Monday, March 09, 2009

Encouraging Literacy in the Very Young, Part 2

Tip #2 - Get books into the hands of children.

So, after setting aside one or more reading times per day for your little one, now you need to have books to read. What are the best places to find books?

Libraries, of course, are a great place to start. Many libraries have no limit on the number of books to check out, and some even check out big tubs to take them home in (when you forget your tote bag)! In addition to the wide selection of books, children's librarians are great resources for book advice. Whenever we're not sure what to check out for my son, we consult with a librarian who always steers us in the right direction. Also, story times can be a great introduction to reading for the young.

I enjoy browsing bookstores for new books. (And many bookstores also feature story times.) I also love finding vintage books at used bookstores or antique stores. Amazon, Barnes &, and other websites can also be helpful if you can't locate the book in a bookstore. However, you can save yourself shipping costs if you call a local bookstore and order it from them if it's not immediately available.

Another thing that parents can do to encourage a love of reading is to make books a reward instead of giving a treat that is less healthy. Instead of lunch out at a fast food restaurant, why not make a healthier lunch at home and head to the bookstore after lunch for a treat--a book that can be enjoyed over and over again.

Parents can also look into free reading programs, like Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), and other book clubs. RIF is a federally funded program for school-age children in elementary schools. This program is usually run by a volunteer in a school (like a PTA volunteer) or by a school librarian or teacher. They receive money from the federal government, and then add more of their own funding in order to purchase books for the students in the school.

I was in charge of the RIF program at my son's school in Brentwood, PA for a couple of years. We purchased about 800 books per year and had distributions throughout the year. It was great to see kids come in and pick one or two free books to take home to build their own libraries.

Another free program for preschoolers is Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.

Another idea, which I think was inspired by Carol Baicker-McKee is to buy books for birthdays/Christmas. Make this a tradition. Or suggest that a grandparent make that his or her tradition for gift-giving. You could even start a wish list of books for your child on Amazon or at a site like Good Reads. Put the books on a "to-read" shelf on Good Reads, and then have friends or relatives know that your child would love those books as gifts.

Happy reading!

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