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I think the most important part of an education is allowing children to develop a love of books. Through books children will learn. This is why it’s one of my main priorities, and even when we can’t follow through on the other homeschool priorities I have for them, I always find time for book time.
Making Books Accessible
My husband and I have been reading to both boys since they were about 1½, mostly at night before bed, but also during the day. When my first-born was about two years old, I cleared a low shelf in my bookcase and made that the shelf for the children’s books. This way, my son could easily look at the books whenever he wanted.
Later we converted our dining room into the “activity room,” and we bought some used bookshelves and painted them. We have accumulated quite a few children’s books through gifts from relatives each birthday and Christmas, and I am a big fan of library book sales and used books bins. Occasionally I have bought a book full price when I had a specific need.
Making books easily accessible has been key to allowing my sons to develop a natural love of them. They seek out the books just like they do toys.
I don’t think you need a lot of books to do this. I just think you need to keep them accessible. Lately I have been making good use of our local library system, and I keep a big stack of library books on a small, separate bookshelf so that I don’t lose track of them. I’ll write more about how I use the library in my next post.
The Book Time Ritual
We read books everyday right after breakfast. I call out, “Let’s do book time! Everybody pick a book!” Letting everyone pick a book (or books) is essential:
- The two-year-old gets to pick his favorite books – those same books over and over and over again. Sigh. Yet I know this is normal and healthy, and it’s creating a love of books for him.
- The five-year-old gets to pick something he’s excited about. Thankfully he is past the stage of always picking the same book. He usually picks the library books that he chose when we were at the library. He likes non-fiction. This week he wanted books about the solar system and also Native Americans.
- I get to pick 1) something different, which is key to keeping me awake and enthusiastic about book time, and 2) something educational (yet fun) that I’m trying to work on with the five-year-old. Though my son is picking really cool, educational stuff, I have some “goals” I’m working on, which I’ll talk more about in a minute.
Many of the picture books I pick can keep both of my boy’s attention, but frequently while I’m reading the two-year-old’s choices, the five-year-old gets bored and starts playing on his own. It also happens the other way around. This is okay with me. What is tricky is that the books I read to the five-year-old are longer, and the two-year-old doesn’t always go off to play nicely by himself. He makes noise or goes into the refrigerator and brings back food he wants to eat — My five-year-old and I have to endure a lot of interruptions. I simply do the best I can with this. Sometimes we put a bookmark in the longer books and go back to it later.
Meeting Educational Goals Through Book Time
I have said many times that I don’t think formal lessons are necessary at this age (my boys are 5 and 2), but through books I find that I can cover a lot of educational goals that the five-year-old would be learning if he were in Kindergarten. (Note: I wouldn’t start him in Kindergarten until this coming fall, if he were attending public school.) Curling up on the sofa with some good books is a very no-pressure way of teaching, and so far my five-year-old son is very interested in all the non-fiction books we’ve read. By seeking these out at the library, we’ve been covering these subjects this past year. (All of these subjects will eventually get their own blog post. I’ll add links as I write them.)
- The solar system: As you might imagine, there are plenty of books about the solar system and different planets at the library.
- The weather: I also found a lot of good books about the weather at the library, particularly about the water cycle, which was fun and easy for my five-year-old to understand. He also picked out books about hurricanes and tornadoes, which interested him very much.
- Math: I have pulled back on formal lessons with math, and I’m just reading math picture books to the five-year-old. There are many of them to choose from. There’s even a series about each number that includes some simple addition. My son enjoys them, and I think it’s helping him realize that math can be fun.
- Literature: This is my favorite and easiest to take care of! The library is brimming with storybooks! Any book will do! But I have taken a more intentional role with choosing which books I’ll read, and I’ve found some resources to help me. I’ll write about that in my very next post.
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How do foster a love of reading in your home?