Are you looking to build deeper connections with your kids or students this year? I may be a little bit biased, but truly books are one of the best tools you can have for connecting with children. Sharing the stories that you loved when you were little; discovering new adventures together; making memories through bonding experiences; taking conversations to a deeper level. If any of that sounds good to you, or if you (like me) simply have a new year’s resolution to READ AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, then carry on below…
Ten (or 15) ways to connect with your kids through books this year
1. Read chapter books aloud
Pick a certain special time to work on a chapter book together– maybe dessert, or Wednesday evenings, or on long drives. Here’s my list of great family read alouds because as Billy Collins said, “Being read to as a child is one of the great experiences in life.”
2. Read the same books separately
Is your kid devouring a series right now? (Maybe Narnia or Warriors or even dare I say Captain Underpants?) Join in! Kids love to talk books– don’t we all! To read the same book as someone else is to share the best kind of secret.
3. Read the same books over and over again
Does your small child have one book or a handful that they want to read over and over (and over and over every day)? You may want your little ones to try a little variety, but did you know that repeat reading is actually GOOD for them? I loved this article telling all about why (hint: Repeat reading is a key to literacy!) Check out my list of first books for babies filled with repeat-request favorites. Those books we read again and again are the ones that live in our hearts always and when one day they return to our hands– magic!
4. Read a page at breakfast
Make reading a part of your morning ritual to start the day together. This could be a poem (Shel Silverstein!), a puzzle (Encyclopedia Brown!), a picture book– anything really! Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing is perfect for this. Pair the reading with music and art to create an immersive experience together that goes beyond the page.
5. Read at bedtime
This one might sound obvious but here’s the thing: keep it going as long as you can! Bigger kids may want to read their own books, but that doesn’t mean you can’t read a chapter or a picture book together before or after. Keep your favorites in a special spot to pull out for special bedtime snuggles. Let your children know this time is as special for you as it is for them.
6. Create a new space for books
A new bookshelf in your kid’s room, a new reading corner in the living room, a beanbag chair and a basket of library picks, a crate of adventure stories in the treehouse. What’s that saying? If you build it, they will read!
7. Visit the library
Speaking of library picks– make library visits a regular thing! A curated selection of brand new titles and tried and true classics, all at your fingertips for free! Those memories –the stacks, the pages, the dinosaur models, the librarians, the first taste of freedom to roam– will stick with them forever. And don’t be afraid to check out lots of books (and to ask for mine!) 🙂 You really can’t take kids to the library too much.
8. Take a field trip
Read a nature book and take a walk in the woods. Read about marine life and visit the aquarium. Read train books, ride a train. If you’re visiting a city, try one of Sasek’s masterpieces. In Boston, you could visit the Ducklings; in New York you could come see my Fountain. Books make trips more memorable, and trips make books more memorable– it’s a wonder that works both ways!
9. Create your own work
Write an episode or a sequel together, draw a setting map for your favorite tale or a portrait of your favorite character, make up poems in the styles of ones you love. (As a little eight year old I loved making up limericks and illustrating them in the manner of Edward Lear.) Graphic novels are popular these days and kids love to make comics. These would be great for making your own picture book. Remember: the enthusiasm of a caring adult can help a child a long way!
10. Meet an author or illustrator
I can tell you, since I AM an author– we love to meet our readers! Keep your eyes peeled for author/illustrator events at your local library, bookshop, or museum. Buy or check out some of his or her (or my!) books and then go meet and greet and ask us any questions or give us any hugs you may have. Meeting someone you admire together is a bonding experience for sure.
11. Start a review channel
Have an avid reader? Other kids, parents, teachers are always looking for good book recommendations. Why not start sharing some reviews? Amazon and Instagram are both especially easy and great for this. Sharing what inspires you with others is a helpful form of generosity, and a fun way to catalog your reads.
12. Make it fancy
Try dedicating a day or evening, maybe once a month, to reading. Set up a tent, build a fort, lay a blanket under a tree. Read by fireside or candlelight or flashlight. Put all of the couch cushions on the floor or all of the pillows onto one bed, or all of the desks in a circle. Make a pot of tea or a bucket of popcorn. Make a tradition of your book time and you’ll build connection and a love of reading at the same time.
13. Listen to audiobooks
Like Stephen King said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” Audiobooks can be especially portable in their own way, and they are so fun (and easy to get!) Keep books in your pocket, take them with you anywhere. Listen to books in the car or in the kitchen, while you fold laundry or color together. Pause when you want to, talk and draw pictures about what you’re hearing. Great conversations come about from listening together.
14. See the movie or play
Isn’t it so fun to read the book, and then watch the movie or see the play, and compare? Pippi Longstocking is a good one that jumps to mind, or Winnie the Pooh; for older kids maybe The Jungle Book or The Swiss Family Robinson (can you tell I love the classics?) But there are so many to choose from of course– tell me, what are your favorites to read and watch? You might think that a children’s book author would be anti-television but really we love TV– as long as it’s bookish TV. 😉
15. Make something fun
If you’re short on ideas for what you could make together the next time you read a new picture book, don’t worry: your little bosses won’t be! Save a few cardboard boxes and tubes, bottle caps, random plastic doodads, old hats, glass jars, buttons and pieces of string. Keep them on hand as making supplies along with plenty of paper, markers, tape, and glue. (I mention the old hats because my upcoming book is all about a little hat-loving pup, and I can’t wait to see the fabulous new hats the kiddos come up with!) The freedom for kids to make the fantastic things they imagine is worth more than any fancy toy.
Now go forth into the new year, and bond through books! Anything to add? I’d love to hear!