As parents, we lament the ‘good old days’ when books were only made of paper and powered by eager hands, restlessly turning pages to uncover what happened next. Seems that rather than being plugged into the wonder and magic of a picture book, our kids are more readily enchanted by the glow of our ipads, iphones and laptops. Trouble is they make such great ‘baby sitters’ and as whimpers for attention fade in the glow of these devices – we are often powerless to resist!
The good news is, it’s not too late to fight the ‘good’ fight! Paper bound books are still available! Libraries are open (even if ‘by a breath’) and book shops are being astonishingly inventive in order to to secure a future on the high street. The bad news is that to fully engage with the wonder a book, ‘time-in’ with our children is required and no digital device can replace it. The technology we enjoy is amazing – but not always beneficial. In the case of a book – like a muscle – to be of maximum benefit it must be flexed and exercised with good ‘old-fashioned’ exertion. So sit up straight! Here is my guide on how to recover the ‘once upon a time’ magic of a book…
1 Start with YOUR favourite book. Is it on your book shelf? Grab it quickly. Do you no longer have it? Order it immediately, either from your local bookshop (if they don’t stock it they can order it in), the library, or on-line. Your enthusiasm for this book will intrigue your child. Tell them why you love it.
2 Don’t apologize! You are holding in your hand something of enormous value. They might not know it yet. But they will get it eventually and chances are they will love it too. We’re doing this – and that’s final! Be confident! Push through the wriggles!
3 Are you sitting comfortably? Where you read is almost as important as the book you read. Choose a special place. Think cosy and intimate. Some of our favourite places are – on the sofa, under a cuddly blanket. Snuggled into bed under the duvet with just twinkle lights & a torch for lighting. Up a tree or in a playhouse. Try story-time on a rug, as part of a picnic, in the garden or down the park. ‘Save the Children’ are running a campaign to encourage reading and want you to upload a photo of yourself in your favourite reading spot.
4 Take time to choose books that reflect what you truly believe in. We have books that celebrate nature, seasons, creation, good friends, family, ethnic variety, our faith. We read widely, with questions and our eyes wide open! Remember that ‘a house without books is like a room with no windows!
5 When you are exhausted and have had quite enough for the day, it is hard not to bundle your child into bed, order them to ‘stay,’ and back out as quickly as possible to fetch a soothing glass of wine or cup of tea. Suppress your inner groan and invest the final moment of the day with your child and a book. 10 minutes is plenty!
6 Enjoy the music of words. Revel in them. Speak them, sing them. Say them loud, say them quiet, say them fast, say them slow. Develop the characters. What does your child think they should sound like? Bring the book to life together.
7 Explore the pictures. Squeeze the juice out of a book by finding treasures hidden in the pictures. Ask questions like ‘where is the farmer?’ ‘how many sheep are in the field?’ ‘is that person happy or sad?’
8 Again, again! Don’t be afraid to read the same book over and over. This familiarity is hugely important for your child, deepening their sense of security and identity. One day, they’ll be reading it back to you. Amazing!
9 Share ideas with your friends. What are they reading? What would you recommend? Perhaps you could set up a sharing system? Buy books as presents! Get excited about hunting down good books. Buy them for yourself and keep them forever!
10 Remember it is you that ignites the ‘once upon a time’ magic of a book. Your breath on their cheek; the warmth of your body, the beat of your heart, your delight as you share what is precious to you. Don’t wait for someone else to do it. Be present, be inspired, start today. Use book power to hasten your child’s ‘happily ever after!’ The benefits are evident and widely available.
For age appropriate book ideas try:
For more great reasons why children should be reading: