Regularly reading to your child wires a pleasure center in the brain

(Editor’s note: Katy Smith highlights how reading to one’s child can be a wonderful experience. The aim, according to Raising Bookworms, is to continually reinforce the connection between reading and pleasure, while at the same time sending subtle cues about the value of reading throughout our lives. This book warns you may wonder at times if these messages are getting through, but rest assured, they are — and they’ll make a world of difference, the book states.)

There are two over-arching strategies:

1. Keep reading to — and with — your child. We’ve discussed this previously, but it is so fundamentally important that it’s worth reiterating!

2. Set a good example! It’s been said that one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to show them what a happy adult looks like —and that fact is that parents who read regularly for pleasure are six times more likely to have kids who do the same.

•Provide a warm and inviting reading atmosphere, being especially attentive to visual or noise distractions.

•Cuddle while you read to reinforce the connection between reading and pleasure.

•Build reading time into your daily routine, at least once a day (but more is better!).

•Maintain a “reading ritual” — a gesture, expression, location or action of some kind that is connected with the pleasure of reading and cultivates joyful anticipation as you begin.

•Return to favorites as often as possible, remembering the words of Daniel Pennac: “To reread is to provide fresh proof of enduring love.”

•Keep letters and spelling games handy-in the tub, on the refrigerator, as puzzles, etc.

•Keep books everywhere.  A basket of books in the bathroom, kitchen, living room, playroom, and car ensures readiness for any reading opportunity that may arise, and makes a strong visual statement about the value of reading.

•Be sensitive to timing with respect to choice of material, staying away from darker or more challenging material at bedtime, for instance.

•Create a “Book Nook” or “Reading Corner” in your child’s room or playroom to invite comfortable, well-lit, and cozy reading time.

•Organize books attractively on shelves or in baskets, to make favorites easier to find and send a visual message about respect for books.

•Experiment with displays, such as rotating selections that face out, or organizing according to size, genre, theme, etc.

•Keep your child enrolled in a Book-of-the-Month-Club, to help build his or her library and underscore the connection between books and pleasure,

•Surprise your child occasionally with an impromptu book gift, to connect books with the joy of receiving affection.

•Never withhold books or use them as a threat. Words like “If you don’t behave, no before-bed reading tonight!” turn books into weapons and create negative associations where you are trying to build positive ones.

•Allow — make that encourage — reading in bed. Allow kids to stay up late, as long as they’re reading in bed. If they share a bedroom with others, give them a book light. Help them to discover the singular, sensual pleasure of reading in bed … and you will soon be hard-pressed to keep them from it.

One important caveat: Having a television or computer — especially one with Internet access — in your child’s bedroom is a surefire way to bump reading way down the list of preferred bedtime activities. I’m a big believer in limiting televisions and computers to common rooms in the house, and keeping bedrooms as the sanctuary they should be.

(Editor’s note: The following information was gleaned from: “Raising Bookworms, Getting Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment” by Emma Walton Hamilton, Chapter 4, Elementary School: Nurturing the Budding Reader [2009].)