I was reading a blog post by Pernille Ripp over the weekend in which she talked about ways for teachers to encourage kids who aren't reading (serial book abandoners). There are many good ideas in the post, but one question she asked particularly struck me:
"Do they have people? Is it cool to not be a reader in their friend group? Who do they have to talk books to? Do they have reading role models that extend beyond the teacher? ..."
This reminded me of something that I've done a couple of times to nurture having "book people" for my daughter. I thought the idea might be useful to other parents who are looking to support a love of reading in their kids.
I have been scheduling playdates at the public library for my 9 year old. I am very lucky that not only are there several library branches within an easy drive of our neighborhood, but one of them has an outdoor playground accessible from the same parking lot. Brilliant work, San Jose! So here's what I've done with a couple of my daughter's friends on different occasions.
- Pick up the other child or meet at the library.
- Go first to let them play in the children's section for a bit (and return books, use the restroom, etc.).
- Take them to the playground and let them loose (bringing a comfortable folding chair and something to read for myself as well as snacks for them).
- Let them play for as long as possible, and then return to the library to pick out books to take home.
There is nothing like watching your child and a friend recommend books to each other, or listening to them chatter about books in the back seat while you drive. Of course you have to choose a friend who wants to go to the library, but in our case the playground also helps. I've only done this one-on-one. I realize it will be more challenging to accomplish if there are siblings with their own needs to balance, but I think it could still work.
I also think it could still work without a playground, though you probably won't be able to stay for as long. When I went recently with my daughter and her friend they had a great time giggling over the games for preschoolers on the computer. I did not fuss about screen time. I want them to enjoy the library and have fun there. And in truth they got bored with that pretty quickly. [And yes, I supervised - I'm not saying to leave your kids at the library or anything, or to burden the library staff with watching them.]
I agree with Pernille that to become readers, it helps if kids have friends who are readers, too. If your child is lucky enough to have friends who like books, consider scheduling some playdates at the library. And really, if your child's friends don't like books, you might as well try this anyway. Maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised!
© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage.