Books, Books, and More Books

So, you may have noticed that I’ve really been posting mostly about books lately. There are several reasons for that, the biggest being that this past year I was officially working in a library and my world has been books. I read a lot. I read to see if books are right for our library. I read to see if I can use them in lessons. I read them to see if they need to weeded out of our collection. I read them for fun. I read them to see if Cam would like them. I read them to Cam. 

Please don’t get the impression that libraries and librarians are all about books. I am not actually paid to read books. I am paid to shelve them, process them, and teach kids that come to visit me in the library. A big part of that teaching has nothing to do with pleasure reading. Nothing. At. All. I do work hard to make sure my students like to read, can read, and come in to read for pleasure. While pleasure reading is incredibly important, I also realize that it isn’t for everyone. Just like baseball isn’t something everyone wants to do. However, reading for information, reading to learn, reading to inform is of the utmost importance. So is evaluating what you are reading. Evaluating it critically. Looking at something and deciding if you agree. Deciding if an article is well reasoned and makes sense. Looking at who wrote an article (or book, or whatever) and sussing out their motives and evaluating those. Basically I teach critical thinking. That is what a librarian, especially a school librarian, is really there for. That is why you don’t see me writing a lot about literacy activities to force your child into interacting more with a book. I do write a lot about why or how a book might work for a family or child. That is just how I think about books. 

One thing I have become incredibly passionate about, and I’ve said this before, is getting more diverse books onto our library shelves. Personal libraries and institutional ones. And that’s where this passion and this blog have begun to collide lately. In light of all the recent crappy events in the world I think it’s more important than ever that we get positive representations of diversity (i.e. non-white) into our children’s hands, minds, and hearts. Books are an excellent, non threatening way to do that.

I am still trying to find how I want to focus my attention here and honestly that is a constantly moving target. I still plan on sharing what’s going on on the family farm and the things I am doing with Cam, but right now I want a space where I can promote books, particularly good diverse ones, with parents. I have a library blog that you can check out which is nearly all reviews, but I focus there on talking about books and how they can work for a library collection and that is very different beast from the home environment. 

The single best things you can do to make your child love reading are:

  1. Read to them
  2. Don’t make it a chore: No reading logs, no timers, no page number requirements.
  3. Let them choose what they read to themselves and what you read to them. Yes, even if that means a book you hate like Captain Underpants.
  4. Don’t tie it with punishment or reward: Don’t withhold reading for not doing chores, don’t make it a punishment for not doing chores, and don’t make them interact with a book they don’t like. If they have to read something particular for school I highly recommend you read it out loud to them. And PLEASE talk to them about why they are not enjoying it. Boring is not a response. Show them how to be more specific and articulate in their criticism. Encourage them to share those thoughts with their teacher. And be honest about your opinon about the book. I tell Cam all the time if I don’t like books and why (usually because they are racist).
  5. Read to them some more
  6. Did I say, read to them? Yes? Well, do it again. 
  7. Make sure they see YOU reading for pleasure. I know MANY parents that proudly say they’ve read all of two books in a year (or fewer) and yet fight with their children to make them read 30 minutes a day. Take a look at your relationship with reading. Seeing you read is going to be a much more effective motivator. And if you don’t hold yourself to a high reading standard, why hold your kids to it? If you don’t value it enough to do it 30 minutes a day, why would they? This also applies to #3. Don’t make them read high brow literature when all you read are New York Times bestsellers. By and large those are not high literature. That’s fine! We all read books to escape and have fun. Much like we all enjoy a candy bar or bag of potato chips from time to time. Just know that kids and their reading habits can and will look like yours. Just like your eating habits. 
  8. Know that reading doesn’t just happen in chapter books. Picture books are reading. Comics are reading. Text messages are reading. You read all day everyday, you just don’t think about it. You read emails, tweets, articles online, Facebook. That’s all reading. Don’t hold your child to an impossible standard of only reading the most difficult nonfiction text they can. And make sure they know reading comes in a lot of forms and formats including audiobooks. Even if they aren’t your preferences, they might be for your child. 
  9. Make sure they are seeing other people in books as well as seeing themselves. This can be difficult, but keep looking. 
  10. And just for good measure, read to them. Even when they seem way too old. 

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