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, doesn't it? I was
stunned to learn, from the teachers at my son's daycare, that
many parents don't 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 didn't 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'd encourage you to read aloud, it doesn't 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 markers)
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 isn't 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 doesn't 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 might appreciate a customized storybook from
It's easy to print out your stories and staple the pages
together to make a book. Consider adding some of the following
- 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
- 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.