Giving Children the Gift of Reading and Writing

Give the Gift of Reading

Before I had children, I assumed that if you read to your kids, they would grow up to be avid readers. How wrong I was! There are a number of things you can do to bestow the gift of reading on the children in your life, but you may have to be downright sneaky about it, sometimes.

1. Talk to children. Sounds simple enough, does not it? I was amazed to learn, from the teachers at my son's daycare, that many parents do not talk to their children – or certainly not as much as I talked to my son. I've never understood why people had kids if they did not want to talk to them.

2. If you are a parent, grandparent, sibling, or babysitter of an infant, put books in the crib. (Hardback books with sharp corners are best reserved for toddlers; cloth-bound books, squishy books, books with rounded corners are all fine.) Familiarity breeds interest.

3. Read. While I'm encourage you to read aloud, it does not have to be a children's storybook. Very young children are learning – dare I say "absorbing" – language skills from their surroundings. You set a good example by reading, yourself; you expose children to new vocabulary by reading aloud, regardless of what you read. My mom used to hold me in her lap and read her college psychology textbook out loud. I was being read to; she was getting her studying done. Talk about multitasking!

4. On index cards, write (using broad-tipped, colorful marks) the names of common household objects: chair, table, television, floor, ceiling, rug, sofa, etc. and tape these index cards to the objects they represent. Point to them and say the words aloud at every opportunity.

5. With older children, talk about different kinds of literature and try to discern their interests. Not all kids enjoy reading fairy tales, though it's assumed that they do, up to a certain age. It just is not true. And throw those gender-based stereotypes right out the window. A little girl may like to read about car racers and cowboys, and a little boy may like to read about fairytale princesses being rescued from fire-breathing dragons. It does not matter a bit, so long as they're reading.

Give the Gift of Writing

Children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, younger siblings, or the kid next door may appreciate a customized storybook from you!

It's easy to print out your stories and staple the pages together to make a book. Consider adding some of the following personal touches:

– A decorated cover made of heavy cardstock, using scrapbooking embellishments, photographs, hand-drawn illustrations, and colorful hand-written title.

– Space at the top of each chapter or each page in which you encourage the young reader to become your "illustrator." If you are giving this as a gift, consider including a box of crayons or markers.

– Personalize the book by using the child's name for the protagonist or charming side-kick (never the villain!)

If you are a poet, consider writing a special or silly poem for each young member of the family. One Christmas, I wrote limericks for each of my relatives and used them as stocking stuffers. What a hit that was, as they read them and traded them, and laughed over them!

For older children, a blank book or journal, given together with a letter from their favorite writer (you!), Some old family photos, or a journal entry of your own, may be just the thing to encourage them to take up a lifelong habit of writing.