January 14, 2019
To instill in your child both a love and lifelong habit of reading, you will likely find it helpful to enlist the support of your community. One way to do this is by asking other adults to read to your children outside of the home, as well.
Children look both to their own parents and to other trusted adults to determine their norms, so when you read aloud as a family and this practice is reinforced in other settings, books are firmly established as being an integral part of the fabric of our lives and relationships. Reading aloud with other people in the community can also help children recognize that it is much more than just an activity parents do to help them fall asleep at night. Likewise, reading is not necessarily a solitary activity that removes us from others. Reading – particularly reading aloud – should ultimately bring people together, forming the basis for shared experience, as well as shared conversation and thought.
So, whom should you ask to read to your children?
If your children’s grandparents are active in their lives, you can begin by asking them to read aloud to your children before bed or for a quieter afternoon activity. In our experience, reading aloud with grandparents can create wonderful memories for all parties involved. When we were growing up, my older brother and I absolutely loved going over to our grandmother’s house, which was 5 miles away, and spending time with her. She read to us at every visit and we still cherish the books we read with her, as well as the memories we have of reading them together. (A list of our all-time favorites from her house is at the bottom of this post!)
If your child’s grandparents don’t have children’s books in their house already, consider giving them some to keep for when your children visit. Let them know that reading aloud to your children is important to you and why. You could even ask them what some of their favorite books were when they were growing up and then use a resource like AbeBooks to find copies. If you have purchased one of our ebook treasuries, you may share it with one set of grandparents at no extra charge. Contact us here for more information.
Next, whenever you hire babysitters, be proactive about setting books out for them to read to your children before bed, and let them know that this is an important routine in your family. If your babysitters are young enough to still live with their parents or are now in possession of their childhood books, you could even ask them to bring one or two of their favorite books from when they were your child’s age to read aloud before bed. (We bet they’ll actually be thrilled to do this.)
You can ask older children to read to their younger siblings, as well as enlist the help of aunts, uncles, the parents of your children’s friends during sleepovers, etc. – really, anyone who is an influential figure in your child’s life or who regularly spends time with them, is fair game. We’ve also found that most schools, churches, and synagogues offer numerous read-aloud opportunities for children.
What other resources are out there, and what if you have older children?
Most public libraries host regular read-aloud events for children of all ages. You can check out your local library’s website to find out what they offer, and if you don’t like what you see, contact their children’s desk to suggest better titles or to get more involved.
Lastly, if your children are older, two great resources to investigate are universities and local bookstores. Both often hold readings that are open to the public and that can serve as an introduction to new titles, authors, and even genres. Sometimes coffee shops will also host poetry nights (which still count as read-alouds in our book), and many theatres will periodically hold “stage readings,” where you can watch and listen to a troupe of actors read a play aloud, with no or minimal costumes and movement.
Share your experience
Please let us know in a comment below what strategies have worked for your family and what suggestions you have for other parents who are hoping to raise their child in a read-aloud community!
When we were growing up, our Greek grandmother – Giagia – kept a shelf of books just to read to her grandchildren. She didn’t have many books, but the books she had were outstanding and ones that we loved wholeheartedly. Some of our all-time favorites were Corgiville Fair – which I’m fairly certain we asked our grandmother to read to us every time we came over – and Jennie’s Hat. We also read the Dr. Dolittle and several L. Frank Baum books with her, and as we grew older, she would periodically order new titles from the Dover Children’s Thrift Classics, like The Boy Who Drew Cats for us to read together. (My brother and I found secret delight in the fact that her corgi, Bandit, was fond of gnawing the Dover books when no one was looking so their bindings often looked rather the worse for wear.) In all, reading aloud with our grandmother was a wonderful experience and gave us memories we both treasure to this day.