We all know that the brains of young children are primed to notice everything.
I was reminded of this one day when my (then) 3-year old child, eyebrows furrowed, tapped me on the hip until I turned the vacuum off.
3-year-old: “Who’s coming ovah?” (I miss those days of r-less speech!)
Me: “What do you mean?”
3-year-old: “Well, you’he vacuuming.”
Me (sputtering indignantly): “I do vacuum other times, you know.”
My inner voice: "Sometimes. Not very often. Oh no. He's probably right."
Me (reluctant sigh): “Grandma will be here in half an hour.”
In case you were wondering, 3-year-olds do self-satisfied smiles quite well.
So I had unintentionally created an association that “vacuuming = guests coming over.”
Could be worse, right?*
Most of the time, though, we parents work hard to create thousands of positive associations every day, from babyhood on.
It’s why there are superheroes on toothbrushes and rainbows on underwear. We’re trying to get kids to associate healthy habits and useful life skills with good things.
Here in the Youth Services Department, we are in the business of helping kids learn that they feel good with a book in hand.
We have lots of ways we try to foster this. Board books in the Early Literacy Play area; a full calendar of caregiver-child storytimes to fit everyone’s needs; cozy reading corners; a huge collection of materials.
But the best way for kids to learn to feel good with a book is to add yourself into the equation: YOU + KID + BOOK = MAGIC.
Whether you choose books that twist your tongue, books that sing, books that require your best British accent, or books where you both erupt with laughter – all of those moments offer an opportunity to connect.
Then the goal becomes less about teaching your child to love reading, and more about building a deeper connection with your kiddo through the world of books.
Because of course, the most important association that a child can make is “parent = safety, acceptance, love.”
And reading books together is a great way to get there.
Reading to your kids doesn’t have to end once they can read to themselves.
I like to read out loud to my kids for as long as possible - kids of all ages need connection with their parents (and bonus, all benefit from listening to reading).
For me, reading to connect is the ultimate plazy** parenting activity.
We get to have a shared experience - suspense at a cliffhanger, relief over how things turn out - and I don't have to pretend to understand how to create a machine out of redstone to defeat the Ender Dragon.
I don’t have to come up with any new ideas; the author has already done all the work for me.
All I have to do is read.
Did you know that DPPL has reading clubs, 1KB4K and Patch Club, designed to reward you for all this great reading?
In my world, the 1KB4K acronym could stand for any number of things….such as 1,000 (1K) times of questioning my sanity before (B4) Kissing my children good-night.
Or...1,000 (1K) times of reminding myself to practice gratitude before (B4) the end of the weeK.
But, this is a library, so 1KB4K stands for 1,000 (1K) Books Before (B4) Kindergarten (K).
By the time you finish the program, you'll feel like an amazing parent, having read 1,000 books to your child!
And – your child will bring home a 1KB4K t-shirt (because nothing commemorates like a custom t-shirt).
If your kiddo is in Kindergarten through 8th grade, try out DPPL's recently revamped Patch Club.
In Patch Club, kids earn patches by reading, or listening to, books. Check out all 30 options (and even if Patch Club doesn't sound like your thing, our booklists can help you find great new titles). Some of our most popular patches focus on Transportation, Fantasy, Adventure stories, Humor, and Graphic Novels.
Join either the Beginning Reader club (Kindergarten through 2nd grade) or the Independent Reader club (for 3rd – 8th graders).
Stop by the Youth Services desk to get more information and register for either program.
And, in October, you can enter a special raffle when you sign up for 1KB4K or Patch Club.
Returning 1KB4K and Patch Club participants can also enter the raffle.
I've included some reading ideas below. Hope to see you soon!
* I'm not sure which is more embarrassing, that or when my kid looked up and said, "Pizza!" every time the doorbell rang.
** Plazy = Productive, filling a purpose, but lazy - doesn't require much effort on my end.
Sometimes the biggest hurdle to reading to my kids is finding books that we both enjoy.
Have you tried NoveList, also accessible from our All Kids' Resources page?
The site allows you to easily find titles, and also offers recommendations or "read-alikes" to help you find new books.
We've found several read-alouds that way. After we finished the Ivy and Bean series, NoveList introduced us to the Dyamonde Daniel series by Nikki Grimes, and that brought us to the Cody series by Tricia Springstubb.
And of course, you can always stop by the Youth Services desk to get personalized recommendations!
by Andrea Cheng
We had fun with this one. Each time the main character mentioned a new book she was reading, we stopped reading The Year of the Book and read that title...from picture books to entire chapter books. We had to renew The Year of the Book several times, but it was worth it - we were introduced to a bunch of wonderful stories that we wouldn't have otherwise encountered.
Of course, books are just one way to connect with kids.
The Des Plaines Public Library has a ton of resources for your whole family to spend time together.
Try out some new music together - for example, Putumayo World Sing-Along and other titles electronically on Hoopla. Or, enjoy a new outing together using our Museum Adventure Pass program. And be sure to check out our Discovery Kits for more fun family learning!
Left to my own devices, my parenting style might be described as "Neurotic with a Chance of Oversentimentality" (and if you get my reference, yes, my children probably wish they could sail away on boats made of bread and pizza).
Because of this, I'm incredibly grateful for great parenting books.
Kurcinka's Kids, Parents and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime, as well as Raising Your Spirited Child, were really helpful to me in understanding how my children's personalities interact with my own, and how to connect through conflict.
This title did a good job on distilling the complexities of neuroscience and child psychology into practical strategies.
And, if you find yourself parenting a kiddo with a history of trauma, you might find The Connected Child: bring hope and healing to your adoptive family by Karyn Purvis helpful, or try this one.