The 4 T’s: Tempting Our Children to Read More

These ideas are so simple, there’s almost no effort, except for number 4. They are really just places to intentionally put books into your child’s path. Access to books can make or break a child’s reading abilities and habits. The more good books we make easily available to them, the greater the chances they will pick them up and read them.

This photo was not manufactured for this post. It happened beautifully and spontaneously; this is the advantage of have books laying around everywhere (a nice way of saying the house was a mess!).
This photo was not manufactured for this post. It happened beautifully and spontaneously; this is the advantage of have books laying around everywhere (a nice way of saying the house was a mess!).

Jim Trelease, the read-aloud guru, has the 3 B’s to encourage more reading in your children. These stand for Books (giving kids ownership of their own books), Book basket (placing these in strategic places like the bathroom), and Bed lamp (so they can read at night if they choose to). Trelease’s website, Trelease on Reading, is a great place to find tips and ideas for reading with and to kids, and his The Read-Aloud Handbook is one of my most important resources when selecting great books to read aloud to my children. (I’ve mentioned it before here.)

jim trelease

We have some ways at our house that we increase our children’s opportunities for reading. I’ve organized them into the 4 T’s for Tempting Our Children to Read More.

1. Table: I have noticed when we leave books, magazine or the comic section of the newspaper sitting out on our dining table, the kids will automatically pick whatever it is up and start looking through it during a meal or snack time. The same way some of us used to (or still do) read the back of the cereal box because it’s the only thing available at the table, if we leave out other reading material, there’s a chance it will get read simply because it’s there.

2. Travel: Since I’m the steward of a Little Free Library (mentioned in this post), I have boxes of books in my garage to pull from any time I need to restock the LFL. Right before we left for Spring Break, I pulled a few books from these boxes and tossed them into my children’s respective areas of the van. These “new” books entertained both the 3- and 7-year old for most of the trip. The books I had pulled for my 3-year old were familiar character books (Dora, Disney’s Cinderella, etc.); not the greatest quality books, but the advantage was, she already knew the characters and story lines and could fairly well “read” it herself by looking at the pictures. In the same way, magazines and comic books are great for travel with older children since they require less attention and focus, as the children read to themselves. Nonfiction can also fit the bill because many nonfiction texts allow for kids to skim and take in the information they choose. Read more about benefits of nonfiction here.

One reading, one playing with princess dolls, on a recent trip
One reading, one playing with princess dolls, on a recent trip

3. Toilet: The bathroom is a tried and true place for texts to be placed. After the kids have read their magazines, comic books, and/or light nonfiction texts, stick them in the bathroom for them to reread. The upside to putting these types of texts there (especially magazines) is that you’re probably not planning to keep these for them to pass on to their own children someday (as opposed to say, a storybook that your child loves); you may even eventually toss some of these in recycling. So why not let them make a stop in the bathroom first for a few weeks? (Okay, ours usually hang around for a few months because I forget to change them out.)

Is it TMI to show you this?
Is it TMI to show you this?

4. Tub: This is one of my top tips for reading to your kids when they’re young. Make reading a short story or a few poems part of their bath time routine. This is especially something to try if your young one doesn’t like to sit still for stories normally or is resistant to books. When our son was about 3, for whatever reason, he did not want us to read Bible stories to him at bedtime. So my brilliant husband started the tradition of reading him a Bible story in the bathtub. He would switch it up and sometimes use the time to read silly poetry (like Shel Silverstein) instead–lots of laughter coming from the bathroom in this case!

Everyone loves Shel Silverstein. Guaranteed laughs!
Everyone loves Shel Silverstein. Guaranteed laughs!

So really, all the 4 T’s require is you to grab a few books or magazines from around the house–maybe ones that have been neglected of late–and place them in these strategic locations. Or take it up a notch and snag a few books from the library to take along on a trip, or if you’re worried about damage to or loss of library books, try a cheap used book store, garage sales or Little Free Library in your area (check LFL locations near you here). The main thing to remember is to place books in their paths. After all, if they will read the back of a cereal box because it’s there, they will certainly pick up something even more interesting!

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4 thoughts on “The 4 T’s: Tempting Our Children to Read More

  1. Liz Lawson April 21, 2015 / 5:54 pm

    Hey Sara, Do you have a thought about when to read longer chapter books out loud with kids? Like Charlotte’s Web or Chronicles of Narnia (any other recommendations in this category?).

    I’d like to start doing this with Graham (just turned 5), but wondering if Lydia will sit through it all. Usually I’m putting both of them down at the same time. Have you done much of this?

    Graham really hasn’t done much more than picture books and for some reason I’m afraid to push it. We’ve done the Jesus Story book Bible, which is a good length, but still has lots of pictures.

    Any thoughts?

    *Liz Lawson* Student Ministry Boston, MA 817-889-6086 liz.lawson@cru.org

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    • Sara Treat Chance April 22, 2015 / 5:23 pm

      Hi Liz. Great question. Reading to a 5-year old alone, I would definitely suggest starting some short chapter books and see how receptive he is. With a little one sitting in too, it may not be feasible, but you could try it, or let the little one play while you read one or two short chapters and then read picture books together.
      There are some short chap books that may keep both their attention, bc they do have colorful pictures too: try the Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo (hilarious adventures of a pig who is treated like a child by an older couple); High-Rise Private Eyes series by Cynthia Rylant; maybe even Henry & Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant; Bunnicula and Friends (early reader series) by James Howe (not the full-on chap book versions of these books); Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel.
      There’s no reason to rush into chapter books because there are so many quality picture books, but it can be fun and a nice change of pace for us and the kids. Give it a try sometime, maybe with one of those series I just listed, to see if you can keep both kids’ interest still. Let me know how it goes!

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      • Liz April 23, 2015 / 12:35 am

        Ok, great thoughts! Thanks for the recommendations! The pig one sounds perfect! Graham LOVES the funny stuff. But I appreciate the thought of not rushing it either. I think I just have been ready to read Chronicles of Narnia with my kids forever! 🙂 The time will come. I’m copying your note into a document so I can save it!
        Thanks so much for helping us “less-read” moms out there!

        Like

      • Sara Treat Chance April 27, 2015 / 2:12 am

        In the area of early chapter book read-alouds, I feel like I am learning as we go! I’m happy to share what I’ve learned so far! In fact, I just read Mercy Watson last week (although I had seen the books forever and heard they were good); I wasn’t expecting the bonus that Madeline was interested in it too! So your question was very well-timed! Happy reading.

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