Raising Toddlers Who Love to Read

I love to read.  Always have, always will.  I was the kid who read in the dark well past my bedtime, loved to receive books or gift cards to Barnes & Noble as presents (still do!), and had to be prodded to get off the couch with my book to "do something...why don't you go outside?!?".  (Though I do remember getting around that more than once by bringing my book and a snack outside to our deck, where I could curl up on the outdoor glider in peace. #slowdownyourebel.)  I have always been an incredibly fast reader, which leads me to read anything and everything I can get my hands on.  My dad's collection of books were fair game to me from a young age, and it seemed that more often than not I would be re-reading one book or another, having zipped through yet another stack of  new books and lacking more funds to the book store or a ride to the library.  (One reason that I am now a big fan of the e-reader...quick access to books at any hour, and even for free through the library!)

E-readers: also way easier to balance than a regular book while holding a sleeping baby...

Caden and Brooklyn also love books.  I haven't attempted to count, but their collection of books must number in the hundreds.  It helps that they have a grandma who is a librarian, and families who generally enjoy reading.  The stack of books they received for their birthday was epic (always multiplied by two, of course), and surely beat out the amount of clothes or toys they received.  Children's books of all types have taken over space in our living room (I count 37 from where I sit right now), their bedroom (including in their beds), the van, and the playroom.  They love to read both with us and by themselves, flipping through pages and pointing to favorite pictures, naming familiar animals and objects.  They often flip through a book before they go to sleep, and first thing when they wake.

I've been thinking about this lately, as it's come up in mom's groups more than once that others aren't really reading to their kids.  Or don't have that many books.  Or don't have time to read.  Or just don't think about reading with their kids.  (!!!)  I have been so surprised by these comments.  Reading to Caden and Brooklyn (and even Nolan) comes as easy as breathing to Tyson and me.  It absolutely boggles my mind to not use reading as an activity with a toddler, and is apparently an issue that more families struggle with than I ever would have realized.  I've been pondering why it comes so easily to our family, and here's what I've come up with:

We have a variety of  books.  Most are your standard board or paper picture books, but we also have a good variety of "seek and find" books (these they LOVE...they often do these by themselves, and I can tell they have several of the pages memorized), a few that make noise when you push a button, a couple that are magnetic, some "touch and feel" books, and some with flaps or moving parts.  Sometimes they even pull some of my books off of the shelf, and despite the lack of pictures will page through and babble along as they "read" to me.

We ignore the intended age level.  For example, "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" says on the inside flap that it is for "ages 4-8".  I'm not exactly sure where these ages come from, but it's one of their favorite books!  It's not like we're giving a two-year old a chapter book here.  That said, some books are still too long for their attention span.  "The Little Engine That Could" is a big favorite, but Tyson and I learned early on that they have a hard time focusing on the entire story.  Now we never actually read the words, just flip through the pages and ad-lib our own version.  They don't know the difference, and love it just as much.  ("Choo-choo!")

All of us read every day.  Tyson likes to read articles, I read anything I can get my hands on, and at the very least, Caden and Brooklyn have five books read to them each day: two before nap, and three before bed at night.  (They both get to pick out one book each time, plus a Bible story in the evening, which is how we arrived at these numbers.)  Yet I don't think a day goes by that we don't find them reading at other times of the day, as well.  They often bring books to us to read throughout the day, or I find them paging through them on their own.  Even at this young age, I think it helps to recharge them.  I'll often see them rush to grab a book and take a break with it on the floor after an extended period of running around the house like maniacs.  I think they are naturally reacting to their bodies need to recharge with periods of rest between those of activity.

Our books are stored all over the house.  As I mentioned above, we have books absolutely everywhere.  The living room, the play room, the twins' room, Nolan's room, and in the car.  All of these books are within their reach and readily accessible to them at pretty much any point throughout the day.

We don't worry much about their attention span (or lack thereof).  We attend toddler story time at the library almost every week, and our favorite children's librarian stresses how normal it is for them to move around at this age.  He even leaves quiet toys out for them to play with while he reads.  And it's so true!  Frequently Caden will be wandering around or seemingly engrossed in a toy, but will suddenly react to something in the story when I had no idea he was paying attention; saying "roar!" if the book mentions a lion for example, or hopping like a frog if there is a frog in the picture.  Their little minds are able to hold onto much more at once than we give them credit for.  And if I find myself expecting them to just sit still and listen while I'm reading a story, I'm more often than not just setting us all up for failure.

Caden and Brooklyn have recently become incredibly interested in letters and numbers, wanting us to spell their names and other words repeatedly, and pointing to letters and "naming" them.  (They can always pick out "O" and "P", for example, and know that P is for "Papa!".  They can usually pick out "B" and "C" for their names, as well, and just yesterday Caden pointed to an "A" on my shirt and said "apple!".)  I fully credit this to their love of books and how often we read.  I love how much they they are interested in the alphabet and enjoy reading...even before they can actually read themselves!

A couple of resources:

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.  We receive a new book - for free! - each month through this program, though note that it is not available in all areas.

Fisher Price Learning Letters Puppy.  Caden especially loves this app, particularly because it sings the ABCs.  It includes games for letters, numbers, shapes, and colors.

Dr. Seuss's ABC.  Free app of the book.  It can read the book to them, or older kids can read it themselves.  The text and illustrations are also interactive.

A few favorite books:

Go, Dog. Go!.  Warning: this book will take you approximately F.O.R.E.V.E.R. to read.  Of course, it's their favorite book.  Start reading three hours before bedtime at least.

First Look and Find (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on the Go).  We have several of these Look and Finds, and they love them all.  Bonus: they are virtually indestructible.

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site.  Tractors.  Need I say more.

Alphaprints ABC.  Super cute. The illustrations (THE most important part of a kid's book, in my opinion...) on each page are big and bright, and feature raised fingerprints.

Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb.  If it's possible for a book to get stuck in your head, this is it.  Dum ditty dum ditty dum dum dum.