Books have the ability to open your child’s imagination to a world of new adventures, wonder, and knowledge. Children who read not only exercise their brain, they learn about the world around them, improve language and literacy skills, and so much more. We all want our children to be readers — but know it’s not always easy to accomplish. So, how do you teach your children to foster a love for books? Well, it starts early on.
We spoke to five librarians at the Brooklyn Public Library to hear their tips for parents looking to raise a child with a passion for reading. Check out what the experts had to say.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! To start, we’d love to hear your favorite part about being a librarian?
Ellen Weaver, Eastern Parkway Branch: My favorite part about being a librarian is being a champion for literacy and the freedom of knowledge right here in my own community.
Jess Harwick, McKinley Park Branch: I love the variety of people that I work with and programs that I get to do. My days are never boring.
Maria McGrath, Macon Branch: having a patron ask for a book recommendation and being able to show them multiple books that could fulfill their quest for information, entertainment, or both.
Rebecca Rodd, Sunset Park Branch: There’s something really special about being able to play even the smallest role in the growth of a child. We have some kids who would come in for Story Time each week, and week by week you’d see them engage a little more and become more confident.
Yesha Naik, Central Library: Seeing the smile on a kid's face when you help them find what they need or want, whether that be a book, information, or a fun program! That is a deep satisfaction.
Many of your answers were about witnessing the happiness and growth of a child! Playing a role in the development of little ones is so special. Do you have a favorite series for early readers?
Ellen: Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke. Through short everyday life stories, readers get to know the endearing Anna, a young girl who lives with her multi-generational family in a large west African city.
Jess: The Giggle Gang by Jan Thomas. Though this series only has four books, Jan Thomas has other books that are also great for early readers. The characters in The Giggle Gang are an unlikely group of friends (think Elephant and Piggie, another great series!) and the stories both feature sweet friendships and play with sounds.
Maria: It’s hard to go wrong with Cynthia Rylant, who has three lovely series: Mr. Putter and Tabby, Poppleton, and Henry and Mudge. Elephant and Piggy, by Mo Willems, seems to have become the gold standard, with good reason.
We’re definitely going to introduce our little ones to those books! We know it’s not always easy to learn how to read — what advice would you give a parent whose child is struggling to learn how?
Rebecca: I think it’s really important to depict reading as a fun, leisure activity, so that it doesn’t seem like work but that they want to push through the struggling because reading is fun. So, read for fun. Even yourself, in front of your kids. They’re always paying attention.
Yesha: Don't worry so much about making them read to themselves. Spend as much time as possible reading out loud to them. The more they are read to, the stronger their comprehension will become, and that is the key to their future progress.
Ellen: Parents often come into the library hunting for that elusive book that will help their child become a better reader. My advice to those parents is to first find out what their child is interested in and indulge that interest freely within their reading choices.
It seems like the big message here is that parents have a big part in the development process — reading aloud to your child is so important. If you want your child to retain their love of reading as they grow up, what advice would you give?
Jess: Let your child read everything and anything they’re interested in, especially as they get older. Don’t force it - let them direct the reading as much as possible. Reading should never be a “chore” or a punishment, instead encourage your kid to read whatever they like.
Maria: If you want your child to love reading, show that you love reading, and take off as much pressure as you can. If they love magazines, or graphic novels, or audiobooks, those are all real ways to read, so try as much as you can to withhold judgment of what kind of reading has value.
Rebecca: Let your child choose their reading journey regardless of where it takes them. Encourage their tastes in genre and formatting. Let your children read graphic novels, let them explore science fiction and fantasy. Do your best not to censor your children’s reading but to encourage open discussions.
Yesha: Read to your child before you would even think they can understand. From day one, if possible. When read to every day as a baby, and later as a toddler and then a child, they will understand reading to be a form of love, and they will fall in love with reading.
We couldn't have asked for more great advice from these incredible librarians. Discovering a passion and love for reading takes time, but it seems the way to achieve this is by practicing from an early age. Whether you’re reading a story together or simply reading your own book near your children, creating positive memories around books helps nurture a long term passion.