Create some book-related traditions in your family to help elevate reading to the special status it deserves.
We have a reading rule in our house, although I like to think of it more as a family “tradition”. It goes like this: whoever is most engrossed in a book at any one time (and it’s easy to tell because they’re the one stretched out on the sofa unable to communicate other than with the odd grunt) has the right to be served by everyone else in the house. You heard it! The one glued to the book can expect to have food and drink delivered to them and, what’s more, they’re excused from normal household duties such as washing up, room-tidying, or feeding the chooks. Along with this luxury package comes the guarantee that, during the last 20 pages of the book, absolutely no one will interrupt the reader. Any callers are asked to phone back and visitors are acquainted with the delicate situation! That’s how important reading is to our family.
Building fun family traditions around reading is one way of ensuring this important activity gets the attention it deserves, and there are so many simple ways to do it.
make a date
Instead of dashing into the library when you happen to be passing, set aside a special time when the whole family can make a relaxed, no-stress visit to choose books, games, and audio-visual material. Get into the routine by asking children to hunt out their borrowed items the night before so there’s no panic involved in getting out of the house. And allow plenty of time for
the visit so that no one feels rushed.
Providing each member of the family with their own book bag enhances the library-visit experience. Op shops are a great place to look for bags which can be individually decorated with fabric paint or crayons.
It’s so easy to confuse library books from children’s own tomes, but not when you allocate a shelf for the weekly borrowed collection. Children can have a shelf in their own bedroom, or the whole family can share one conveniently situated in the living room. Shelves are easy and economical to construct when you use recycled materials such as bricks and salvaged timber. Use wheat bags, or jars filled with sand, as book ends.
show and tell
Double (or treble) the borrowing experience by gathering everyone together once you return home from the library so that the whole family can see what everyone has taken out. Enthuse with encouraging comments such as: “I like the look of that one! Can I borrow it after you?” or “I read that one last year. It was great!”
As well as individual borrowing from your local library, be sure to take out items that the whole family will be interested in looking at together. If you’re planning a family holiday, look for items about the place you’re going to. If you’re heading for the zoo (or have just returned from it), books about some of the animals you’ve seen will be of interest to everyone. Festivals such as Easter or Diwali are catalysts for family borrowing, as are national and international sporting events such as the Rugby World Cup, the Olympics, and the Commonwealth Games.
the shared read
Make it a policy to share a chapter book with the whole family. By choosing carefully, it’s possible to find a novel that will suit most ages. If older children feel a story is
too junior for them, ask them to do the reading!
bring and buy
Books don’t come cheap – unless you’re buying them from a garage, op shop, or library sale. But even when they cost just a few cents, it can be tempting to limit your children (and yourself) to how many you can cart home. After all, there’s only so much space under the bed and in the hall cupboard! But rather than worry about book-buying binges, relax by making it a family rule that children can buy as many books as they like just as long as their purchases will fit on their “secondhand shelf”. This simple, fair rule will encourage children to continually sort through their secondhand books, filtering out favourites to keep, and packing others into boxes to give to charity shops, the school fair, or to start off their own garage sale collection.
Going on holiday? Instead of loading down the car with books, suss out the local library in the area where you’ll be staying. There’s nothing more exciting, especially on a rainy day, than venturing into a new library to see what’s on offer.
Whether it’s your local or the one at your vacation spot, libraries will almost certainly be offering children’s holiday programmes full of fun book-related activities. Make sure you sign your children up for them.
When going on holiday, pop a few crafty items, such as glitter-glue, felt pens, and card into your bag and get the children making bookmarks on a day when the weather makes the beach a no-go option.
Keep an ear out for any upcoming book festivals. There are often regular events occurring in conjunction with national children’s book awards, and will include guest appearances from authors whose books your children may be familiar with. Book festivals almost always include related entertainment such as story reading, colouring competitions, quizzes, and craft activities.
dear favourite author…
If your child seems interested in books by a particular writer (or even if they have just one very special, favourite book), encourage them to write to the author. Communicating with an author is an important part of bringing books alive. Send letters via the book’s publisher, and encourage a reply by including a stamped, addressed envelope or email address (and if your child’s printing needs a little deciphering, copy out the letter in your own hand and include it with the original).
You’re almost certainly already building family traditions around reading, whether it’s by reading bedtime stories or including a book in the birthday present parcel. Take the time to add in a few more reading traditions and, before you know it, your children will be doubly hooked on books!
By Diana Noonan