A month or so ago, as they were getting ready for bed, I told the boys to choose their bedtime books. This usually requires repeated reminders. They weren’t responding to me (a concern when things go THAT quiet…), so I walked around the corner and found this scene:
I slowly, quietly, tiptoed backward to grab my phone to snap the picture.
And then I had a memory flash of a similar picture a few years ago. I searched my Facebook page because I remembered posting it. They were 18 months old in this picture:
All the heart eyes!
Jake started reading shortly after he turned two. He hadn’t even been talking very long. A few years ago I started a different blog and wrote about when he first read something out of the blue, and his fascination with ALL. THE. LETTERS. I’ve republished an updated version of that post here.
He has always seemed to have some weird, innate reading superpower.
Before they started Kindergarten, I had both boys tested for “gifted”. My reasoning wasn’t crazy – I’ll have to write some more about that separately. Anyway, Jake was 5 years old, 0 months and read at the level of 9 years, 2 months old. 4th grade!
People have asked me what I did to teach him to read so early.
Here’s the thing. I have built in comparisons since the boys are twins. Reid did not start reading at the same time Jake did, yet he was exposed to the exact same things (you know because they are twins of a single mama, so are rarely apart.) Jake clearly had a very early aptitude for reading.
But I wouldn’t have known how much if I hadn’t made reading with them a priority.
While Reid did not show the interest or aptitude as early as Jake – I think it was more because it was “Jake’s thing”, and Reid couldn’t compete (nor should he want to).
BUT….Reid tested in the 75th percentile for reading at 5 years, 0 months, and at the end of Kindergarten, he tested in the 99th percentile. So….he’s no slouch in the reading department! (We’ll talk later about his freakish math and logic skills.)
I feel like I could write a whole series related to reading. (Hmmm…I think I might do that…)
Ideas to Teach the Love of Reading
…here are a few things I did early on with the boys that I believe helped them learn to love reading.
Exposure – Surround them with Books
I wish I had taken them to the library more, but I didn’t take them many places by myself for the first few years. Instead, I bought a ton of books for them – fiction and non-fiction – so when we read out loud they heard many different kinds of words – especially from non-fiction books that weren’t necessarily geared toward babies.
Read Out Loud – Obvs
I read aloud to them every day. Okay well, to be honest, not when they were super tiny and I was just trying to survive. But, once we found a groove, plenty of reading was part of our normal everyday thing. And it still is.
Show them words, underline the syllables with your finger as you enunciate each one
While I know it is recommended to have NO screen-time for children under two years old, I was (am) a single, full-time working mom of twin babies and needed to wash bottles and fold laundry, and you know, breathe sometimes. So my boys got some screen-time starting around six months (hold the judgy-ness, please). I was at least particular about what they watched (look for a post about that in the near future.)
One of the few things I allowed them to watch was the Your Baby Can Learn DVD Series. Jake used to watch the letters and words, not the pictures. Now, as I said, Reid saw these as well and he didn’t read at 26 months. But, it was exposure to letters, words, and sounds, that I still believe was beneficial. (Bonus – the program I bought included flashcards too!)
Teach them how to comprehend what they are reading
When I read to them, I read with the characters, with inflection and animation, to make it engaging and interesting. We also talked about the story and the pictures as we went. I think this helps comprehension.
- In Goodnight Moon – where is the mouse? Where is the red balloon? (We LOVE the entire Goodnight Series!)
- In Madeline – That is the Eifel Tower; this story is in Paris, France. Let’s find it on the world map on the wall.
- In If You Give a Moose a Muffin – What kind of muffin is the moose’s favorite? What do you love about the moose’s painting?
They get books as gifts for birthdays, from Santa, in their Easter Baskets, and just because. Books have always been treated as a treasure around here.
Jake was into dinosaurs at Christmas, so he received Jake’s Dinosaur Egg Hunt.
Reid loves Find and Seek puzzle books so he received Find Reid!
Both of those books include pictures of the boys throughout the pages. We have several different books – some include their full names, some include pictures, some include the city and state, some even include their friends’ names. There is a wide variety of topics and the boys love seeing their faces and names throughout the stories.
My favorite I See Me! Book so far has been Reid and Jake can Change the World. This book was really intended for only one name – but when I read it online two names fit the story nicely, so I used both. We read this book a lot.
Play Word Games as soon as they start talking
When they started talking, we started playing word games – in the car, at the breakfast table, waiting in lines, etc. Some examples: rhyming words, opposites, same meanings, alliterative phrases, tongue twisters, spelled out loud, those kinds of things.
Although I haven’t been great at this, I have gotten better and continue to make a concerted effort. When you read on a tablet, phone, or e-reader, kids can’t SEE that you are reading an actual book. It just looks like you are lost in your screen – texting, scrolling, shopping, playing. When they see you read a paper book, they see that it is something you love and do yourself – and that will make them more likely to love getting lost in a story.
Maybe this last one is an honorable mention. It may sound weird, but I put singing to them on this list. From the time they were tiny, I sang a lot to them. While the obvious Twinkle, Twinkle, and ABCs were in the repertoire, I also sang pretty much all of Brandi Carlile’s first album, some Adele, Elton John, and some Dixie Chicks. The songs my mom sang to me when I was a little girl were on the list too – mostly show tunes and The Beatles. As they started talking, they also started singing along with me.
It’s not based on science, but I believe that the melody of music, the sound of rhyming words, and the variety of words that are in different songs all helped my boys language, and subsequently reading skills. This is my opinion – I have done no research on it.
Fiction vs. Non-Fiction
Right now I am challenged with finding age-appropriate fiction for their reading levels. We read a lot of non-fiction – Nat Geo Kids, Usborne flip the flap books (telling time, geography, multiplication tables), dinosaur encyclopedia, and Basher Science books (which honestly, are over MY head, but Reid can’t get enough of them.)
Recently I told them that we were going to start reading storybooks at bedtime instead of non-fiction books. Jake said, “Then we can’t learn!” Oh, my. I told him there is quite a lot to learn from fiction books, maybe most importantly to develop imagination and learn to get lost in another world. (Given his dislike for “figures of speech”, I had to talk him down from the idea of “getting lost in another world”.)
The boys are captivated, although it’s a bit suspenseful.
This summer we also started Family Reading Time. We all get a book – an actual book and not an e-reader or iPad – and we find comfy spots in the family room to quietly read to ourselves. I put a timer on to keep us honest, and this summer we made an attempt to track books read for the library summer reading program. It is a wonderful time of day. If we do it before dinner, we can discuss our books as dinner conversation!
Do you have other ideas about how to teach your littles to love to read? Please share your tips!
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