Is there an alternative to picture books?
Reading a book to your kids for the 457th time is probably not as much fun, interesting or intellectually stimulating as it used to be the first few times, regardless of how great a classic it is and with all due respect to its creators. Sure, Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny and Eric Carle books may have all the elements to attract a child and get him hooked to reading, but, let’s face it, when you hit the 400 mark, or sooner, you’ve about had it with picture books. Chances are your child may still pick the very same books everyday for you to read much to your bewilderment and with no regard for your silent ’Not again’s. There’s an easy way out and one that both of you will enjoy.
Find something else to read.
Beyond Bedtime Stories
You’ll find reading recommendations for kids and lists of age-appropriate children’s books pretty much everywhere you look. But, you don’t have to stop with the storybooks and bedtime tales on these lists. Make one of your own that includes reading material outside of traditional children’s books. Here are some suggestions that seem to pique the interest of some kids I know, especially one in particular who’s growing up faster than I like to admit. And the best part? If you’re like me, you won’t mind the reading change yourself.
* Children’s World Atlas -
A little globe trotting at bedtime anyone? Why not learn about a new country, continent or a geography fact with your child? Turning the pages of a world atlas with your child at bedtime may not sound like much fun at first, but it is a reading activity packed with potential. Soon your child will be able to identify flags and countries on the map and trust me, you will appreciate the break from fairies, monsters and talking bears. Try it once a week to start with and see how you both like it. Take it a step further by picking out a picture book or bedtime story about the country you’re learning about, from the library.
* Planet Earth
It’s like watching Discovery Channel except somewhat better, because you’re reading and interacting with your child, feeding his curiosity and expanding his mind at the same time. Again, a storybook about the animal or species you’re learning about will be easy to find at the local library.
You could snuggle in with your tot with a copy of Highlights or any other children’s magazine. If your child is into a certain hobby or activity, do a little bit of extra reading about his favorite subject. Piano Explorer is an example – kids who’re learning to play can learn some fun facts about the instrument, or about some of the famous composers or even other kids who’re learning to play, read and write music. These magazines have plenty of puzzles, trivia and lighter columns to keep both of you engrossed for a while. No fairies or princesses involved.
* Poems, Songs, Lullabies
You’ve probably done Twinkle Twinkle to death, and you know your child likes nursery rhymes, so why not explore a few not-so-popular ones with your child? Poetry is not everyone’s cuppa, but if you enjoy it and want to share it with your child, check out Julie Andrews’ Collection of Poems, Songs and Lullabies. You’ll find some beautiful verses in it that your child may enjoy at bedtime, including These are a Few of My Favorite Things and other unforgettable classics.
Yes, the good, clean kind. And there are plenty of them available today. Sometimes, a little variety can work wonders and reading the same story in a new format provides the refreshing change you and your child want. Also, comics help your child look at a scene as it is happening and as you’re reading together and so they’ve got the potential to keep even less attentive, restless kids engrossed longer. Again, much like TV but, only better, because you’re still engaging your child and interacting with the story.
Remember the olden times when people sent each other mail? (Yes, I’m that old.) I still have some of the letters, greeting cards and notes the important people in my life sent me over the years and I like to take out my old shoe box and read them every now and then. (What? You don’t? Laugh all you want but you have no idea what you’re missing. ) I like to share some of these with my daughter…especially letters my mom wrote me or greeting cards from my family. Since we live so far away from our extended family, I think this is a way for my young daughter to understand more about her family and older relatives and how we’re all related – the fabric of family yada yada. Especially because we don’t receive too many snail mail letters, notes or cards any more in the online age. Some of these olden-day letters are so fascinating to read now and sharing them with our kids lets us connect our past with our future. And if you haven’t saved any of those old letters(shame on you!), you could just get creative and prose-y, and write a few to your kids and read them together at bedtime. (And maybe they will do a better job of preserving letters.)
Bonding while baking is nothing new, but did you know that going over your recipe book with your child is another delicious way to blend reading, cooking and bonding while whipping up a family meal? Whether it’s Rachael Ray or your grandma’s recipes you follow, go over a few with your child – read out the dish, the ingredients and the method – and try out something new with your pint-sized assistant chef every once in a while.
It’s important for kids to cultivate a lifelong love of reading and learning, but sometimes, stepping away from children’s books may be necessary to do it. Taking reading beyond books may actually help nurture the love of reading in ways and measures you never imagined possible.
What are some of the ways you read to your child that doesn’t involve children’s books?