I don't know if it is the teacher in me or if it just my personality but I am a big believer in routines, schedules, consistency, structure. Don't get me wrong it is pretty difficult to follow these but I find comfort in my "plans." This is especially true with kids. As a classroom teacher I rely on these to create a safe and nurturing space. As an Auntie watching 2 nephews (age 9 and 4), 1 niece (age 5), and my 15 month old son it is a necessity. When my son was born I found the book, The Contented Little Baby by Gina Ford to be so calming because it suggested so many routines that I found helpful. Granted when dealing with babies, kids, actually people routines have to be flexible but having a plan in place can help keep some thread of sanity in place- or at least it does for me!
I was thinking that this concept has been really helpful in creating a literacy rich environment for my son. I am hoping that my son will discover and treasure the riches that reading has to offer. As such I am trying to establish routines that help this dream get nurtured. First off, let me recommend a book called The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. This book is a classic in explaining the value in reading to and with your child. It also offers much advice, research, and resources. I've gotten many of ideas from reading this book.
From the day my son was born I have been thinking about the ways that I can help him feel connected to reading. I think that an important element is to make it a natural desire rather than a forced activity. That is why routines are important. For me, it is not realistic to plan for reading in the morning. It is hard enough trying to get myself and my son dressed. Instead I try to infuse reading by thinking of this time as a place for language to take center stage. After all, a home rich in language exposes our children to vocabulary and sounds that they will rely on when learning to read. On cheery mornings this may mean interactive songs while getting dressed. On crankier mornings this might mean connecting words with functional items during breakfast; I might call out "cheerios", "oatmeal", or "eggs" as I see the words while making breakfast. I often suggest these kinds of activities for families with reluctant readers. Your child might be feeling anxious about trying to pick up an entire book and reading from it but may feel more successful hunting for familiar words in the kitchen, house, or while riding in the car. Another great routine I once saw a parent of one of my previous first-graders use was drawing pictures and labeling them on her child's snack bag. Often these were words that were on her child's spelling list. However, this idea could be used in many ways by choosing your words or even simple sentences to connect to your child's needs. This is one routine I know I will incorporate one day...well on the days I have my act together enough to make lunch/snack on time. ;)
Currently, I try to help myself infuse reading as a routine by having books in all the important niches of my home. I try to have a "standard" book, that means my child recognizes that this book is always read in this particular room and then a variety of other books that flow freely throughout the house. We have our special bathtime book, our kitchen "cookbook", our playroom book, etc. My favorite "standard" is in my bedroom. Although my son sleeps in his own room, in his crib, there is nothing better than a lazy morning cuddle. We don't get to do this often but when we do it always involves Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt. This classic is such a fun interactive book. It is great for teaching your child to connect to text in an age appropriate way. My son is always eager to turn each page and then participate in the action the same way the characters do. He has learned so many concepts of print by reading along with this book. It is a new discovery and level of confidence each time we pick it up. Be warned though, it is so interactive that I have already found myself needing to buy a second copy. Another great place for a "standard" and/or a routine is bedtime. Since my son was born we have read him the same bedtime book. For us it doesn't get any better than Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. The best part is that since we are raising our son to be bilingual, we are able to have this classic in both English and Spanish. Each night we end with this book and then we say your turn...we then say good night (or actually "buenas noches") to some of his bedroom items. This has helped to support his understanding of the story and to establish a particular bedroom routine.
These ideas are just that ideas. While they are good goals please realize that I do not mean to say you should do each of these things every day. Life is just simply not that predictable. Our dog-eared copy of Good Night Moon gets read almost every night but there are nights that we simply run out of time! On the other hand, there are nights we have extra time and are able to read several stories in addition to our standard. The point is to look for small ways you can infuse predictable text into your child's day, alongside the discovery of new and ever changing stories, books, and language.
Raise the FLF: Don't forget to infuse this concept for the whole family. Modeling a love of reading is the strongest way to nurture a life-long reader. Let your child see you taking some time for yourself to read. I think it is ok to have a magazine or book open as your child is playing nearby (as long as it is age-appropriate and safe). Or better yet, engage your child in what you are reading. Remember that scene in Three Men and A Baby where Tom Selleck reads to the baby from his financial magazine? That is actually a great practice. At such a young age it is important for your child to be exposed to sounds and concepts of print but the "storyline" is less important so hey sometimes go ahead and read to them- from your own collection. As your child gets older and your reading choices are less appropriate you can try this idea in different ways. Read aloud from a recipe as you cook, take a walk in your neighborhood and read from signs as you go, read 1 or 2 sentences from your book or article and have a conversation with your child about it.
Read as a family and your child will have so much to gain from the experience as he/she bonds with you and also expands their journey as a life-long reader.
What routines do you and your family share?