Monday, January 13, 2014

How to Read with a Three Year Old

Three and a half years have flown by since Greyson came into the world. I remember reading ALL THE THINGS I could possibly get my hands on before he was born, because I was sure I'd never be able to read again. And for a time, that was sort of true. Somehow, I managed to read The Passage while I was still on maternity leave, but once work kicked back in, my reading took a nose dive. But of course that was OK. I had a new little life to cherish. 

When he was about a year old, I posted about how motherhood changed my reading. My empathy meter went sky high, and the topics I was willing to endure changed quite a bit. 


Now here we are, three and a half years out, and my reading continues to evolve in relation to this little person. As he changes, our routines change, and thus the reading changes. 

Most notably, I spend a lot more time reading with him, and it's one of my favorite things. His favorite books are Brown Bear, Brown Bear, the BabyLit version of A Christmas Carol, and There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie (a Thanksgiving version of Swallowed a Fly). 

Even moreso than reading, Greyson interested in writing. He loves to practice "his G" and he loves to scribble on the tablet he's holding in this picture or copy things I write for him. I can always find him tracing his letters in the frost or sweat that forms on our windows or glass doors in the mornings before school.

One of my biggest priorities is making sure I have good  quality time with Greyson in the evenings since he's often at his dad's house on weekends. I rarely open my laptop during the week. However, I do take it a little easier on myself in the reading department. I let him see me read. If he's busy playing independently or watching a show I've seen eleventy times, I grab a book or read on my tablet. He will often snuggle up to me and I'll read a bit from my book or he'll "read" to me from the book I've chosen. I'm not sure how to raise a reader, since I'm not sure there's any way to really make sure it happens. David tells me Greyson will learn by observing me and the importance books play in my everyday life. 

Our nighttime routine is pretty set. He goes to bed around 8:30, we say our prayers together and give hugs and kisses, and I read while he gets settled and nods off. I always have an e-book going for this reason, and he expects that I'll read. If I don't, he's pretty unhappy that something is amiss. 

There are so many things to think about and observe. To worry over and hope for. I want him to be curious. I want him to be a good communicator. I want all of those things that every parent wants. And I certainly want him to be a reader, or at least appreciate what reading can do for him. 

All I can do is try my best to nurture that curiosity and show him that books are important. We do our best, and that's all we can do. :) 




40 comments:

  1. I think David is right - Greyson will become a reader because he's exposed to the written word and sees you reading. I think the best thing you can do is not push it. Vance went through non-reading phases but always came back to the written word.

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    1. Kathy, I remember going through those non-reading phases myself. Especially in high school and early college. Thanks for the kind words!

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  2. YES to all of these things! Becoming a mother has absolutely changed the way that I read, not only time-wise, but as you said, the subject matters that I am willing to tackle. The best and most important thing that we can do for our kids (in my opinion) is to read to them every day.

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    1. Isn't it amazing how that happens, Kristi! And I totally agree. :)

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  3. Andi, I think you may be my favorite human being right now. Yes, yes, and yes. I think it is interesting how my relationship with books and reading has been shaped by each child in a different manner. I also think it is interesting how my kids are all very different when it comes to a love of books. Okay... now I'm planning my own blog post on being a reading mama.

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    1. Awwww, thank you! It's so true, isn't it? They shape our lives in so many ways, but I never imagined how he would affect my reading, and in such WONDERFUL ways! :) Can't wait to read your post, Amanda!

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  4. I loved reading this. My reading time and interest increased when Jude was around 2, but then took a nose dive a few months later when Norah arrived and more so when she became mobile. I am finding it HARD to fit it in these days. But your sugegstion of reading a while when J is falling asleep gives me a good idea. I keep having to remind myself that this is a relatively short phase even though it can feel long! Having the two of them at these ages makes me realize how much easier 4 years old is than 1-2 years!

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    1. I'm so glad, Katie! I can only imagine how hard it is to fit in with two children. I hope reading while J gets to sleep will help you a bit. At first, I thought it would distract Greyson, but I think he likes the slight flow from my e-reader, and I'm a presence in the room even if I'm not patting or otherwise helping him fall asleep. Soon they'll both be in that 3-4 year old range and while you'll miss these days, the reading will be easier. This year, when Greyson turned 3, it was like my reading switched back on. In a big way!

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  5. I love this post, too. I don't yet read a ton in front of my guy (who's sneaking up on 2 years old way too quickly); I'm afraid I'll get to engrossed and not be aware of what he's up to. But so far he loves to be read to; I'm on the lookout for excellent picture books (that reminds me, I was going to look up Caldecott winners).

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    1. I hear ya. I do remember any time before two years making it really hard to read for fear of him getting into something. But, that's one of the challenges to reading with a kiddo...it's hard to get TOO engrossed in anything because that protective mom thing kicks in. Kind of like when we wake up when they roll over in bed. Or cough in the night. lol

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  6. I read to my kids when young, but they are not readers on their own. I think when they get older, it will hit them. I've noticed that with my son's AP English list, he is reading more mature books and he seems to take to them better than say... something I tried to push a few years ago. My daughter is weird. She picks all these books out but then doesn't read them but the other day she picked out a graphic novel and read it from cover to cover in one sitting and then asked for more. I really don't care what the format is, as long as they read.

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    1. That's awesome that your daughter latched onto a graphic novel! One of my stepkiddos is a reluctant reader, but he loved graphic novels. We got him hooked with American Born Chinese back in the day.

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  7. I think you're doing everything right, and watching you read definitely will help turn him into a reader. When my daughter was little, I used to take her to the library every weekend and let her pick a stack of picture books that we'd read together over the week. And I did the same thing you do, read while she did other things. Now at 13, she actually prefers the television to be turned off so she can sit on the couch next to me while we read together.

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    1. I emailed you personally, Anna, but wanted to thank you for your encouragement here, too!

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  8. This. So completely this. I think you are doing it right. They have to see you read and you have to read with them. I grew up watching my grandmother devour books and wanted to do the same. I remember my dad teaching me how to write my name before I even started school. Now, I know my little ones see me read (I regularly read with Ellie while she reads for school). The only way I falter is reading with them. I'm not a fan of my voice, which is terrible. You make me want to do better and I will try. It's been bothering me for awhile that Ellie is reading Wesley to sleep. It's sweet (!), don't get me wrong, but it's my job, not hers. I should be reading them both to sleep.

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    1. LOL, thank you dear! That means a lot coming from you. One of my best friends and a kickass mom. Greyson and I need to get back into the habit of reading a book before bed. Right now it's kind of hit and miss when he wants to read a book. The problem is always making time before bed. But we will!

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  9. Don't know if I've commented here before or not, but I certainly have been reading you for a while (and love hearing your familiar "twang" on your vlogs). I've got 4 teenagers (my oldest is just about to graduate hs), and I can unreservedly say, "YOU ARE ON THE RIGHT TRACK!" Keep up the good work, and listen to David - he's telling you the truth. All four of my kids are HUGE readers with no sign of ever giving it up. What did we do? After tons of research when I was pregnant with my first, I did what already came naturally to me as a bibliophile - I kept reading for myself, I let them see my reading, I filled my house with books (multiple studies have been done showing that kids who grow up in a house containing lots of books turn out to be readers...oddly enough, it doesn't seem to matter what kind of books they are), and from the time they were itty-bitty until they entered high school (because at that point they became too busy for it), we had time where I read aloud to them everyday. Reading aloud to them (even when they are older) apparently does great things to pathways in the brain. (It doesn't have to be a long time, either. Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook is a good resource for this - both for the research and for book titles.)

    So now what do we do? (It really just gets more fun as they age!) The oldest three - all girls, and all in high school) started a monthly book club with their friends 3 years ago that meets at our house. I get to sit in on that and discuss with them. My 13 year old son is an equally avid reader even if he's not interested in his sisters' book club. ;)

    During the summer, we make once a week library runs and once a week Half-Price Book runs, and one night a week at dinner the discussion is dedicated to "what are you reading this week?" That once a week discussion is actually a little bit more difficult now that they are older because we talk books "all the time" - we keep it up for the sake of DH who doesn't have near the amount of time for reading that the rest of us do and isn't home during the day to hear all the random conversations.

    The only other thing that I did that was a little more "drastic" than most (again due to some study I read years ago) - I *really* limited their screen time once they hit school age. (Probably should've in their toddler years, but I had 4 under the age of 5 and sometimes plopping them in front of a video was the thing that kept me sane. :) ) They were allowed 30 minutes a day for screen time - they had to choose if that was a TV show, video, or computer game. They got a little longer on the weekends - to see movies, etc. I realize that might be a lot harder to do these days. Tablets and smart phones weren't yet invented when my kids were little, so there were fewer of those distractions available.

    Sorry to be so long-winded, but raising readers is one of my favorite subjects, and I think you are doing a great job! - both with raising your own reader and with providing us with plenty of suggestions and food for thought each week.
    Best to you!

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    1. Don't apologize, Susan! I am SO GLAD you posted! I really love the idea of limiting screen time, even if Greyson resents it when he's older. He watches zero TV at school during the day, and I like the idea of limiting his screen time in the evening as well, even though I haven't yet to the extent I'd like. Since he's only 3.5, it's helpful when I (the single mom) am trying to wash dishes or get myself showered or whatever. Thank you SO much for sharing what you did and for the encouragement! We definitely live in a house full of books, and a good number of those are his already. :)

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  10. Ugh, I had a fabulous comment but the internet lost it. Grrrrr. . .

    It was something like this:

    You're setting such a great reading example! And I'm so glad to read this because I'll be a mom in the next few years I'm sure, so it's good to know that you're able to get back into the reading. :D

    Thanks for linking up to the Spread the Love Linky Party - this was also pinned & tweeted!

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    1. Damn Blogger with the eating of the comments! But I'm glad you reposted. :)

      Thank you, thank you! I hope these posts will come in handy as you're working through momhood later on. It's always nice to have some encouragement whether it's blogger friends, family, or whomever.

      And thank you for sharing this post!

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  11. Out of my 4 siblings, I'm the only "reader." Neither one of my brothers have read a book in the last year (and probably longer). My younger sister will pick up a book every once in awhile, especially if it's a popular title, but she maybe read 15 books a year...maybe. My mother is a reader and my father used to read.

    I know that my mom used to read to me when I was younger. She's the one who taught me to read when I was very young (about 4). She also encouraged me to ask for books and would let me stay inside and read instead of going outside to play. I know she did the same with my siblings, but it clicked more for me. I do think that seeing my mom reading encouraged me, but she also took me with her to the bookstore etc. She allowed me to be surrounded by books and for me, it worked. My brothers and sister are much more math-oriented than I am, so maybe that's the difference?

    In any case-keep reading with and around him, and I guarantee he'll know that books are an important part of his life. :)

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    1. Allie, my mom did the same things for me. And actually, I think she probably read to me less than the average reading mom, but she was single and there were lots of things to do in the evening. But she encouraged me in other ways: library and bookstore trips, and I don't think she ever denied me a book if I wanted one (within reason).

      I think the proclivity for math might have something to do with it. Lately, Greyson has latched onto a children's educational show called Monster Math Squad, and I'm TOTALLY pushing that since I had such a dreadful time with math in school.

      Thank you for sharing your experience! Every little bit of bookishness counts, I'm sure. :)

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  12. One of the best things my husband and I ever did was read to both of our kids from the moment they were born. That was our nightly routine from the day we brought them home. One would feed and the other would read (with Connor it was the first three or four books in the Harry Potter series). They always had a million books available to them, and I always, always, always had time to read with them. Now, they think nothing of keeping off the TV in lieu of quiet reading time. In fact, I can't get their noses out of a book.

    Not only did that reading aloud time create some wonderful memories (that they won't remember but we will), but it created an intense love of reading that makes me proud. Enjoy watching Grayson turn into an avid bibliophile just like his mama!

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    1. THAT'S AWESOME! That's what I'm shooting for, Michelle!

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  13. I agree with David that observing you reading will have a huge impact. It sounds like you guys have a great routine already!

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    1. Thank you, Monika! We definitely do. :)

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  14. Loved this post, Andi. I can tell you are a super-awesome mama! And Greyson is such a handsome little man. Can hardly believe he's three and a half.

    As we get closer to starting our own family, Spence and I daydream often about our future kiddos. Books have played such a huge part in my life that I can only hope -- fervently, sincerely -- that I will raise readers. Reading has brought me such countless joy, understanding and knowledge.

    But all we can do is set an example and nurture that curiosity, as you say -- and I think Greyson seeing you read all the time is the best thing you can do! :)

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    1. Aww, thank you, Meg! He is super handsome and growing like a weed. I don't know where the time goes. He's such a little man!

      And I think that's really the key, Meg, to wanting him to be a reader. It's been such a satisfying part of my life, and being good with words and having an appreciation for reading has helped me be a better critical thinker and has made life so much easier! Work, college, the whole nine.

      The best we can. The best we can. :)

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  15. That's pretty much how we're doing it with Mouse. We read together frequently, even if it means reading the same book over and over again in one sitting. I love it when she attempts to "read" the book to us. It's pure memorization, but it's a part of the learning process.

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    1. Ha! Yes! Reading the same book over and over again is a frequent occurence at our house. But I love that he loves the books. :)

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  16. I think you are hitting all of the right notes. People have asked me how I taught David to read and I answer that I really didn't. We read a lot and he saw me reading often. I don't remember doing any sort of reading lessons with him - he just learned through exposure.

    The best thing is seeing how much he loves to read. It's so lovely now to snuggle up with David and he reads his book and I read mine. Bookworm mommy heaven! :)

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    1. Thanks, Lindsey! I love that he learned through exposure. I think I probably did the same because I don't remember my grandmother and mom giving me much direction.

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  17. What a fun age! I can't wait to read to my baby once he's born!

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  18. Both my girls love to read and love books and it because they learned from my example and I learned from my mom. In fact E's report card came home today saying that she is a voracious reader. Keep it up mama!

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  19. That's awesome. I was bad about reading to my kids when they were little. I got lucky they always saw me reading and would sit with their books and do the same. Valuing books and reading in a home is more advantageous than can be said.

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  20. I love reading with my 5-year-old and I also frequently let her see me read. It's an important example to set. She knows I love books more than anything else, and whenever she wants to make me happy she says "Mommy, I'm going to buy you a million books!"

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  21. Andi, Great post that I can absolutely relate to... My daughter is three and a half and I too want her to love reading. We have just about the same bedtime routine as you and your son. So far, she really loves books and often wants the same one read over and over. My main concern is keeping the attention on books and keeping it away from all of the high-tech distractions that surround us. I do think that in your case, my case and others, if the child sees his or her mother reading a lot and reading to him/her, the child will naturally see reading as an important part of life. I once spoke with a pianist who told me: If you want your child at a very early age to play the piano, play the piano with him/her. It will seem like a natural part of life. I really think that's true. So I think your son is on his way to becoming a reader...

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  22. I suppose a child can grow up to be a reader even if they don't see it in their own homes (I certainly hope so!) but chances are ever so much better if they do. That being said, I raised three children - two are readers, one is not.

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  23. This is such a sweet and honest post! I love it!

    I really do believe that children learn by modeling. I've read chapter books and picture books to my kids since the day they came home from the hospital. They see me reading a LOT! And, at this time, I can say that both are readers ... one more advanced than the other, but I don't mind. The point is that they are reading and that is all that matters to me!

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  24. Such a great picture! Gage is just starting to write but I can't say he loves it yet :)

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