By Brittany Carlson

“This is no place for a monkey,” I overheard as I walked past my son’s bedroom door.

I tiptoed backward and peeked in to see my 4-year-old, Adam*, reading one of his favorite books, Curious George Makes Pancakes.

I say “reading” very loosely: what he was really doing was reciting it back to himself, almost word for word, because we had read it so many times.

It was a proud mama moment for me, seeing how excited my son was about reading, even before he can actually read for himself. This, I think, is the true gift of reading to my children: making reading exciting.

For Adam, the storylines and characters themselves were enough to interest him in books, but all children are different. I learned this when my second son, James*, came along, preferring to tear pages out rather than listen to stories.

I quickly learned that I needed to try new ways of reading to keep James interested, and now (at 20 months) he asks for certain books to be read to him again and again, like his older brother.

Here are 5 ways we try to make reading exciting at our house:

  1. Visit the library often. Every few weeks, I take my boys to the local library to pick out some new books. Sometimes we visit during story hour as well. It’s great to have a rotating selection of “new” books to read.
  2. Make reading more interactive. Lift-the-flap, look and find, wipe clean, or books that double as blocks make reading more fun for my boys. We have also made coloring sheets or activities to go along with a story; one favorite is coloring a cardboard Goliath figure and using rubber bands to knock it down to go with the Bible story of David and Goliath.

My son James likes pointing to pictures, especially animals, and talking about them (rather than just reading the text on the page), so sometimes I invent stories that go with the pictures to interest him more.

I also love reading books that have songs with them, or making up songs that go with a lyric in the books. One of our favorites is I’ll Love You Forever—my mother made up a melody to the song in that book, and I have since passed it on to my boys.  

      3. Bring books on the go. I try to rotate the books I keep in the car and in my purse for long drives, waiting at the doctor’s office, or sitting and watching big brother in a sports class.

     4.  Make reading a routine. I usually read to my boys when they first wake up, before nap/quiet time and before bed every day, and sometimes more if we’re stuck inside. Reading a book is a great way to get the kids to calm down when they’ve been cooped up.

    5.  Let them do the “reading.” With enough repetition, the boys will learn books by heart, and enjoy reading them to my husband and myself. I also love getting them to act out their favorite books; it’s so cute to watch. Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a family favorite: Adam has acted this out with friends, and we got out three different-sized blankets, bowls and chairs for them to use as props.

*name changed for privacy

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Brittany Carlson is a lifelong lover of words and all things chocolate. She is an Army wife and now has two sons, Adam (4) and James (18 months). She has written for several Army community newspapers, including the Stuttgart Citizen (Germany), Fort Leonard Wood Guidon (Missouri) and Fort Belvoir Eagle (Virginia). Brittany holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She and her family live in upstate NY. 

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