Love You Forever by Robert Munsch is a treasured story found on the bookshelves of countless parents. It is read aloud while rocking baby to sleep and well into the toddler years. Then the bundle of joy is singing the ABC’s and moms and dads everywhere haul home the Dr. Seuss books that bring laughter, rhymes, and imaginative word creation to life. I am a fan of Green Eggs and Ham, and Oh! The Places You’ll Go. Everyone has their favourites.
Fewer parents rush out to Coles for bedtime stories as junior advances through the middle and later years of school, however, the love of reading needs to be nurtured during these critical years as well. Perhaps the bedtime ritual of curling up together with a book is not done nightly, but it helps to still do it occasionally; it can be regarded as a treat. Reading to your child, at every age, is bonding and develops important language skills.
As your child grows they can read alone now and a supply of books on the nightstand is key to encouraging the reading habit. Reading for pleasure is a wonderful pastime, and if it catches on in grades 4, 5, and 6, it is almost guaranteed that their vocabulary will expand, and their writing and grammar will improve. Also, recreational reading is simply a joy that can continue well into adulthood. I know I was one of those kids reading under the covers with a flashlight once I was sent up to bed, and, even today, I still like to read before I finally close my eyes for the night. I find it calming and there are studies that prove this to be true.
Not every child thinks of reading when they say they “have nothing to do”; but, if they have a library card and a supply of books on hand that they themselves chose, it will be that much easier to guide them into the world of books.
Boys, especially, may struggle with the lack of motivation to sit down and read. It seems much more common to see girls glued to their novel and unable to function at anything else until they finish, or get to the end of that particular chapter. Boys, however, may need to be enticed with the comic-style books, and this is perfectly fine and a great spring-board to deeper and more nuanced stories. Don’t frown on Captain Underpants, at least your son is reading. He will soon tire of the graphic novels and move on to other reading adventures.
Stepping back in time, bursting the confines of space, and facing strange science experiments that have gone wrong are just some of the exciting prospects that await. Children can travel to different parts of the world without ever leaving the confines of their home. Remind your child how much fun reading can be and watch their imagination soar!
Finally, remember that kids are always watching and doing as mom and dad do. If you model reading as an everyday pleasure, junior will see the merits and take more interest too. Dig out your old favourites, subscribe to newspapers and magazines, join a book club, or visit the library. You will send a subtle message about the importance of the written word, while enjoying yourself.
So, as you go shopping this holiday season, be sure to pick up a book or two for your child, whether they are 4 or 14….. and grab one for yourself too!
Below is an age-appropriate list of some of my favourites, but your child’s teacher and the fine librarians at the public library are always happy to make suggestions as well.
Books for Preschoolers
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
- Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.
- Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
- Corduroy by Don Freeman
Books for Children Ages 4-8
- The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
- The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
- Curious George by Hans Augusto Rey
- Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
- Clifford, the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
Books for Children Ages 9-12
- Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
- The Giver by Lois Lowry
- James and the Giant Peach: A Children’s Story by Roald Dahl
- Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
- Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
- Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Books for Young Adults
- Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
- The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
- Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
- The Cay by Theodore Taylor
- The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare