Any consistent reader of this blog will know that literature plays a huge role in my life, designs and art. I love to incorporate literary themes into my artwork and interior design. I have this weird image in my mind of one day discussing literature with my grown children over a nice glass of wine. For now they are only 11, 8 & 5, so we are sticking with children’s classics and apple juice. My husband and I both are avid readers and really hope our children will be, as well. As a parent, what can you do to encourage reading with your children and create a literature rich environment within your home? Here are 10 easy ways for you to create a love of reading among your own family.
1. Create cozy spaces for people to read. Large comfy chairs, relaxing sofas, and carefully placed blankets are great for setting the mood to read.
2. Make books accessible and easy to get to. Placing appropriate books for your children on low shelves, baskets full of beautiful picture books next to a cozy chair, and a small stack of books on their nightstands can really encourage reading.
3. Curate your own collection of well-loved books and allow your children to look at them freely. Children will sometimes peruse and look at books well above their reading level – let them. Don’t even make a big deal about it. We allow our children to read whatever we have in our house. My 5 year old was looking at a stock investing book the other day that was well over his head. Of course, he didn’t understand anything in the book, but I would never discourage a child’s reading efforts by belittling his literary choices. Every experience with whatever genre of literature is capable of teaching us something. I just asked that he put it back when he was finished.
4. Decorate your home with book themed art, accessories and quotes that are special to you and your children. I love to create art and designs that incorporate themes from classic children’s authors. Many items can be found on ETSY, in home décor stores or you can create your own by using your own imagination.
5. Make a trip to the library a weekly event. Library day is a big deal in our home and always has been. We started by going to story hour to get out of the house when they were little, but now it has evolved into a pursuit of their ongoing passions and interest, which vary from week to week. We also try to attend literary events specially geared to children that the library hosts, as well. Attending book festivals are wonderful ways to spend time with your family, too, that are usually free or reasonably priced.
6. Allow your children to see you reading. More is caught than taught with children. We can harp on our kids all day about the joys of reading, but if they don’t see you reading, they are unlikely to pick it up on their own.
7. Talk about your literary experiences as a family. Take an interest in what your children are reading, no matter how simple, and share with them what you are reading, too, no matter how complicated. I love the book, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee. I love how Atticus Finch reads and discusses complicated literature to his children, Scout and Jeb. I love the role that reading and books plays in the characters’ lives and how that shapes their personalities and life choices in the book. I remember reading this book as a child and thinking that I wanted to be a parent like Atticus Finch!
8. Make sure your reading areas have proper lighting. Not only can low lighting levels really discourage reading in your home, it can also damage eyesight. Make sure there is an overhead light in addition to task lighting in the form of floor or table lamps close to reading and working areas.
9. Limit TV and computer time. Electronic devices certainly have their place within our lives, and yes, they can be a great resource, but too much time allowed on Ipads, Iphones, TV’s, computers and other devices actually deter the desire to read in children. Reading before bedtime is a great way for us to settle down after a long day and studies have shown that people fall asleep more deeply and quickly after reading compared to using electronics before bed.
10. Make time to read with them when they are little and do it everyday. As an art lover and avid reader, I enjoy combing the aisles of the library for beautifully illustrated books to read with my kids. A book is the first art gallery most children are ever exposed to and the illustrations really become of part of their growing aesthetic. I expose my three to a wide variety of illustrators and authors in the hopes that this practice will help them find what really speaks to them as they grow and develop.
Enjoy this time, while your children are young, to influence them by reading to them on a consistent basis. Our oldest is already to the point where she’s taken off and no longer wants to be included in our reading time. It comes for everyone of us as a parent, and you want it to come. As a mom, I love nothing more than to walk by my child’s room and watching them engrossed in their present literary endeavor. I’ll have to admit, though, that I do miss the days when all 3 would snuggle up in my lap while I read our latest library find and smelling the books with them. Visit & follow me on Etsy at PaperCanvasEtc to see my latest artistic creations inspired by literature, and as always - Happy Designing!