremely important. BUT most of the time my reason for wishing her to stop are selfish. I'm always having to check my motives. In all honesty, 99.9% of the time if I just let Ele be Ele, we both enjoy the moment more. For example, sometimes she just wants to read on our shoulders instead of our lap. Good thing her daddy and mommy are strong enough to support this little person's favorite reading spot.

Wherever You Go, Take Books.

Do you have a doctor's appointment? Take books with you. Going out to eat where you have to wait for your food? Bring books. Traveling for long distances in the car? Bring books. The girls know (because I've done this since they were babies) that wherever we go they can bring books to pass the time. It is always a lifesaver when we go to places like the bank (when we had to switch accounts after moving, for example) because they are entertained, quiet, and generally less whiny. (Which always, always brings about a conversation with the people around us about how well behaved our children are - haha, get them interested in books!)

Do Something, Then Read a Book About It

I had this book I knew would not interest Ele until she had experience with the topic. The book was about pirates and I thought it was super cute. So I laid out pirate costumes, created a treasure hunt around the yard, and then talked about this pirate book I wanted to read. They were both all in and now love the idea of pirates because they remember this one time they got to dress up and go on a treasure hunt!

Encourage Them to Read to the Family Pet

This one always made Ele giggle, she loved the idea of reading to Marley! For a while, they had this routine every morning they got up: they snuggle with Marley under a blanket and look at books. It's seriously one of my favorite parts of the day.

When They Have Friends Over, Read to Them

It's chaos, but it's wonderful.

Rotate Books

Back in their younger years, this was wildly successful for a lot of reasons.

  1. It greatly reduced messy rooms.

  2. If I pulled out a box of "new" books they sat and read for hours!

  3. It helped me organize them. (We had a tub of historical fiction, princess books, animal books, etc. Sometimes they pick a genre, but sometimes I randomly set out a tub and once they realize it's there, they are hooked.)

It Takes Effort and Planning

It does require you to not just make Pinterest boards, but actually do what you pinned. (I am guilty of this more than anyone!) It requires some planning and thought, but I promise that it's worth every second when one day you wake up and this little person who didn't want to read a book yesterday sits down to look at a book all on her own. (I am experiencing this first hand.) When just yesterday she didn't want me to read to her, she comes begging me to read the book she enjoyed the day before, especially after seeing how much her sister and I were enjoying it. It requires intentional time spent with them and less time on the electronics. So put your phone down and begin planning, creating, and doing! I know you can do it. If you need help, I'm only an email away and by hiring me as your educational consultant, I'm only a text away. But doing these things in their early years will require less of my services as they age. Ultimately, my goal is to ensure that readers have the tools they need to read and write well because they want to and not because mom is making them.

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