Don’t Start Reading Too Early – OK now that I have your attention let me explain. I know there is all the “reading in the womb” advice out there. I just want new parents to realize that when they first sit their little one on their lap to read them a story, chances are your child will be more interested in eating the book than hearing the story. Don’t let this frustrate you and don’t get stressed. It is OK to not read them a story. Try again on another day if they aren’t interested in doing more than gnawing. Don’t worry. If you are trying to read to your child this early you won’t have any problems raising a child who loves to read.
Buy Age Appropriate Books or Don’t buy Lord of the Rings for a 2 year old – No matter the temptation, pass on books that are beyond your child’s comprehension. Spend the money on something they can enjoy now. There is plenty of time later in their childhood to buy these great books. If you buy them now they will sit on a shelf gathering dust instead of being read and they will possibly be forgotten altogether. Spend the time to find something they will love now. There are plenty of choices out there.
Flap Books – Flap books and their variations are books where the child lifts a flap to see what is hidden underneath. Children love these books and so will you but watch out for the “too much of a good thing” rule. Avoid the large format books with many flaps on a single page. These books become a chore and a bore to read. Also the authors often don’t put much thought into creating them. Stick to the small one flap a page board books.
Gimmick Books – Don’t buy books with a gimmick. Other than Pat the Bunny these are a waste. Good writing and illustration are often completely sacrificed for some little attached stuffed animal or sound chip. I have listed some specific annoyances below.
Attached Stuffed Animals, Squeaky Toys etc – All these books you buy eventually have to go somewhere. Any book with an attached doohickey will not fit well on a bookshelf. They will also make other books fit on the shelf poorly. Believe me, you will spend the beginning years of your child’s life picking up books from the floor since they love to pull them down and look at them. Don’t make your life harder for a book that is crummy to start with.
Sound Chips – It might be my personal pet peeve but books that make sound are especially annoying. Do you want your child to be read to by a tinny voice?
Don’t Buy Compilation Books – Sure the complete works of Beatrix Potter or all of the original Curious George stories look great in that nice hard cover edition. But if you buy them, chances are they will look great and unread on your bookshelf at home. These books are usually big and relatively heavy. You won’t want to read from them and will reach right past them to something more practical. You never know where you might end up spending most of your time reading to your child; crunched up on the floor next to a crib or standing up reading to the top bunk in a bunk bed. You want something you can easily hold in your hand and turn the pages. Also the huge number of choices in some of these books is overwhelming for a child.
Don’t Buy Tie In Books – Skip books that are based on a movie or cartoon. You are paying for the character tie in, not a good read for your child. This is especially true of the Disney Princess books. Your child will be bombarded by these tie-ins if they have any contact at all with the outside world so be firm. So many of these books are complete dross that I would have an automatic “no” prepared for when your child inevitable brings one of these books to you. Buy a book that is known for being a great book. Not a book that was a great movie.
Don’t buy Disney Princess Books – I know I mentioned it above but if Disney can bombard you so can I. The movies are great. Then books almost universally stink and they are often gimmick books (see above). Buy them a nice non-Disney version of the same story. Some are beautifully illustrated and wonderfully written and there have been retellings of these tales long before Michael Eisner came along. Don’t cave.
That is it for now. There are exceptions to the above rules, but they will be obvious.
Now for some standard advice that is worth repeating here.
- Buy books that you will enjoy reading to your child. If you think the book stinks they will pick up on it. If you enjoying reading they will pick up on that joy.
- Read the book before you buy it. Entire picture books can be read in a few minutes. With longer books start reading the first chapter until you can decide. If it doesn’t make you want to continue reading don’t buy it.
- Read everyday. Bedtime is great but read during the day also.
- Once your child learns to read, keep reading to them. Don’t stop.
Follow the non-standard advice and your life as a parent will be easier. Follow the standard advice and your child will be a lover of books and reading. My wife and I have and our oldest is reading at third grade level while only halfway through first grade. His younger sister is also at the head of her kindergarten class in reading.
Good luck and good reading.