Cultivating a Love of Reading

If there is one thing you can find in nearly every room in our house, it’s a book.  Living room – books.  Bedrooms – books.  Basement – books.  Sun Room – books.  Bathroom – books.  The laundry room is about the only room in the house that doesn’t have reading material of some kind or another.

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We’ve always been really committed to reading to our children.  Most days, we read to them multiple times.  Some nights, we devote an hour to reading to them before bed time.  We read everything from The Adventures of Tintin series to Where’s Spot.  Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Richard Scarry, Mo Willems, and Julia Donaldson are our signature go-to authors. We always stock the car with books.  We potty train with books — meaning, we put them on the potty with a book — (it makes the success rate so much higher)!  We make sure that their bedroom only has stuffed animals and books.  We go to the library at least once a week.  And we try and hit up every story time (whether it be at one of the nature centers, Smithsonians, or local libraries) that we can.

Our devotion to providing such access to literature has really cultivated a love of reading in our nearly five-year old son, Logan.  He loves to be read to and will stop virtually anything that he is doing to listen to a story.  He is also beginning to read on his own, which, is such an exciting thing to watch as a parent.  Our nearly three-year old daughter, Katelyn, on the other hand, hasn’t been as enthusiastic of a reader – or so we thought.  She seems to rarely pay attention when we read (unless the book is moderately Frozen-related), and when she does take interest, it’s usually only for a few pages.  While we read, she often busies herself with her doctor’s kit or other toys.  Sometimes she’ll pick up a book or two and begin reading her own rendition of the story, which is fun to watch.  Other times, she’ll pick out a book for us to read to her, but she rarely stays around to listen to the whole story – or even more than a few pages.  My husband and I have always been puzzled by why Kate hasn’t quite developed the love of reading Logan has, but we realize that children are individuals and their interests will differ.

And then, after we had put everyone to bed the other night, I heard a little voice reading in the hallway.  It wasn’t Logan – he was fast asleep.  Instead, it was Katelyn, who had snuck out of her room (which she shares with Logan) with one of his books, nonetheless.  Not wanting to ruin the moment, I stayed at the bottom of the stairway and recorded her precious voice reading The Magic Treehouse – Tigers at Twilight.  It was her rendition of the story, of course, but it amazed me how on par her reading of the book was with what we usually read in The Magic Treehouse series (“Jack pulled out his notebook,” etc.)  It made me realize that all this time we thought Katelyn was busy doing other things, she was listening, and processing.  I was so encouraged by this.  Her love of reading might not be as obvious as Logan’s at first glance, but it exists.  She does pay attention.  She is interested.  And, as we’ve recently discovered, she’s a pretty rad storyteller.  Reading to our children is paying off.

So if you’re in a similar place with your child, don’t give up.  Even if they seem not to be paying any attention at all, their little mind is absorbing the stories and taking note of your actions and commitment to reading.  Reading is a gift at every age.  Continue to cultivate their love of reading, and hopefully one day they will thank you for it.

Here are some tips and tricks that we’ve used to allow literature to permeate our daily routine:

1. Library, library, library.  Get a library card and hit up your local libraries to check out new books weekly.  Mix it up by visiting different libraries from time to time.  Let the kids do the check-out scanning and book return – it makes the whole process so much more fun and interactive.  Hang the library story time schedule on your fridge.  Library story times usually feature more than just reading — often, librarians incorporate songs, rhymes, and educational games to teach letters, colors and/or numbers each week.

2. Put books in every room of the house.  Easy access to books = more frequent reading.

3. Instead of outfitting your car with entertainment systems or iPads, stock it with books.  In the absence of any other form of entertainment, books will hold their attention – and what a great thing that is!

4. If they are learning to use the potty, give them a book.  Not only will it relax them and perhaps (and almost always in our case) allow them to do their business, they’ll be reading.

5. Make the bedroom a read and sleep-only zone. We just started this about eight months ago and it has been awesome to see the kids reaching for books first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

6. Find story times near you.  The library isn’t the only jam for story time.  Book stores have weekly story times, nature centres hold story times, playseums hold story times, museums (even some of the Smithsonians in Washington, D.C.) hold story times.  So seek them out!  There are so many fun venues where you can hear stories.  For all of you shopping moms out there, even Pottery Barn hosts story times!

7. Listen to books on CD.  Kids love this!  They can follow along in the book as the CD plays.  Meanwhile, mom or dad can clean the kitchen and maybe even get a load of laundry in!  Books on CD are also great for the car.

8. Opt for books instead of toys when recommending gifts.  Birthdays, Christmas, Easter — whenever your relatives or friends ask what they can get for your child, recommend they get a book.  This helps build your collection.  If you are throwing a baby shower for a friend, a great way to start their child’s collection is to ask everyone who comes to bring a book (in lieu of a card) for the baby.

There are so many great ways to encourage your child to read.  If you have suggestions, please share with all by leaving a comment.

And with that, I leave you with this sweet video of Katelyn’s late-night reading:

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The Things We Take For Granted

Patience, humility, gratefulness, and sensitivity – that is what the last few weeks have taught me.

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In a cast with nowhere to go but the bed

Four weeks ago I was walking both Logan and Katelyn to the park when I stepped off of a Bangkok side walk just the wrong way.  Two torn ligaments and a hospital visit later, I was in a cast – and largely immobile – for three weeks.  It’s a rare moment when I feel low – but this, my friends – this put me at my lowest of lows.

I know it’s extremely cliche, but it’s true:  you don’t really fully appreciate what you have until it’s gone.  And with my mobility gone for several weeks, so was my ability to play with the children, be outside, and live life the way I’m used to living it.  For someone who is out of the house ninety percent of the day, that is a big deal.  For someone who loves to run with, play with, and swim with kids, that is a big deal.  For someone who thrives on taking the kids to do new and interesting things around the city, that is a big deal.  With a cast on, my daily life was turned upside down and it was extremely frustrating and upsetting for me.  I can only imagine what it must feel like to deal with a more serious or permanent injury.

But now my cast is off and I’m wearing an ankle support for a few months.  My mobility is returning and I can keep up with Logan and Katelyn more easily than before.  And now that I can actually drum up the inspiration to write again (did you notice I have not updated in a few weeks?), I want to share with you what taking one wrong step taught me:

1. Patience.  As someone who is always on the go, this accident slowed me down – waaayyyy down.  The immobility taught me to be more patient with myself, more patient with my children, more patient with tantrums, more patient with meal times, more patient with bath time, more patient with bed time, more patient with my husband.  And you know what?  Being more patient has made life so much more enjoyable.  While I was in my cast,  this article made it’s way around the web and it couldn’t be more apropos to the situation – The Day I Stopped Saying ‘Hurry Up’.

2. Gratefulness.  Grateful to God that he has given everyone in my family good health.  Grateful to my husband that he is such a wonderful father and can pick up the slack when I am incapable of doing much.  And grateful that I can spend all day – every day – with my children.

3. Humility.  In my 34 years on the planet, I have never had an accident that has impaired me physically.  This was the first.  And I learned just how quickly a small thing can change a big part of your life.

4. Sensitivity.  Yes, I think this incident has caused me to be more sensitive towards others who have been – or are – injured in a similar way.  But more than that it showed me the sensitivity in my three-year old son.  Every morning when he woke up, his first words to me were – “Are you still hurt, Mommy?”  And every time I picked him up at school – “Are you still hurt, Mommy?”  And every time he walked in the door from playing outdoors, “Are you still hurt, Mommy?”  He would bring me my cane, bring me food, bring me water, buy me flowers on the street, share his toys with me, forgo active play and lie with me on the bed so that I could read to him for hours.  I learned that my son is a very sensitive soul – and for that, I am very grateful.  And Katelyn?  Well, let’s just say she needs a little work in the sensitivity category, but then I guess she is only 15 months old.

I’m so thankful to be on the mend, I’m so thankful to be able to do more with my family, and I’m so thankful to be writing again.  Expect more from me soon.  Until then . . .

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Much happier to be on the mend

Find of the Week: The Perfect Place for Aspiring Young Musicians

All toddlers I know love music. They love to make music, dance to music, and share the joy of music with friends. Playing new instruments and discovering new sounds is a powerful creative outlet for children.  Some of the most joyous times in our home are the ones spent testing out new musical instruments and dancing wildly, boldly, and comically to our favorite songs.

Not so long ago a friend of mine asked me if I had stumbled upon the music store across from La Monita*.  Despite the great many times we had been to La Monita, I hadn’t seen the place, so I decided to make a special trip.  From the outside, it’s hard to get a glimpse of what’s inside IQ Plus Music (located in Mahatun Plaza off of Ploenchit Road) because of the dark-tinted windows; however, once you venture inside, you’ll find a wall full of colorfully-decorated high-quality musical instruments for children of all ages.  This place has everything from egg shakers to rainbow music hand bells, ukuleles, and bongos.  The instruments are so visually attractive with fun shapes and colors that they are certain to spark the interest of even the most undecided of young musicians.

Check out the awesome alligator xylophone - I want one!

On top of the high-quality selection of beautiful instruments, the staff at IQ Plus Music is extremely helpful in informing your decision about which instruments suit your child at a certain age and musical ability.  Vice President Quincy Yu, who worked in the same business in California for several years, was an enormous help to me when I was in search of an instrument that would introduce my toddler to musical range.  Definitely seek him out if you make a trip to IQ Plus Music.

 

Store details:

IQ Plus Music
888/110 Mahatun Plaza Building
Ploenchit Road, Lumpini
Phone:  02-651-4062
Web:  www.iqplusmusic.com

*If you haven’t been to La Monita, consider this post a “Double-Find of the Week.”   La Monita, also located in Mahatun Plaza off of Ploenchit Road, is easily some of the best Mexican food in town.  The nachos and cali tacos are amazing.  Yum!  If you’re with your with your toddler, they’ll do a “mini-quesadilla” and a side of Spanish rice and beans.