One of the greatest gifts we parents can give a child is a passion for reading. Some kids may have received books as holiday gifts, and others still might have them on future wishlists. Some kids find solace in hours spent amongst the shelves of a library. For others, reading is sitting in a backyard treehouse, enjoying a comic book or graphic novel that ignites the imagination.
However a kid chooses to read, always remember: there’s no way to do it wrong.As parents, there are things we can do to encourage this healthy habit that grows brains, fires up imaginations, and helps our kids better understand and empathize with their fellow humans.
“Books are the best gift for children, and really anyone of any age,” explained Shelby Gorman, co-owner of Turnrow Books in Greenwood. “This world can be difficult at times but in books, you get to escape for a bit. A toy can only go so far, but a book can transform your views on everything around you.”
Children’s author and columnist for the Parents & Kids edition distributed on the coast, former educator and elementary school librarian Andrea Vilemont Moreau, has excellent advice for getting kids to read. She has introduced her own books to thousands of Delta children over the past year, when she’s visited schools in cities ranging from Clarksdale to Greenwood to Grenada.
Moreau comments often that she sees kids’ faces light up when she reads from her books “I Mustache You to Read With Me” and “I Just Want to Read,” which are actually both ABOUT the joys of reading.
After her many years as both an author and a Mississippi-based school librarian, she’s got great advice for parents.
“Encourage your kids to read by letting them pick out their own books at the public library, book fair, or book store, no matter what ‘level’ the book seems,” she advised. “Even if the book is a Pokémon Guide or a Minecraft video game manual, it’s still reading. Believe it or not, these books allow children to practice researching, as books like these are nonfiction and involve looking up particular information to suit their needs.”
Gorman said at Turnrow, there’s a special program to encourage childhood literacy.
“A Child’s First Book Club is amazing!” she said. “Every month, we will send you a signed first edition children’s book, picked by us and complete with a little note from us.”
Gorman gave examples of a few recent favorites for young readers, including “Just in Case You Want to Fly,” by Julie Fogliano and Christian Robinson; “I’m a Baked Potato,” by Elise Primavera and Juana Medina; “Spencer’s New Pet,” by Jessie Sima; “I Want a Dog,” by John Agee; “The Good Egg,” by Jory John and Pete Oswald; and “The Lying King,” by Alex Beard.
If the expense of buying books is a problem — and it is for some families on a tight budget — that’s still no excuse to let your budding reader go without. Local libraries can open up a world of options to any young reader, and borrowing is free.
So, parents…in a nutshell…you should buy, borrow, gift, encourage, download, scroll, set examples, turn pages, research, share the passion, set the standard that reading matters, and see your child’s face light up as the wider world comes alive.
Kara Martinez Bachman is an editor, author, and mom to two teenagers who love to read.