Building a love for reading in our children has always been a high priority in our family. My master's work is in Reading Specialist. I have taught people from age seven to seventy-seven how to read. And I have encouraged countless others in reading through tutoring hundreds of students. Reading has always been important to me as it opens the door to life-long learning in a powerful way.
It has been (accurately) said that "Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." Ray and I took this saying to heart beginning with our first child twenty-seven years ago. Of course, daily story times and family read alouds are excellent ways to build a love for reading (and learning) in older children, but we have found that, as the quote above explains, we can make children readers quite literally from the crib. Below are some ideas that we have used to create "readers" literally years before our preschoolers and toddlers could read.
1. Mom and Dad read aloud to each other during late night nursing and/or rocking sessions.
2. Start collecting "baby books"--cardboard books, vinyl books, felt books, and other baby and toddler safe books. Put this in "baby's book basket"--a baby-safe basket that sits on the floor of the room Baby spends a lot of time in.
3. Save certain books (for us this was felt activity books) for Baby/Toddler to use during quiet times like church or other "sit still" periods.
4. Play Wee Sing activity and other "song" and "rhyme" cd's when Baby goes to bed. Graduate to lengthier "story" cd's (such as Mother Goose Rhymes, Toddler Bible stories, fairy tales, or Aesop Fables) as your baby becomes a toddler and is better at listening.
5. Limit television and/or videos to very little or almost none in the first three years in order to build an appetite for books and "slower" activities. (Too much stimulation through tv and videos causes young children to develop short attention spans and little desire for books and less-entertaining types of activities.)
6. After your toddler falls asleep at night, sneak in his or her room and place a small basket of baby books in the corner of his crib. When he awakens in the morning, he will develop a habit of playing with his mobile and crib-attached toys--and looking at his baby books.
7. When weaning time comes around, replace one feeding with a story time session. We did this with each of our children, replacing the afternoon feeding with a baby-only story time and a sipper cup of milk or juice.
8. As your toddler develops a longer attention span, allow him to join in your older kids' afternoon story times. As soon as he is disruptive or unattentive, place him in his crib. Joining older children's story time is a privilege that he will earn as he matures enough to sit still with the other kids. (I usually did his baby-only story time, then allowed him to be part of our regular story time for one simple picture book, then put him to bed for his nap. As his ability to sit and listen lengthened, so did he amount of time he stayed in older kids' story time.)