Motherhood

How to Raise a Reader

How to Raise a Reader

When I think back on the most sacred rituals with my two (now teenage) daughters, reading to them at bedtime definitely dominates the highlight reel. But guess what?

Reading rituals don’t just have to happen at night. There are all kinds of other ways parents can send the message that books are special and reading is important. Here are five examples:

1. Throw an Impromptu Reading Party

New York Times writer Dwight Garner once wrote about a “popcorn reading party” ritual in his house: “Here’s how you have a popcorn reading party: a) You make popcorn. b) You gather a pile of your best kids’ books. c) You yell, “popcorn reading party!” d) You try to work it out so that the kids books end at about the same time the popcorn does.” This idea makes my head spin with variations: Why not a cupcake reading party? (Bake a batch, then read a chapter or two while they bake.) Why not a “fireplace reading party” whenever it snows…or rains!? The point is, associate reading time with something exciting (as you know, with young kids the bar is usually pretty low) and you’ll help hook ’em for life.

2. Inscribe a Book on Special Occasions

In their new book How to Raise a Reader, Pamela Paul and Maria Russo suggest giving a book to your child on his or her birthday every year with an inscription explaining why. I love this idea so much. Not only does a personal note make the book more enticing to read, but someday, many years later, you’ll pick up your child’s copy of, say, Amos and Boris, and think to yourself “Remember how sweet her obsession with whales was!?” When my daughter graduated from her elementary school, we encouraged her to donate and inscribe a special book to her school library — on the inside cover of The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, she wrote a note to the librarian thanking her for all her recommendations. She now wants to do the same when she graduates from high school.

My then 11-year-old in Seattle’s Elliott Bay.

3. Visit the Indie Bookstore

Whenever my family is traveling, we always try to hit an independent bookstore. Whether it’s McNally Jackson, on the way to dinner in Manhattan or a detour on a beach vacation to Talk Story (“The Westernmost Bookstore of the United States”). These stores are in the business of creating welcoming worlds around literature and everyone can take advantage of that. We always tell the kids they’re allowed to purchase one book, but we are suckers and usually end up leaving with a haul. Joanna also loves libraries with their surprises and delights, like buckets of legos or reading cubbies. “The boys each have their own card which makes them feel so grown up,” she says.

4. Read What Your Kids are Reading

For many middle or high schoolers, reading for homework (as opposed to reading for pleasure) can often suck the fun out of books. When you decide to read a school book along with them, it eliminates the book’s obligatory status and sends the message that there’s something exceptional happening in these pages. I often do this with my kids when they’re reading a book I loved as a kid — like The Catcher in the Rye (man, it gets better with every reading) — or when they’re reading a book that I should’ve read as a kid, but somehow missed — like The Giver, easily on my all-time Top 10 list, and not surprisingly, now on my daughter’s, too.

5. Birthday Party Book Swap

Another tip from How to Raise a Reader: Instead of handing out goody bags at your child’s birthday party, have a book swap instead. Ask guests to wrap one of their own used books and bring it to the party. On the way out, everyone gets to choose a gift-wrapped book. (Imagine how enticing a pile of those presents would look for anyone, but especially for a kid.) “It’s far nicer for both child and parent than going home with candy,” they write. “And clearly demonstrates to children that books are something special; they mark an occasion, and provide a happy ending.” Amen.

Do you have special rituals around reading? Please share…

P.S. The coolest book tradition in Iceland, as well as 18 children’s books with female characters and 18 kids’ books with characters of color.

  1. Robyn says...

    The best way to raise a reader is to set the example and be a reader yourself. Secondly, a phrase I picked up from a webinar is when reading with a child it should be “laps not apps”.

  2. Erp says...

    My kids both love being read to. But the best gift I was ever given was a Little Virtuoso portable CD player when my son was 3 and my daughter had just been born. When my son needs to rest or when I need to put his sister down for a nap or deal with a puking emergency or someone is sick or during a long car ride or when I need a MINUTE OF QUIET, cue the boom box (instead of screen time). We have a few books on cd — some Magic Treehouse, the Mercy Watson Collection, Stuart Little (the narrator is amazing!) and some Jim Weiss story cds, but we also borrow from the library. What I love most about having a boom box is my kids don’t have to ask me for my phone to listen to something—they know how to work it themselves which makes it easier and it’s also just one more way I can keep iPhones out of their lives, which I strive for but of course don’t totally achieve.

  3. Heather says...

    I do Bedtime Book Stars with my kids, 5 & 7. When they earn 20 stars for good behavior (listening quietly, being respectful of their siblings book choice, helping to read, etc) then I reward them with a trip to the book store to pick out any book they want.
    The best part is rewarding their reading with more books!

  4. Kristie says...

    My Nanna has paid for a National Geographic magazine subscription for my family for as long as I can remember. My brothers and I loved to open the fresh magazine and pore over all the pictures and read the stories. I have always been a bookworm, but for one brother who struggled with reading, this was an entrancing engaging way for him to read too.

    • Gab says...

      I just subscribed for National Geographic Kids. Thank you for the great idea! My kids love reading about animals.

  5. agnes says...

    Well, thanks to this wonderful post, I told my 6 year old that he could come the next morning, to our bed, and that we would read in bed the 3 of us, as there is no school on wednesdays in France. Now: he woke us up at 6 am with 3 piles of books: one for him, one for me, one for my husband. He was SO excited! It was hilarious, and we’re so tired tonight! (but happy). Thank you, you’re my favourite place on the internet.

  6. Angela says...

    I was so inspired by the last 2 posts regarding reading and children’s books. One of my most prized possessions is our children’s home library and I need to step up my game for the preschool set. To ramp up our reading and enjoy this cozy season, I planned on recommitting to our public library and hit a dead end. Our local library is THE WORST and I am so disheartened thinking of kids who go there to develop a love of books only to be met with impatient, unhelpful librarians. I had a list of 10 books I saw recommended here and was told by the librarian, “they don’t do that” and to come in and check for myself. Our library resembles the book section of Wal-Mart featuring mostly conservative biographies, religious fiction, and bonnet-wearing Amish girls, so I had hopes they could use inter-library loaning to hold those books for me. Be thankful for your warm, engaging, community building local libraries! They do exist, but unfortunately not out here in red-state, middle of the sticks America, where we need them the most.

    • Kay says...

      Ugh that sounds awful. I’m so sorry! A lot of books can be found for free as pdf formats or read aloud on Youtube. Hope that helps out a bit!

  7. Mona says...

    I love this post! I’m an avid reader and so is my hubby. We have a seven month old baby girl and read to her lots, lately she’s been trying to turn pages and lights up when she sees her books, even though she can’t focus more than abt a minute or two.
    But I’m feeling so guilty and am so worried I might be harming her by having the tv on in the background too often. I need it for my own sanity, I find parenting very hard and have battled with depression all my life, and need to have gardening shows on to remind myself there is a world out there beyond the cold gray Swedish winter. Am I harming her future reading interest by subjecting her to the screen?

    • Oh Mona, with you 100%. There’s a statistic for how we’re harming our babies everywhere, but take credit for how you’re loving and forming and creating a real true human being. Whatever makes this whole thing easier for you. Mine’s one.

    • Angela says...

      I grew up with a TV as a babysitter. My mom worked days and my dad nights, so we watched all the early 90s/ late 80s classic movie while my dad slept- The Goonies, Pretty Woman, Lost Boys, The Legend of Billie Jean, etc. All that to say, I am a voracious reader finishing 2 books a week easily, scored super high on vocab and comprehension testing, and my first job was in the children’s department of the public library. Parenting is tough, especially so when battling mental health issues. Do whatever you need to do to survive and keep modeling the love of books and reading and stories. Your girl will be a great many things!

    • CEW says...

      Hi, Mona! I am also a voracious reader and cognizant of how background TV noise/distraction could affect my son.

      I would say no, no, no, and – again – no, you are not harming her. It’s better for your daughter to have a healthier, happier mama than to focus on creating a Platonic ideal of The Perfect Reading Environment. That won’t happen, and that’s OK.

      Just try to model intentional media usage (using it mindfully is the key, and using it to stay sane in a dreary winter is intentional usage IMO) and keep reading to your baby and reading around her so she sees it’s valued in your home. It will all work itself out!

      For what it’s worth, I watched a ton of baking shows to stay awake and de-stress in the first couple months of parenthood. My son (14 months) loves to play with books, be read to, and has started babbling while paging through books (typically backwards :). Meanwhile I expended a lot of my own energy early on worrying about what turned out to not be an issue whatsoever. (AND that’s with my husband not being much of a reader at all; if both of you guys are, you definitely don’t have anything to worry about!!)

      Tl;dr: don’t beat yourself up too hard, and have lots of fun with your daughter! Best wishes.

    • liz says...

      Not even going to couch this with any thoughts to be mindful about anything – no, no, no, no no no you are not harming her. You keep that tv on 24-7 if it makes you happy. The fact that it has even crossed your mind makes you a GREAT mom. Stop worrying about this now. There is too much worry to parenting to spare even another moment on this, I promise you. hugs.

    • Erp says...

      Aside from everything already said — which I totally agree with— I’d say 7 months is pretty early for a baby to be turning pages and to be so interested in books. My kids are both HUGE bookworms but I don’t think that started until about 10-12 months! So rest assured, you’re doing so many wonderful things for your baby and engaging is the most important thing—TV on in the background doesn’t matter a bit!

  8. Robin says...

    Every advent season I wrap up our collection of Christmas books (I started when they were mostly thrift store finds and not even 24 of them, but usually buy one or two new ones each year so our pile has grown and I can weed out the not as great). I spend an afternoon in late November wrapping, but it’s worth it because we spend December excited every evening to open a new numbered package and curl up with old favorites and new treasures. I keep them in a basket under the tree and it’s one of our favorite Christmas traditions.

    • Louise says...

      This is a great idea!

  9. Kamisha Sullivan says...

    My family of five enjoys a good reading picnic. Of course we bring snacks, but we also grab blankets and books and head outdoors. We will take turns reading aloud or just silently with the sounds of nature. If we go to a certain park we will also bring our camping hammock. My husband and I are both teachers so this reading ritual has become more important as our kids get older and don’t always want a “bedtime story.”

    • Luce says...

      This is so so lovely! I’m definitely going to start this, thanks for the suggestion!

  10. Helen MacMull says...

    I read chapter books aloud to our kids ( 2 boys, 5 & 7) while we enforce sitting in the shade at the beach or around the pool during the hottest parts of the day. My husband is dyslexic and doesn’t enjoy reading- but he loves listening just as much as our kids! As do our parents when they’re with us, and we’ve also noticed other people sitting close by tuning in too :) It’s always a happy memory from vacation/weekend beach trips.
    We also do a lot of driving over the weekend, and use the time to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. That means we’re ‘reading’ what our kids are interested in (lots of dragons, spies and Roald Dahl!) and leads to awesome conversations, and lots of laughter, too. We’re all increasing our vocabulary, understanding and general knowledge all together- even though no-one is physically reading a book. (Although the kids and I adore reading books every day too!)

  11. Virginia says...

    These are such wonderful ideas, both in the original post and in the comments. Such a gift, and something I know I’ll keep coming back to a lot over time. Thank you, Jenny, and the whole CoJ community!

  12. Hannah Prater says...

    Growing up my mom would wrap 25 books and set them out in a little wicker sleigh at Christmas time. My sisters and I would get to pick a book to read each night leading up to Christmas. My mom still puts her little sleigh out even though we are all older, and it makes me smile thinking of those happy nights snuggled up on the couch together drinking hot cocoa with a sweet kids Christmas book :)

  13. Katherine says...

    These are wonderful suggestions. And also: read yourself!!! As Mr. Rogers said, “love what you do in front of your kids.” It’s incredibly powerful.

  14. Hilary says...

    As she plopped down at the dinner table last night, our daughter said, “Could I read while we eat?” I said no, but secretly, it made my heart sing! She’s reading “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” by the magical Kate DiCamillo, in case anyone is looking for a good rec for upper-elementary kiddos! (“Because of Winn-Dixie” had us both sobbing and laughing; we read it aloud together before bed. The best!)

    • Gillian says...

      When I was a kid and my dad was away on a business trip my mom and I would both read at the dinner table. It was such a treat! It was great bonding time for us, even though we weren’t conversing at the table.

  15. liz says...

    I have to say, as a 31 year old single woman (surrounded by pregnant friends and/or mothers), sometimes my initial gut reaction to these posts are “alrrright alright enough with talking about children, already!” but I have to say — reading this and all these comments gave me the opposite feeling. it made me nostalgic about childhood, excited about cozying up in the next few months and reading, and truly interested in reading here how people engage each other (including children!) around books. just writing this to tell you i’m so impressed! i’ve loved this blog for years but y’all still surprise me in the best ways. xo

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that makes me so happy to hear, liz. thank you for saying so. we try to keep kid content to mondays (since we know not all our readers have little kids in their lives), but i love that you enjoyed this piece, too. i’ll let jenny know, as well :) thank you again for taking the time to write xoxo

    • Anita says...

      I’m nearly 40, no kids or partner, surrounded by friends with small children. And I love love love the parenting content on Cup of Jo because it helps me relate to my friends with kids and be a better adopted Aunty.

  16. Karen says...

    Jenny,

    I got my son “The Very Persistent Gappers of Fripp” a few years ago based on your recommendation, and he LOVED it. He’s not a big fan of reading to be really honest, but this book was a huge favorite for both of us.
    I have to ask – – Do you have any more recommendations for 11 year old boys who would rather play video games than read?. No worries – I don’t allow it, it’s all about balance, etc., but I dream of the day when I’ll find him sitting in a chair, lost in a book.

    • MM says...

      My 11 year old son LOVES the Harry Potter books (and I would recommend that you re-try even if you have introduced them in the past. We had to do that and now he can hardly put them down.) and also the Rule of Three and Camp X series by Eric Walters. Walters is a Canadian author who writes a lot of historical fiction but the Rule of Three is more futuristic. If your son is into sports, you could try the Screech Owl series by Roy MacGregor. Oh, and Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is excellent and there are a few sequels to it.
      I hope that helps a little. We struggled prior to my son’s love of Harry Potter because many “boy” books seem to be in the fantasy genre that he wasn’t into. In addition to those I mentioned, I pulled out my old Nancy Drew books and he really enjoyed those too.
      Good luck!

    • Rhey says...

      What about looking for books and magazines about gaming? Sometimes creating a habit is about practice, and if he gets into a habit of reading it may branch out to other subjects.

  17. Lucy says...

    Hahahahaha the irony is that my parents did absolutely NONE of these things and yet I still turned into the biggest bookworm they’d ever seen. Growing up I literally had my nose planted in a book at every family gathering, every holiday/celebration, in the car, in bed late at night under the covers, under the desk in school when I was supposed to be paying attention to the teacher, you name it. My parents actually used to yell at me over my constant reading because they were typical stressed Chinese parents who saw no value in reading for pleasure; just for getting straight As, and as an introverted kid I saw it as an easy way to escape their constant badgering and fighting. We didn’t have too much money for luxuries like buying books either — I would’ve given an eyetooth to have parents willing to buy me any book(s) I wanted — so I mostly got books rented cheaper from 2nd hand bookstores, sponsored by my sister, and from school libraries because my parents sure as heck weren’t going to schlep me to county or national libraries for my hobby that they hated so much. Little did they know that my hobby would also give me excellent reading, language and comprehension skills and a love of the written word that would stay with me for the rest of my life and infirm my career choice — journalism.

    All of which to say, I guess sometimes you don’t have to try too hard for a particular outcome you want for your child, whether it be turning them into readers, musicians, math geniuses or T-Rex wranglers — they’re their own little people with their own likes and dislikes. And in fact the more you push for what you want, without taking into account what *they* want, the more your child can end up rebelling. Sometimes their interests will differ from yours. And that’s ok too.

    • Katharina says...

      Yes to your last paragraph.

      Our parents are readers. Books everywhere.
      I used to be a reader. As a Kid and a teen and a young adult. I read way less since I have kids. But we read to them every day. My husband is usually reading a few books at a time.
      But our daughter doesn‘t. She can read by now, it took her some time to learn though. But she does not read for pleasure. She does not read unless she has to. She‘s 9 years old now. And bringing books with us on trips as a pastime for her doesn’t work.

      So sometimes the apple does fall far from the tree.

    • Carol says...

      I am a big reader and often finish one book and start another right away. My sister would prefer to read a magazine any day. Reading has never given her any joy. I agree, it is so important to recognize the individuals that kids are and encourage their passions.

    • CEW says...

      Thank you for commenting this…I totally agree.

      I’m an avid reader and a lot of the reason for that was that it really was an escape for me from the hell that was living with my parents. So even though I would love for my son to be a big reader – and yes, we read stories together, we go to bookstores and libraries, and I make sure to read for pleasure where he can see me – I’m coming to terms with the fact that it is perfectly OK if he is not quiiite as into reading as I am, because he’s being raised by parents who love him and support any of the many interests he may have, and if nothing else, strong reading skills will help supplement his other hobbies.

      …but if he’s a huge literature nerd that’s cool too. :)

  18. Jennifer says...

    My family of four occasionally has “reading dinners”, even if we are at a restaurant (i.e., a casual weeknight dinner at a familiar restaurant). We spend at least some portion of the mealtime reading. Invariably, we end up chatting, but sometimes it’s about what we are reading. It is a great way to share a solitary activity.

    • China says...

      Jennifer, that is so awesome. So far only 1 of my three kids can read, but I will totally be dreaming about doing this one day – though my spouse would probably just want to listen to a podcast :)

  19. florence says...

    I told my six year old (who is just discovering his love of books as he is learning to read himself) just this weekend that my dream was to one day have everyone in the family reading a book in a cozy spot in the house on a weekend…

    As a child, we didn’t have a library close by or the funds to buy books. But, my dad would tell us a story every night. Usually he would make it up, often fall asleep first, leaving us with a cliff hanger. And the next night, as we would ask what happened, he wouldn’t remember! Drove us crazy.

    We moved to the suburbs when I was nine and my dad was then able to take us to the library every single Saturday. His dedication to stories are why my brother and I are both avid readers today. Just to say, it’s never too late to get into reading and the love of stories, be it audio books or paper books.

  20. Katy says...

    Oh wise readers – how do you explain about reading books on your phone? It is so convenient to get ebooks from the library on the Libby app, and it means you always have a book without you, but I don’t like my 2 year old seeing me engrossed in my phone. (Far more so than by say emails or instagram). I have started showing him the text On my phone screen, but has anyone had success with this? (And yes I know and obvious solution is just to get old fashion books)

    • Dana says...

      I struggle with this too. Honestly, I decided to just save my digital reading for my commute, after the kids go to bed, etc. I always have a “real” book going, and if I’m in front of my kids I only read that one.

      Relating to being on the phone, I recently read that it helps to explain what you’re doing to let them know you’re doing something specific and finite. “I’m just texting daddy right now to let him know we’re on our way.” “Let me check the weather to see if we need a coat.” Etc. So you could do the same with reading?

    • Mollie says...

      SAME, Katy! Waiting eagerly for an answer to this one. My husband reads very little, so I feel like it’s mostly up to to set that example, but I’m sure they’re not exactly getting the right message…

    • China says...

      Get an e-reader! my kids recognize mine and know that when I’m looking at it, I’m reading a book (and they are 3 and 6). You can still get digital books from the library, plus if you have the right kind (usually the cheaper ones!) the screens are much better for your eyes than your phone.

    • CEW says...

      Good question. Same sort of thing as Dana mentioned – I also only read on my phone when in private, away from my son. I will read on my Kindle sometimes, if he’s playing independently, since I just have a bare bones one that’s not a tablet pretending to be an ereader. But most of the time I try to have a physical book to page through if he’s around.

  21. Ragon says...

    We love books in our house and my 7 year old loves to read. In addition to some of the other suggestions (read out loud, let them see you read, go to the library, let the read what they want) here’s a couple specific from us.
    *Keep a box of books in the car. We live in LA and can get stuck in traffic going to the grocery store. I keep books in the car and never have to hear “are we there yet?” Plus a great way to entice her to read things she wouldn’t pick up on her own.
    *Graphic novels are amazing for building interest in independent reading.
    *A book poster. She has on her closet door a poster I drew of a bookshelf filled with books. Each time she finishes a book we put the title on the spine of a book. When she finishes a poster (usually 50 books) we go to the bookstore and buy more books! She loves looking back on previous posters!

    • Ragon says...

      Oh, forgot one other tip, when she’s a restless listener, I suggest she do yoga while I read to her–works great for calming her body and she’s still engaged in the story.

    • CEW says...

      That poster idea is AWESOME!

    • Ruth says...

      Ooo love the book poster idea!

  22. Erin says...

    My daughter is in 2nd grade, and her teacher asks that the students read for at least 10 minutes a day. After arguing with her over this “homework assignment” for a few weeks, I instituted what we now refer to as “book club.” Each night, I put her younger sister to bed, crawl up to her top bunk bed with the book I am currently reading, snuggle up, and we silently read our separate books for at least 10 minutes (and quite often, much longer!). After the time is up, we share what is happening with the characters in our respective books, and what we think will happen next. What was once a chore has become our favorite part of the evening, and she now loves to read!

    • Ruth says...

      This sounds like perfection! My older daughter is 4 and LOVES books so I can totally see us doing this. Though I do look forward to hopefully reading to her for many years to come. But would definitely be happy reading next to her.

  23. Angela says...

    I’ve always had a “just say yes” philosophy for the library. Can I get another book ? Yes! Can I check out all the Madeline books? Yes you can. So often as a parent you have to say no… at Target, at the grocery store etc. The library is the one place to just say yes. I consider the occasional expense of a late fee or a lost book just the price of raising a reader !

    • Kristie says...

      Love this!

  24. Emily Wallace says...

    I’ve been taking my children to storytime at our local library since they were babies (deep shout-out to Mr. Keith who makes storytime AMAZING). I’m always happy to let them check out whatever they want, but, let’s be honest, they choose a lot of nonsense. Some nonsense is okay. But, after a while, I get bored with it and want to read them some books that have more of a narrative structure, some substance. So, I mastered the HOLD system at the library.

    After several months of holding and then borrowing many favorites from my childhood, I needed some new ideas. I subscribed to several email newsletters that recommend books for children (Literati, Brightly). I save up the e-mails and every other week I go in and spend 10 minutes putting books on hold. Then, when we go to storytime later in the week I’m guaranteed to walk out with books that are right for their ages and have a little more ‘story’ in them for me.

    One more note, no one has done more for little readers than Dolly Parton. If you have a child under age 5, please see if your area is served by the Imagination Library. They mail a FREE, age-appropriate book every month to children until they turn five. It’s a phenomenal program!

  25. Sama says...

    We don’t have kids, but we live in Europe and travel a lot. Everywhere we go, we hunt down books for our nephew from that place. It’s usually really fun to chat with local bookshop owners (and other patrons!), about traditional story books from their country. We make a note for our nephew inside each book and keep a drawer of them so when we see him (2-3 x/year) we open a book together each day to read and talk about the place it comes from. Now he has an impressively international library at home! He is still little, but I hope his books will keep him curious about reading and the world. There are also some GREAT kids books in surprising place – like Nepal!

    • Katherine says...

      That’s the best idea! Y’all are definitely the cool aunt & uncle! I always want to think of things to pick up on trips and I love this idea!!

  26. janine says...

    My son is reading all the Harry Potter books now and asked me to read them, too, so we could have “book club” after and discuss the books (I’m in a book club with other grownups, so he has seen me have book club). “With snacks,” he added, because my book club always has snacks. So now we have Harry Potter Book Club, complete with Harry Potter-themed snacks (I even made homemade Butter Beer!)

    • Lindsey says...

      This is the cutest thing ever and makes my heart so happy!! How cool your son wants to have a book club with his mama.

    • Kiersten says...

      I’m a grown woman in my 40s and I wanna come to your book club!! 🙋🏻‍♀️ 😂 Homemade butter beer? Dang! Bet your son loves every minute of it, and he gets the gift of both a love of reading and an invested parent who’s right there with him.

      You rock, mama! ❤️

    • Mona says...

      I’m stealing a nap right now with a fever, listening to Harry Potter narrated by Stephen Fry and my mom is in the living room with my teething baby daughter aged seven months – it’s so hard to be a new parent sometimes but your post opened a window into the future I’m dreaming of. I feel so much better now!

  27. neda says...

    I luckily read a tip somewhere when my girls were babies to leave books around the house – and since they were very young I’ve pretty much made sure we have books in every single room. A basket of books in the kitchen, a stack of books on a children’s Ikea chair-turned book shelf in the living room, books in the bathroom because that’s always a must, and of course books in their bedrooms. They know there are books in every room so if they want to grab a book before we leave the house, they don’t have far to look. If they want to skim through a book after dinner, there’s a stack right behind the table. I’m grateful to have read that and grateful that they love to read.

  28. S says...

    I used to buy a bunch of copies of any decent $1.00 book from the scholastic flyers and give them out in birthday goody bags or along with birthday gifts. So much better than plastic junk!

    Love the idea of the popcorn reading party!! So many great memories of reading time with my kids.

  29. Marianne says...

    I think consistency is key. I highly recommend reading children’s poems on nights when you’re short on time. They don’t take a long time to read and a poem can say so much with just a few brilliant lines.

  30. J. says...

    Our parents gave us library cards for our third birthdays (well before we could read!) and created the rule that each week, we were allowed to check out as many books as our age—anything we wanted! This made turning a year older a massive celebration of “I GET TO GET SEVEN BOOKS NOW!!!” It makes remembering how many books are floating around the house/car/backpack much easier when it comes time to return. Letting kids choose whatever they want is much more freeing for little ones with a fixed boundary of the number– sure, you’ll have moments where your kid checks out a 10,000-word biology manual with every single fact about blue whales that has about three pictures and the effect of instantly sending you to sleep while trying to read it to them, but the freedom of figuring out what they like and knowing where to go in the library to find more of it will create lifetime readers.

    • Alison says...

      This is adorable : )

  31. JJ says...

    Our kids are 11 and 14, and we are still reading to them at bedtime. It has gotten much harder this school year, and we don’t get through a book very quickly, but it is very important to the parents AND kids, and no matter how long it’s been since we read they always remember what’s going on in the book!

  32. Mathilda says...

    I have learned that if you want to raise readers one important thing to do, is to read yourself. Show your kids that you yourself love to read. Dads too! Studies came to the conclusion that boys read less because they get the impression it’s a woman’s thing because they only see women reading or have women read to them.

  33. Jess says...

    Best advice I ever got about this topic was – read in front of your kids. Don’t just tell them to do it – show them. It will be hard and you might only get in a few pages, but let that be a memory they carry. Their mother reading. For fun.

  34. naomi h says...

    We have a 10, 7, 5 and 2 year old. It can be challenging to find stories that resonate with all of them, but I find it stretches them to hear a story that might not be a favorite. Something that I notice is that adults often think children are too young to hear chapter books read aloud. We are reading The Narnia series aloud and our 5-year-old is in such suspense and cannot wait to have us read the next chapter aloud! He absolutely loves all of the detail and asks really insightful questions. Read often and early are two guidelines in our home. Love the memories of reading together even when interruptions occur.

  35. Abbey says...

    I love this post. What great ideas.

    For me, the Number One thing that I believe will sneakily make a kid into a dedicated reader is seeing their parent reading. That’s it. Phones and laptops out of reach or switched off. Just pure reading indulgence. As a kid, nothing made me more enticed to read than cozying up next to my mom who was completely ignoring me because she was so interested in her book. Seeing her be so present with a book, concerned with no one and nothing else in the “real” world, set me free to fully go there with what I was curious about reading for myself.

    My brother was different. He hated reading in school but my mom turned him into a reader despite his initial resistance. He was assigned Moby Dick and they read it aloud together every night for weeks and weeks. Moby. Freaking. Dick. Suddenly this 13 year old delinquent went all intellectual. I was just a bystander and it changed me!

  36. liz says...

    Jenny – I think I remember reading that you were just in MN. When you come back, make sure you visit the twin cities for some truly wonderful bookstores! Wild Rumpus – easily the greatest kids’ bookstore anywhere with a small but perfect adult selection; Magers & Quinn – new and used, they have everything, it is heaven; Birchbark Books & Native Arts, owned by the incomparable Louise Erdich; Once Upon a Crime – thousands of mystery titles!; Moon Palace Books – another indie bookstore that just nails it. Then there’s the Loft Literary Center which is this INCREDIBLE community of readers and writers. All summer long people hang up hammocks in public parks and read. We have gorgeous and varied branch libraries in Hennepin County. And we have the best reading weather from November to March, haha.

  37. Kay says...

    Growing up, I was (and still am) a voracious reader, often choosing to read over watching TV. I would get in trouble actually for reading so much, especially at night. by the light of my nightlight. However, growing up in a household with immigrant parents, reading was not very common. My father worked 12 hours at a restaurant 6 days a week, and my mom was a housewife raising 3 children and didn’t speak a lick of English. (She had also dropped out of school at the age of 15 in her native country.) We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so purchasing books did not happen often. I accumulated books when my teachers gave out books as gifts for Christmas or the last day of school. However, every 2 weeks my mom took us to the library and I brought stacks and stacks of books home which developed my love for books.
    As a 5th grade teacher, in an inner city neighborhood, where most of the parents also work long hours or multiple jobs, buying books is not priority compared to other necessities. I try to keep my classroom library up to date with the latest books. I also let students look through the Scholastic fliers, choose books, and I borrow them from my library and bring it in for them to read. Fostering a love for reading WILL happen in my classroom.
    Now that I have my own little family, reading is a focal point of our daily lives. We live very close to the library so I, or his father take my 5 month old son for Mother Goose time every week, and borrow a ton of board books. I’ve also bought him a lot of the crinkly books and indestructible books because he loves chewing on them. We are a Hispanic/South Asian family so many of the books I read to my son feature brown skinned children like him and are bilingual. I want him growing up, seeing himself reflected in the pages of books, something I didn’t have the opportunity to do when I was younger.

    • Carol Barclay says...

      Kay, I love your story. I feel like I know what a good teacher you are!

  38. Aaahhh! So many great ideas! Thank you!

  39. Bex says...

    I don’t have any special reading rituals (kid-less here!), but I do remember in elementary school, my sister won a raffle that gained her a personal reading of a book in our home from our principal (gasp! do teachers even exist outside school??). We got to invite friends and have a little party and listened to “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”. It’s always stuck with me that our school cared enough to show us how important reading was by making it the PRIZE to a raffle instead of a toy or something else. No surprise, my siblings and I are big readers today!

  40. Rebecca says...

    Once, I asked my introverted 13-year-old son on a reading date, just the two of us. “What’s a reading date?”, he asked. Well, it’s a date where we go out and eat delicious food together while we each sit and read our own book. We went, and he declared it the Best Date Ever! Now that I think about it, it’s probably time for a repeat!

  41. Gillie says...

    In my elementary school, parents could donate money and the librarian would buy a new, special book that was given to you on your birthday. There was a sticker placed in the front cover that included your name and how old you were turning and then you would get to be the first person to check it out on your birthday!

    • Vanessa says...

      That’s excellent.

  42. Teresa says...

    My mom started a tradition of giving a book to me and my sisters on the last day of every school year. It was usually a special book — a hard bound book, often a classic, that was new-to us and often somehow tied to the year. For example, I got The Phantom Tollbooth the year I fell in love with math.

    It is a tradition I’ve continued with my own kids — and husband, a professor— who are all excited to kick off the summer with a new book to read. And I love finding notes from my parents in books I’m now reading with my kids — like the Charlotte’s Web I got when I finished kindergarten!

  43. OMG, the birthday book swap is BRILLIANT. Using this next year. Thank you!

    • Monica says...

      Kids bday in 2 weeks. Totally using this idea. *Heart expands with joy at this idea*

    • Roberta says...

      We read about the birthday book swap party here on Cup of Jo few years ago and we have done it since then for my now 6 year-old son. Instead of bringing presents, we asked the other parents to bring a book, either new or used. My son has the right to chose first (it’s his birthday after all…) and then we draw the other kids’ name from a basket. In order to give a little bit of choice even to the last kid, we usually include two extra books in the pile. The first year was great, but the second was even better: many kids spontaneously brought two books so we ended up doing two rounds of drawing names!

  44. Ingrid says...

    When my youngest child was in third grade she didn’t like to read. She was going through a tough having had several losses in her life so what she did like to do was cuddle mommy. I saw an opportunity for a win-win situation for me the two of us. Every weeknight my husband would clean up the dinner dishes while Elena and I ran upstairs to put on our pjs. We climbed into my bed and read for an hour every night – it was heavenly. My kids are now 25, 27 and 29 and are all avid readers. In fact, they just came up with a new Christmas tradition. One family member (starting with the oldest child, of course) will pick a book each year to be read by, and discussed on, Christmas Eve. I couldn’t be happier.

    • Liz says...

      Love that christmas eve idea – filing it away for the future!!!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      That is such a sweet story. I love that you actually schedule the discussion, too.

  45. We wrap 25 books as our Christmas Advent activity. Each book package is numbered (sometimes corresponding to an activity we have planned, sometimes just a fun book), and opened each day leading up to Christmas. Some years we’ve wrapped books we’ve already loved because it’s fun to re-read them. It’s such a nice bonding activity to slow down and enjoy a good book during a busy season.

    • Allison says...

      We do Advent books as well (this will be our 6th year) and I often get lobbied in advance for the favourites to appear early in the month. It’s become one of my most favourite holiday traditions.

    • Roberta says...

      Great idea! I will do it this year! thanks!

  46. Amy says...

    I just had to comment that I LOVE how many responses there are to this post! In an era of digital communication and smart phones (both of which I use too often myself…) I love to see how other families share reading with their children.

    My son and I have started doing “reading parties” this year, and we both love them. We settle in at night with a book and a cup of tea or hot chocolate – I think adding popcorn would be very popular!

    Love to the Cup of Jo team – keep reading, everyone!

  47. Blair Kurland says...

    I love this post! I’m an elementary school teacher and I think it’s so important to model reading for pleasure with my students. I try to make a point of pulling out a book and reading while my students read. I have a million other tasks on my plate, but sadly most of my students just see their parents on technology when they are at home. They need to see that adults read for pleasure too.

    Secondly, around the holidays I buy enough books for all of my students and I wrap them for a white elephant gift exchange. Afterwards, I project a Yule log, my students bring in blankets and pillows, and we get comfy to read for a bit.

    • Robin says...

      ❤️❤️❤️. Lucky kids!

    • Marina says...

      OMG Blair! You’re the best teacher ever! God bless you!

  48. Anna says...

    I teach high school English and I always encourage the parents to read the books with their kids if they have time. Most are too busy or not readers themselves, but I had one student who was chronically apathetic and doing very badly in class. I suggested to the mom she read the next book with her daughter and it ended up being really bonding for them! The student immediately improved and at the end of the book she told me it was her favorite book because her mom reading it with her had made her “feel really seen and loved by my mom”. When I told the mom later she feared up and told me how hard it had been lately for her to connect with her daughter. Make your kids feel loved !

    • So powerful and life-changing!

    • Amy says...

      GREAT story Anna!!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      This is amazing. Do you remember what the book was by any chance?

  49. cem says...

    I totally agree with your assessment of school assignments and assigned reading, and the pressure of how many books in a certain time just takes the fun out for kids. All my kids were avid readers of all different genres until 7th grade when books became assignments and they were only supposed to read a certain number of pages before a quiz….now my 11th grader has no time to read for pleasure. Hoping when they are adults it comes back, I am always reading so my fingers are crossed. And there is nothing as magical as an independent bookstore, or a well displayed library!

  50. Kim says...

    My parents helped me get my own library card at 6–the soonest our local library would let children get one. I carefully wrote my name on the signature line in my tiniest kindergartener scrawl. I felt so grown up each week as I collected a new armful of books and checked them out with my own card.

    • M says...

      Oh my goodness, until now I hadn’t really realised how lucky we are here in Scotland where babies are given a library card when you register their birth.

  51. Katie says...

    We moved to a new town when I was five. At the end of first grade, my mom was eager to help me maintain friends and continue reading, so she created a first grade book club and invited all of my friends to our house once a week to read, talk about, and make crafts related to a book. On the last week of bookclub, our first grade teacher was our surprise guest. It was the best and I still think about it 25 years later. Thanks, Mom!

    • Julie says...

      We had a mother daughter book club in elementary school and for my pick I chose the first Harry Potter. AND EVERYONE VOTED FOR THE OTHER ONE. I still give them a hard time about it, given that we are all big Harry Potter fans now.

      We also did a Laura Ingalls Wilder book club where we embroidered bonnets, did a play, and made ice cream from scratch.

      Childhood book clubs are the best.

    • Lee says...

      Just amazing. #momgoals

  52. Molly says...

    Not a parent, but I am a middle school language arts teacher. I think one of the most powerful things parents to do in order to raise readers is *be* readers themselves. Model that for kids. Help teach them how to find new books based on books they like by modeling that yourself. People, kids and adults alike, need a “to read” list in order to maintain a reading habits. Listen to audio books together as a family. Make it part of your life as much as you hope for it to be a part of theirs.

    • Anonygirl says...

      Yes! I’m 37 and grew up watching my mom read. She stills read a lot, except now she balances her Kindle on one leg, her phone on the other, knitting on her lap, tv blaring and does all four at once. It makes me so sad that she can’t put her phone down or turn off the tv long enough to focus on things that are more enjoyable and better for her brain. Reading with tv on is extremely distracting to me (I need complete silence), but she’s over there doing four things at once.

  53. Fiona says...

    A couple of years ago I remember reading Lin-Manuel Miranda’s utter joy at having just finished his wife’s favorite book (Moby Dick!) – he said it was like discovering a secret room in your house! I’ve since used it to get to know people (my brother-in-law, a new friend I was getting close to), and best of all, with my nieces and nephews. They suggest a book, I read it, and vice versa. I love that as soon as I jump in the car with them on the way home from the airport, my 11 year-old nephew always asks “First things first, what are you reading?”.

    • Robin says...

      Ahhh love this so much.

    • florence says...

      That’s so sweet!

  54. Courtney says...

    As a mother of 3 boys (12, 14, and 16), 2 of whom blossomed easily into being natural and voracious readers, my heart sinks a little when I read well meaning pieces like this one. These are all great and important things all of us should do for our children, I did everything “right” as far as raising readers goes and felt that things would fall in place accordingly. We are conditioned to think that if we do certain things our children will just learn to read.
    This post requires a follow up. 1 in 5 children are dyslexic. As much as 20% of the population has some degree of dyslexia, many are undiagnosed, not supported in schools and never get proper help.
    My youngest son was not diagnosed until 5th grade with dyslexia. I want others to know that it is not always a given your child will become a reader, even if you do everything right.
    Parents of young children should expose them to books and model reading but when reading doesn’t just “click”, trust your instincts, get your child tested and educate yourself.

    • Jemma says...

      Completely agree, that this is something that needs to be brought up. I wonder if it would be better if we framed things as “how to raise listeners of stories?” For example, my sister has a disability that makes reading tricky at times. Instead of forcing her to read books, my parents found that she still loved stories, even if she didn’t want to physically hold a book and read them. So they got her interested in listening to books on tape, they didn’t care that she listened to Harry Potter multiple times just as long as she found a story that clicked for her. I wonder, if we remove the emphasis on only reading and put it on curiosity and enjoying stories (in listening or reading form, whatever works best for an individual), if that would improve things. Obviously, there are a lot of factors at play here, but this could be one way of reframing things.

    • Maddy Corey says...

      Love all the suggestions above and in the comments! I have a great love for audio books for kids of all ages! There are some books, I don’t want to read 1000 times, but the CD or MP3 player does! I have 2 siblings who are dyslexic and while reading from a book is slow and very time consuming for them, audiobooks have become their jam! Also my dad listens to most of his books these days, while driving, working and putting himself to sleep. There is such great access to audio books these days. Audio books Yay!!

    • Angela says...

      As a mom of a 9 year old with dyslexia, I scrolled through all the comments hoping someone would raise as an all-too-common issue those that struggle with reading — despite all of the cozy bedtime rituals and creative book-themed gift-giving. Thank you Courtney!

      As a way to learn more about the flip side, I would recommend this recent article and podcast (part of a series) for anyone seeking to understand how ineffectively reading is taught in the U.S. today –

      “A shocking number of kids in the United States can’t read very well. A third of all fourth-graders can’t read at a basic level, and most students are still not proficient readers by the time they finish high school.

      When kids struggle to learn how to read, it can lead to a downward spiral in which behavior, vocabulary, knowledge and other cognitive skills are eventually affected by slow reading development. A disproportionate number of poor readers become high school dropouts and end up in the criminal justice system.“

      https://www.apmreports.org/story/2019/08/22/whats-wrong-how-schools-teach-reading

    • carolyn says...

      This is an important point. When I taught 3rd grade many years ago, I had students who were in the “lower” reading groups, back when they did that sort of thing. They enjoyed the stories, just not the reading process. I made sure that every day after lunch we had story time where I read books to the kids that were above the reading level of most of the students in my classes so that good books would be accessible to all of them, whether they could read them or not. This fostered important conversations among all the students, not just those that could read those books. We read the Wizard of Oz series, Roald Dahl’s books, and one of the favorites was From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. When I saw students in years after that, they all commented on how they loved when we read in the classroom. I always read to my children and they are all readers now, even my dyslexic daughter who does her best to read to her daughter, although her husband does most of the reading to our granddaughter.

    • Molly says...

      Thanks for bringing this up, Courtney. My heart sank when I read the title, too. I have a husband and daughter who are dyslexic. Both who are voracious (slow) readers, but received so much help when they were still early elementary: tutors, summer schools, accommodations and compassionate learning specialists in schools. We are privileged to have resources and knowledge of family history to help guide us. My daughter used to memorize books the teacher was reading out loud so she could fake it before she was diagnosed. She wanted to be “a reader” so badly! I also want to thank Jenny (the author of this piece) whose guide “121 Best Kids Books” I downloaded years ago from her site and still reference! It is spot on.

    • SS says...

      My husband is severely dyslexic — was a horrible student/reader as a child. He’s found a new love for books with reading to our children, and has really worked through a lot of self worth issues around not being a good enough reader, reading outloud etc. As with all things…. some stuff is really tough for some of the population. Fortunately, dyslexia can give the individual some really exceptional talents elsewhere, (spacial awareness and facial recognition), I hope your son finds a similar round about way to love reading as an adult.

  55. Chelsea says...

    This didn’t happen until I was a little older, but I think I became the most voracious reader once I started swapping books with friends in early middle school and it became a social thing. There’s nothing better than passing a non-assigned book around a group of friends and hearing which parts each person loved or stuck out the most to them. It feels like your own secret club in the best way. Once your kid has finished a book they read, encourage them to pass it on to a friend (or a possible new friend) and the gesture will probably be reciprocated. I discovered a lot of my favorite YA books on recommendation from other girls in my class.

  56. Elizabeth says...

    My 20 year old daughter tore her ACL at the very first part of the summer – leaving us with a long, slow recovery. The first weeks after surgery were painful and frustrating – so I started reading her the last book in the Mo LoBeau series. At first to get her through the icing/compression treatment. But then it became bedtime reading as well. So a hard season for her – and for me – but also very precious. I thought I had probably read to her for the very last time years ago without even realizing it – so it was a sweet surprise to get the opportunity again.

  57. kk says...

    For our boys’ birthday part – they celebrate together – we do the book as a parting gift thing. We ask each guest to bring a wrapped book, and put it in the basket when they walk in. Then, on their way out the door they grab a book. It’s more of an open house party, so most of the time families aren’t leaving at the same time. So there’s no book comparison. It’s a get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit sorta thing. And the kids love it, and parents love that aren’t coming home with a bag of trinkets or sweets.

  58. Mouse says...

    I think that fundamentally all parents have to do is to read themselves, for and with enjoyment, and kids will pick up that it’s the thing to do. My parents are passionate readers, so am I and my 2 siblings. The youngest is fairly severely mentally handicapped–at a 4 yr level–and she learned to read because that’s what we all did. She saw us with books in front of our faces, and so she would hold a book in front of her face, and eventually learned to read at the level she could manage. She still reads, at age 53. Family togetherness and fitting into the family can be a real motivation…….

    • Kelly says...

      I couldn’t agree with this more! I don’t have children yet, but family reading time – whatever it is you want to read – will absolutely be a thing in my home when I do. :)

    • Hannah G says...

      Same! My parents were always huge readers and seeing them read was a part of life. So was going to the library for everyone to pick out books. My dad also read aloud to us when my mom would do the dishes. I don’t think any one of these factors made me a reader, but all of them combined made me a person that feels weird if I don’t have another book on my reading list.

    • Maggie says...

      For this reason, I need to stop reading books on my phone – something I started when I had two toddlers because I needed something I could read anywhere, any time I had a brief free moment – I never had a book on me so I was hardly reading anymore. But now my oldest is five and learning to read and I want him to see me reading real life books!

  59. I LOVE the idea of a popcorn reading party – need to do this at home soon! When my kids were little, before they started going to school full-time, 1-2 times a week we’d pick out a pile of books and put them in a tote bag, and head out to a neighborhood coffee shop where we each got a treat (coffee for me!) and read together. I also am a firm believer in reading to your kids…I’d drop everything to read to them if they ask me to, unless i’m in the bathroom ;)

  60. Janey says...

    I recently threw a baby shower for a good friend and asked that every guest bring a copy of their favourite childhood book (or one their own children loved) with an inscription for the new baby.
    Was fun to watch all those beautiful books being unwrapped and the inscriptions made the mum to be quite tearful!
    A great start for a brand new human’s bookcase :)

    • Robin says...

      My friend and sisters did this for my baby shower! I was amazed – I only got two duplicates (goodnight moon and alligator pie ;). And tons of books I hadn’t seen before, though I love children’s books. It was a real pleasure to discover everyone’s favourites.

  61. Laurel says...

    When my grandchildren were born, I started sending them an alphabet book each month until we reached #26, one book for each letter of the alphabet. It was fun for me, a retired school librarian, picking out different books and they had fun getting something in the mail, just for them. I also send them a Halloween book at the beginning of October. And, a Christmas book in December. And, random books throughout the year. I guess I can’t stop buying books!

  62. Lexi says...

    This was a lovely and thought-provoking post – I really enjoyed it. One additional tip that was certainly important in my life was the content of what I read. Huge disclaimer: I’m not a parent so this only speaks to my experience growing up, but there were never any restrictions or rules on what I could/could not read. I was encouraged to pick up any book that caught my attention, no matter my age. My parents saw me reading everything from Regis Philbin’s biography to sexually-explicit bodice rippers to books detailing the experiences of young girls sold into sexual slavery. Nothing was off-limits as long as I understood that if I had questions and concerns then my parents would always be available to help me. Did I occasionally read some books that caused bad dreams or introduced me to really serious themes I maybe wasn’t ready for? Sure. But I think that made me a more compassionate, open-minded person.

    On the flip side, I think of the content my young niece is allowed to read. Her parents are HUGE fans of sci-fi books, and their daughter has been raised with the assumption that she will like that genre just as much. She’s almost five though, and it is very clear that she just isn’t interested. She doesn’t like to read at all, really, and I think it’s because the only books she has available to her are ones chosen based on what her parents are interested in – not what she is. Even if it came out of a place of love, the content of what she reads has been taken out of her control, and as a result she isn’t really a reader. To my make my long story short, I guess, I’m just a huge advocate for giving kids choices when it comes to reading. Kids are people – the have their own unique interests, personalities, and limits. Make sure that they have a safe space to ask questions, and then set them free to experience books on their own terms.

  63. Michaela says...

    I love this so much. I have a “Someday” bookmarks folder on my phone full of sweet and unique ideas for the someday when I have kids of my own…it’s basically becoming a 1:1 archive of any article related to parenting and children published here.

  64. Parker Low says...

    Every year for my goddaughter’s birthday, I give her books that I have collected from the places I’ve traveled in the previous year. I try to find books that are related to the place I bought them (Make Way For Ducklings, from Boston) and write about the day I bought it on the inside cover. Sometimes they’re popular children’s books (The Lorax, after visiting Joshua Tree National Park) and sometimes they’re written by local authors that I would have never found otherwise. Often they’re from a National Park visitors center (a book on Teddy Bears from Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota) and sometimes they’re from the airport book store, but she doesn’t know the difference ;)

    • Jessica says...

      I love this!

    • Dawn says...

      This is such a thoughtful idea! Would love to do something like this too!

  65. Ali says...

    My mum always encouraged us to keep a list of everything we’d read — the year my brother was 12, we were living abroad and he was having a bit of a tough time socially in middle school and he ended up reading ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY BOOKS. My parents have his list from that year framed in their house! It’s such a treasure.

    Now I do the 50 book pledge (50bookpledge.com) every year, and I find it keeps me motivated in part because of how pretty my online bookshelf looks as I log each book I’ve read — the cover of the book appears on a virtual bookshelf. You don’t have to pledge to read 50 books; it can be 25, or 10, or fewer. It’s a really satisfying record, and now I have such an easy way to recommend things to friends. I bet a tween would find it pretty darn satisfying!

  66. Joaquina says...

    Please be mindful that certain cultures place importance on storytelling versus reading books. I mention this because I work in early childhood education and in our very diverse California city, we have to be mindful of how we encourage literacy-rich activities.
    I grew up with Yaqui and Mexican grandparents and a Mexican father.
    Though both of my parents were educators, growing up, we heard nana, tata, and dad TELLING stories. This led to enriching vocabulary, narrative structure, and the yearning to seek out books.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      such a great point, joaquina. thank you.

    • Megan Shea says...

      Love this reminder. I would also add that reading does not come as easily and naturally to every child and/or adult. Listening to, watching and telling interesting stories can be just as wonderful. To over emphasize the unquestionable awesomeness of reading, can make struggling readers, or kids who just don’t love to read, feel inadequate. It’s a lovely activity for sure, but there are so many lovely activities that some people find more fulfilling.

  67. Claire says...

    My mom was an English professor before she decided to stay home with my three sisters and me. She constantly (even now) weaves poetry and quotes from her favorite books into her normal speech, almost imperceptibly. I remember reading Hamlet for the first time in High School and discovering that several of my mom’s best lines came from that play! She did an incredible job instilling a love of reading in me. And I have a couple of cherished childhood memories that came to mind when I read this article:

    To fuel a love of reading in my sisters and me, the summer after each of our second grade year was our “summer of 100 books” and each of us would read 100 books and record their titles, and at the end we would get to go on a special weekend outing with Mom and Dad. I will always remember going to Red Robin in the neighboring town and discussing my favorite books over an oreo milkshake before staying the night at a local motel.

    Second, I distinctly remember the Christmas someone (maybe my dad?) gave my mom The Da Vinci Code. The next day, I was very sick with the stomach flu, and all the rest of the family went skiing, but my mom stayed behind (never liked skiing) and was glued to her new book, even to the ignoring of her invalid child! I was incensed at the time, but now I get it. She could not put the book down and finished it in one day! (I recovered just fine).

    Third, my mom always read what was hip and trendy in children’s/YA lit as I was growing up. When we read Harry Potter, she read Harry Potter. When I read Twilight, she read Twilight, same with Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Giver, etc. Moments after school when we would discuss books over cut up apples and peanut butter are still some of my most treasured memories. Even now (I’m 28), she’ll ask what I’m reading and often start reading it too, and I still just love discussing books with her.

    YAY reading!!!

    • Milli says...

      This is really beautiful, your mum sounds wonderful

  68. Abesha1 says...

    On inscribing books:

    Use a ballpoint pen, and write on the inside cover for maximum longevity.

    This especially goes for board books, too! Little hands will eventually wipe off anything written on the outside, or even in Sharpie marker, and it’s so sad.

    • Angela says...

      Yes! And as a frequent buyer of used books, nothing is as cool as seeing a loving inscription in a new-to-me-book. I get the gift of a new story and one I start imagining between the gifter and the receiver of the book. In fact- I just recently purchased Knuffle Bunny for my kids, after seeing it mentioned on this blog, and there was a darling inscription about someone’s long ago fuzzy bunny. Swoon!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i agree, angela! it’s so touching to see an inscription on a used book and wonder about the story and relationship behind it. xoxo

  69. Lynette says...

    We have a family “readfest” at the end of every day. After the getting-ready-for-bed duties are done, we all lay around in our son’s room and read individually until lights-out. It’s a fantastic way for all of us to decompress in the evenings and for me to stay on top of whatever I’m reading since my son takes me or my husband missing readfest to do dishes or other chores very personally. 😀 It started as a way for the grown-ups to just get a second to breathe while waiting for bedtime to come and quickly became a beloved family ritual.

  70. Alice says...

    Read! If they see you with a book then that’s the norm.

    Encourage a love of stories. I believe there’s a story in everything (I write children’s books so I really should!), so get them to make up stories about a ship, a bubble, a stone, or whatever, and write them down or act them out or draw them out. Do it with them. Nurturing a love of storytelling in general will create a yearning for more stories, and books will be their first port of call. Hey presto, hello reader :)

    Visit your library. Let them choose.

    Buy and donate second hand books. Share the love!

  71. Megan says...

    Favorite quote I’ve heard on this v important topic:

    “School is where kids learn to read. Home is where kids learn to love to read.”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that!

  72. Emily says...

    My mom or dad read to me and my sister every night while we lived at home. I didn’t realize how unique this was until I got into college and realized that no one else did this. It was so fun to have Jane Eyre and the Lord of the Rings read aloud to us and I feel like it made every aspect of my life better growing up. I want to emulate this with my kids and keep reading even after the ages that a lot of families stop.

  73. Rk says...

    “b) You gather a pile of your best kids’ books.”
    …the thought of the not-so-best kids looking on as the parents made a pile of their favourite kiddies’ reading material brought me great amusement. I am truly juvenile. Sorry!

    • Brianna says...

      This made me laugh!

  74. Kristin says...

    The Birthday Party Book Swap idea would be great for adults too. Next time I have a get together (maybe for the holidays?), I am going to ask the invitees to wrap a favorite (used) book and we can do a swap mid-party. They will make great conversation-starters!

  75. Lauren says...

    Since we had our son earlier this year, my husband has done most of the bedtime routine with our 3.5 year old daughter. He realized she was tired of our books. He started going to the library and bringing home 30+ books at a time to stock the other side of her bookshelf. I have been amazed at how much she has enjoyed the new stories… and what a variety the library has. Different cultures, fables, themes…. it’s incredible! He’s even started making recipes from the books. First up was latkes. I’m excited to see what’s next!

  76. Krista M Sharp says...

    We did all the things we were supposed to do raise an avid reader. She had so many books! We read to her every night when she was younger and we would take her to the library. She would pick out books she liked, or wanted to have read to her. But once she started school we noticed something was off and she hated reading. We had her tested through her school and she has an auditory processing disorder. And while she loved to have books read to her when little and she could understand the information, when she reads it to herself she struggles. All through elementary school she struggled with reading which made her really hate the activity. We tried sooo many things. By the time she got to middle school she wasn’t even trying anymore. We were able to get a great tutor and she is now reading at grade level. But reading is still considered a chore for her and is a lot of hard work. I’m not sure she will ever become an avid reader, but that’s ok.

    • JenM says...

      This is so important! Thank you for your comment. I’m the parent of two dyslexic children and it took a loooong time (and an excellent tutor) to get them to grade level. They HATED reading. Reading printed text was near to impossible. During the years prior to diagnosis (thank you Boston Children’s Hospital), I thought I was a failure as a parent because I wasn’t raising avid readers, despite a house absolutely filled with books and almost two decades in the publishing industry. Almost 20% of all readers are on the dyslexic spectrum–and that’s just one kind of learning disability. We are not alone in our experience and yet it’s not talked about enough. For other parents reading this, if your child has an unexplained difficulty learning to read, please consider having him or her evaluated. The Yale Center for Creativity and Dyslexia is a wonderful resource for dyslexia and Boston Children’s is a resource for that and many other LD’s. While you are figuring things out, find other avenues to help your child build language and vocabulary skills. Storytelling, audio books, film–there are so many ways to tell a story and kids should not be made to feel that the route that is best for them is somehow “less than.” Yes, reading is magical and I have happily devoted my entire professional life to books and authors, but it isn’t magical for everyone.

  77. Emma says...

    My mom always read to us before bed, but every now and then my dad would come in and take over. My dad is a don’t stop until it’s finished when it comes to books and movies so whenever he took over we were like “Yes! The last 100 pages are happening tonight!” And he would read and read on oblivious to the eventual snoozing of his three daughters.

    • bonnie says...

      This is great, Emma!! I can so picture the exhilaration of Dad night!

    • Sonja says...

      oh that is so awesome! I am still smiling :)

  78. Ella says...

    My 4.5 year old loves to be read to, endlessly, especially at bedtime and, erm, at meals. I’m so curious what his relationship to books is going to be like when he’s able to read independently because he doesn’t like to be alone EVER.

    • Georgina says...

      My tip with my 3 kids is to put books everywhere. We have them all over the house and it’s amazing how often they just stop and pick up a book, either leafing through and looking at the pictures or actually sitting down and reading it. We have books in the bathroom too and it’s amazing how they even sit and read whilst on the toilet. My youngest is a real extrovert and used to hate being read to. He’d try and rip books up or throw them and I despaired. Now he’s 4 and I keep finding him squirreled away in corners with a book and it’s so lovely to see.

  79. Samantha says...

    What a timely post, I just finished listening to The Enchanted Hour And was so inspired I asked my husband to listen as well. It’s given us both a good dose of motivation to continue and increase reading to our three young children. I highly recommend the book.
    We also love to find books at the library that pertain to events or trips coming up. We read a lot of fiction and non fiction about Incas before traveling to Peru. Seeing their eyes light up as we saw in real life things they had read about was very magical. This works with simple trips like reading How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World before a trip to an apple orchard. It’s magic in real life.

  80. Bekah says...

    My daughters are 3 and 5. I recently went back to working full-time after being a stay at home mom for 4 years, and the girls started kindergarten and daycare. Our weeknights and weekends have been packed, but last Saturday we had an open day. We went straight to the library, scoured the Mo Willems selection juuust in case there was one we’ve missed, and were content to sit and read and play quietly. I miss the impromptu midday cuddle sessions and baking cookies at 9 AM just because, but honestly, I miss our frequent library visits almost as much. It was a ritualistic, comfortable part of our routine and my best tool in the arsenal for getting my kids to love books from an early age. That being said, I really like these ideas that can be incorporated into our evenings. It seems to be a time for new rituals. Popcorn reading party? Sign me up!

  81. Elizabeth says...

    I’m from Tennessee, and our queen Dolly Parton funds the “Dolly Parton Imagination Library.” All you have to do is sign up, and they will mail you one book per month from the time your child is born until they start kindergarten. It’s the coolest thing ever, pretty much.

    I’m an English teacher and a lifelong lover of books. While I certainly accept and honor the known science on reading (reading to your kids when they are young really does make a huge difference), I also recognize that a lot of it comes down to personality type. I am introverted, a home body, imaginative. It made sense that I would be bookish. Kids who are a bit more extroverted or have a high need to expand physical energy might not take as easily to the reading life. And that’s ok!

    Equally as important is knowing the “turn-offs” for reading. As a teacher, I’m constantly trying to avoid these turn-offs (though I teach teens, so unfortunately their love of learning/reading has often been beaten out of them by the school system by the time they are in my classroom). For example, we know that being made to do work while reading (completing questions, taking quizzes, etc.) turns young people off. Not being allowed to CHOOSE is a big turn off as well. Think about it: as an adult, do you continue reading a book that you’ve decided you don’t really want to read anymore? Of course not. So why should kids? When we make young people adhere to really unnatural reading practices, we stifle their natural curiosity and passion for something that most children have a love of when they are quite young. It’s just a matter of knowing how to stoke that love of learning so that it grows and never burns out.

    • Andrea Bateman says...

      Thank you for highlighting the Imagination Library. This is an international program so here’s a link to see if its available in your area:
      https://imaginationlibrary.com/
      I’ve been a volunteer for our local Imagination Library for years and I can’t say enough awesome things about it! And, if it’s not in your area, consider starting a chapter with other book lovers!

  82. Gabi says...

    When I was a kid my school did DEAR time (Drop.Everything.And.Read). Randomly throughout the week an announcement would come on the speakers that said it was DEAR time, and everyone would stop what they were doing and read for 20 minutes. I wish we had that at work!

    • Magdalena says...

      this is great!

    • Elise says...

      We did that too! It was my favorite.

  83. Leigh Licata says...

    I have a friend who is a kindergarten teacher and he said to me that the best thing to do is let your child see you reading privately and quietly. My husband and I are huge readers. My kids always carried around a book and would pretend to read it before they could read. I also agree not all children are going to be huge readers and that’s ok. As long as they can read and comprehend they will be fine.

  84. Manda says...

    I was never “allowed” to read late into the night.. I say at least sometimes, let them read with a flash light waaaaaay into the night :)

  85. Maddie says...

    Want to encourage good reading habits, take your kids to the dang library for Storytime!! Storytime is a fairly universal program that most public libraries offer to prepare young readers for word pattern recognition through talking, singing and playing. Librarians often curate a collection of children’s books and literacy resources for parents/caregivers to check out after the program and studies show that storytime is correlated to gains in literacy for pre-school aged children. Also… it’s FREE!!! As a public librarian, I’m really surprised this list didn’t include taking your young children to Storytime at the local library.

  86. Molly says...

    I will say – some kids are just not “readers”!

    My parents are both huge readers, my brother and I both love to read, but my sister – a self-described “non-reader”. My parents read to us every night before bed as children (and once we could start reading on our own we would have a mini “book club”), brought us to the library all the time and generally did all the things to raise readers. None of it ever took with my sister. For a while, I remember my mom being exasperated by it. My brother and I did not hold back from some snide comments about her lack of desire to read (in retrospect, I wish we hadn’t said anything!) But my sister just had two speeds: a million miles a minute, or sleeping.

    And now, in her 20s, voila, she’s reading. I can’t believe I’m saying this, because I think that being a reader is maybe one of the most important things you can be, but to not shame children for whom it doesn’t click. I really can’t imagine that it helped that the rest of my family trended toward literary fiction and non-fiction when those were just not genres accessible to my visual-learner sister.

    It’s been humbling for all of us to come down from our literary high horses but hey – a reader is a reader is a reader. And now my sister is one too.

  87. Britt says...

    Thanks for sharing these ideas. I’m a reader and was raised by readers and have married a wonderful, intelligent man who reads the news and that’s it (well, he read my favorite book when we started dating so I would fall in love with him). Our daughter, Alexandra, was born 13 weeks early in December and was in the NICU and we read every day to her – about buses (husband’s a transport planner), about horses (I LOVE horses), about nurses (her NICU nurses were incredible), and about bunnies and bears. My husband was a fantastic out-loud reader and I grew excited to have him and our daughter discover books that I loved – Misty of Chincoteague, Harry Potter, etc. – and for me to see the literary world through their eyes. Alexandra died in January, unexpectedly since she was doing so well. Her death has been heartbreaking and devastating and we’ve lost so much and a painful part is losing the future of reading and discovering together (and a way to bring my husband into the reader’s fold for the sake of his daughter). The books we read our daughter are now hiding in storage at a friend’s house along with our baby clothes she never got to wear. This post has made me think maybe I should continue buying her books, perhaps to mark her birthday. Build a library devoted to what Alexandra might have been and the future we could have enjoyed together and dedicate them to her. And maybe, if we’re able to have a living child in our home, it would be a way for Alexandra, the big sister, to be a part of their world.

    • Laura says...

      My heart breaks for you. I am so sorry. Also, though I don’t know you, I think building her library is a lovely idea. ❤️

    • James says...

      I’ve typed and deleted a response so many times, but the best I could muster up is “I’m so sorry for your heartbreak.” I also think that your dedication library is a wonderful idea and whether you choose to build one or not, the thought is beautiful.

    • Abesha1 says...

      I’m sorry for your loss.

      Maybe, when you’re ready, you can read to each other?

    • Sonja says...

      Sending so much love to you.

    • Jeannie says...

      Thinking of you and your husband; so sorry for your loss. It sounds incredibly difficult. Alexandra is clearly tremendously loved by you, what a lovely way to honor her memory with a library.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Britt,
      Thank you for sharing your story, I am so sorry for your loss and I can’t imagine a more special tribute to Alexandra than a birthday book-buying tradition and a library dedicated to her memory. What a powerful testament to books and how they connect us not only to different worlds and eras, but friends, family and lost loved ones. Please keep us updated on your idea, it’s beautiful.

  88. Sara says...

    When I was a toddler, my mum hosted “Story Book Parties” in our neighbourhood. Parents would bring a picture book that they were reading to their babes, all the books would be displayed by the snacks, and after some mingling, everyone would sit in a circle and take turns reading the books aloud.

    Bedtime stories were also huge. I had them almost every night until I left for university. I’m studying abroad this semester and on day five of my jet lag-induced insomnia, my dad read me Harry Potter over FaceTime to try and lull me to sleep.

    I really appreciate my parents instilling a love of books in me, and it’s definitely something I hope to pass on to my kids one day.

  89. M says...

    Give yourself grace if your child is not a reader yet.
    My 11-year-old son is a voracious reader and has found his niche of books he likes. My husband and I also like to read. My 8-year-old daughter on the other hand, not so much. There has to be some encouragement on our part to get her to read a book even if it is her favorite series. We are always trying to find what she could like. We continue to read with her, and certain book to her, in hopes she too will one day find her niche and her own spark.

    • Trish O says...

      agree. No matter how much you do as a parent, not all people are born to be voracious readers. and that is ok. I read ALL THE TIME. My sons (one who reading came easy and early too and one who struggled when young) both are teens and they don’t love it. My husband, one of the smartest people I know, does not enjoy pleasure reading. He is a lawyer and reads all day. I asked what he would read as a small boy. His reply, “I didn’t. I played Risk.”

      Give yourself and your child grace if they don’t fall in love with reading.

  90. Ceridwen says...

    I read somewhere once, maybe on Cup of Jo!, this on Christmas Eve in Germany (maybe) the tradition is to give each other a book as a gift and spend the evening cosy and reading. This sounds perfect to me and something we are going to start this year. My kids love our local bookstore, The Littlebookroom. The best part about are the owners. They make the kids feel so special and their love of books is infectious. It’s always a good visit.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yes! In Iceland!

    • Elliesee says...

      It’s books and candies! Jolabokaflod. It has made our Christmas Eve special as we can’t do a gift exchange yet.

  91. marcella says...

    looking back now, I realize how my mom prepped me to be a reader! Every summer she would take us to the library and sign us up for the summer reading challenge – i devoured 100 books one summer in elementary school. we got prizes every week and at the end of the year there was a party for kids who finished the program. reading helps so much, i found that i would breeze through vocabulary tests in middle/high school and it’s from all the books i read growing up! i’m now getting back in the habit as an adult reading again at age 25.

  92. kat says...

    I couldn’t agree more! I’m a children’s librarian with a child who doesn’t like to read. It’s just not how she’d prefer to spend her free time, and I’ve come to accept it. That said, I think sometimes we think of readers as kids who like fantasy and fiction–sometimes “nonreaders” are really just readers who prefer magazines, newspapers, and nonfiction.

  93. Lucy says...

    No matter what happens at work during the day, the best part of my day is reading in bed with my girls and their dad. They are five and starting to read to us and it is such a joy. No matter the book topic or their interest in doing the reading that night (vs. one of us doing it), it is the family time that counts.

    The other thing we like to do as a family is go to the library and pick out books together for the month. Every month, I draft a book list for our elementary school that focuses on diversity; a particular culture, ethnicity, identity, etc. and we rent those books at the library. For parents looking for more diversity in their protagonists, I highly recommend following @theconsciouskid on instagram. Their perspective is invaluable.

  94. Leilani says...

    I love Talk Story – my dad’s from Kauai, and going to Talk Story and Bobbies is one of my favourite memories with him. If you’re there, you have to go across the street to Bobbie’s for proper laulau!!

  95. S says...

    I would like to add: take kids to author events! I took my two (now adult) daughters to so many author talks for free through public libraries, local bookstores, and local universities that put on children’s lit festivals.
    We would read some of the author’s (or illustrator’s) books beforehand and it was exciting to hear their process or how they came up with the idea for the book.
    It’s a special treat like going to a live show or concert and the authors are treated like the rock stars they are!

    • Sarah says...

      Yes to this! When I was little, we went to the local library and met the author of “Good Dog, Carl”, and the author Alexandra Day BROUGHT HER DOG CARL! I was four or five years old, and meeting THE Carl was for sure a highlight of my young life. I think that was the first time I realized that books could be about real people, real stories, and relatable emotions— and in the case of the Carl books, they didn’t even need words! What a valuable lesson. I still tear up thinking of that childhood reading magic.

    • Dini says...

      As a child, I remember my parents insisting I watch ‘My Fair Lady’ . And in the next school year we had Pygmalion.

      Watching the movie added a layer of depth and intrigue to the play because I pictured Audrey Hepburn in every line I read. And it made what would have been utter drudgery of compulsory reading, something to look forward to.

      Most recently, I watched ‘the Age of Innocence’ with my mum and it was done so well. After the movie, I picked up the book(lying in my bookcase) and started reading it. I pictured a gorgeous Daniel day Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer through the book. The first classic I’ve devoured like a contemporary love story.

  96. Alex says...

    I’ve always loved children’s books so having kids was a great excuse to buy more! My husband read the Wrinkle in Time series to me while I nursed our oldest son before bed (at 10 months I don’t think he enjoyed it, but I did). We’ve tried to keep books as a mutual love among us and our kids and reading what they’re reading is a great tip because there’s nothing like the heart tug of a good story, especially when shared.

  97. Anita says...

    Of course this is not a very original suggestion but take advantage of the public library! My kids all the the opportunity to get introduced to books through some outstanding children’s librarians who really know how to make books seem enchanting. As a parent I learned a lot about how to read to kids and engage them through books by watching librarians at story hour. Another suggestion, read the author’s name and the illustrators name to kids. I think it is way to get them to connect to the creative process of writing and illustrating, and a small way that might inspire kids to start writing themselves (and not thinking of reading as a passive form of entertainment). Nice post, Jenny!

  98. Hilary says...

    We love reading at our house! And our 2.5 year old is often complimented on her love of books (and her attention span) but I honestly think it’s just that she’s been read to since the day she was born AND she sees us reading constantly, so she’s always wanting to be in the loop!

    My notes to add:
    – If you’re an expectant parent, bring a special book to the hospital and write your kiddo a little note about how this is the first book they ever heard. We read “Blueberries for Sal” to ours when she was hours old and she has always said it’s her favorite book. I think because we’ve made it so special to her.

    – Christmas books! On Christmas eve, instead of new jammies (which is a fun tradition but wasteful if your kid isn’t in need of new jams) we buy a new Christmas book and write down what she’s into, any recent sweet memories we’ve made around Christmas and what she’s asked Santa for. She’s only 2, but I can’t wait until we have a whole library of Christmas books and memories to look at every time the holidays roll around.

    – Donate books, too! My daughter gets a big charge out of donating some of her books to Little Free Libraries around town. You’re never too young to give!

  99. Deanna says...

    When I was growing up, I don’t remember my mom ever objecting to my frequent requests to go to B&N or the used bookstore, whereas requests to go to clothing shopping were dismissed regularly. I was always the kid who got in trouble for reading during math…which is probably why I still can’t add 7+5 without using my fingers. In 5th grade I had to ask for an extension on my book report and I was terrified because what if my teacher thought it was because I wasn’t reading?! My teacher was understanding since I’d chosen Sacajawea by Anna Lee Waldo And had hauled it to school religiously. (My mom definitely forgot there was a not very scandalous chapter (by adult standards) in the book when she suggested it, but 10 me had her mind blown).

  100. halcyon days says...

    when I was suffering through postpartum depression after the birth of my son, in a city where I knew no one and beginning the lonely hibernation of winter, reading piles of books to my newborn was the one thing that saved me….. it gave me a focus, solace, took my mind away, gave me a new way to connect and bond, and honestly, just helped me pass the time.

    to this day, in happier times back in NYC, my favorite tradition is still going to our local branch of the New York Public Library and taking out a stack of 10-15 books, hurrying home, curling up on the couch with my now 3 year old and knowing the next hour or two would mean snuggles, funny voices, countless questions and sharing my love of reading with my little one.

  101. CMR says...

    Dear Jenny,
    You should include that 100 books PDF here that you have on your site. Such a good resource…This Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown i never would have known about but for you.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      CMR, “Emily Brown” is AMAZING, I forgot about it! (And one I’d add to yesterday’s second post about kids books that parents love to read)

      Here is the link for “121 Books”: http://www.dinneralovestory.com/121-books/

      You are hired as my publicist. xx

  102. At my baby shower for my first child, a friend’s mother gave me two board books and a card that said “Read to him every day.” I love books and had planned to read to my kids a lot, but it hadn’t occurred to me to start reading to him on day one. But I followed her advice, packed some baby books in my hospital bag, and on the day my son was born I read the board book version of Fox on Socks to him (and we have it on video!). I’m so grateful for the advice, and I definitely took it to heart; my husband and I have read to him (and my younger son) every day since.

  103. HM says...

    Definitely let them read what they like! Both of my kids love cookbooks. At age 5 and 2, they will “read” them cover-to-cover. They love the pretty photography and naming all the ingredients. They love kids’ cookbooks and grown-up cookbooks, any sort of cuisine. They absolutely devour them (pun intended).

    • Magdalena says...

      My son loved reading recipes when he was younger :)

  104. Blair says...

    As an avid reader and researcher, we try to instill the do as I do, we read for fun, to learn and to relax. My oldest daughter loves to read, my middle well she’s a different kid, she still however LOVES to be read too… My baby, loves to read too. They imitate what they know – mine know reading is fun :)

  105. Megan says...

    I recently subscribed to actual the actual NY Times weekend papers and tangible National Geographic for my two boys. I think they need physical reading materials just laying around – so that when screen time is over they have an alternative!!

  106. Danielle says...

    Just a reminder that to all the parents out there that you can do all of these things and still have a kid that’s not really “a reader”. My brother and I were raised with the same exposure to reading and books. We were read to constantly and my parents encourages curiosity and research into things we were interested in. That being said I took to reading much more easily and became a voracious reader. It wasn’t as easy for my brother and while he’s still a very curious and inquisitive person who has definitely enjoyed some books I don’t think reading is necessarily a huge part of his life.

  107. I love seeing the picture of your daughter reading with her father (I presume)! I have a friend who works in publishing, she shared with me that women make up most of the book buying (and presumably, book reading!) market! Kids need to see both parents reading! :)

  108. Hilary says...

    English teacher here (middle school) and mama of a toddler:

    Model reading. Parents HAVE to read around their kids. In our house, we read every night after dinner. Eat dinner, do dishes, relax on the couch with a book. My husband and I discuss our books at almost every meal. Creating a culture of reading in the house is so important. Most kids like to read, but when they start becoming resistant I always say, “Everyone likes to read. You just need to find what you like.” So help your kids get on GoodReads, find new authors, make recs, etc.

    Also it helps for me to always have a book on my phone or Kindle in my bag, so I try to practice reading while waiting for appointments/in lines/etc. rather than scrolling on my phone.

    • Abesha1 says...

      I read a lot on my phone’s Kindle, and I will show my kids (so they know I’m not just “playing around” on my phone, their words). I even let my toddler open the kindle app before he nurses to sleep… after I’ve already read to him, of course!

    • Michelle says...

      YES. This is what I was going to mention. My husband and are huge readers and have books everywhere – but one day we realized the kids never saw us reading, and they need to. It’s been fun for everyone to make this shift, sometimes it’s as easy as saying things like, “We need to stop at the library and pick up the book I’M excited to read…”

    • Hilary says...

      Following this up with: I know a lot of people feel too busy to read. Parents, especially. Between work (whether in or out of the home), parenting, life, cleaning, cooking, etc. it can feel impossible to find free time. BUT! I’d love for people to find time for reading, even if it’s just starting for 10 or 15 minutes. Or read one chapter.

      Also, CofJ- I’d love for a post about parenting and busyness. I just saw Dr. Shimi Kang speak (her Ted Talk is amazing), and she’s really pushing for ending this culture of busyness for us and our kids (too many after school activities, weekend commitments, late nights, dinners on the go, etc.) I LOVEEEE that idea- she calls it POD for play, others, and downtime, but it doesn’t seem to have caught on yet. I bet Cup of Jo could make it a thing!

  109. Kim says...

    “Love what you do in front of the child. Let them catch the attitude that that’s fun.”
    Fred Rogers

    I like the routine of reading at night with my children. It’s something we all look forward to. The kids know I love a rainy day spent indoors huddled under a blanket with a book. It’s rubs off on them. I love the idea of getting them their own library card! Great tip.

  110. Meighan says...

    I am a voracious reader, able to knock out a book a day on beach vacations, and when I think back to how this came to be, I remember seeing my parents read ALL the time. They never had a TV in their room, they had 3 books stacked on their bedside tables, August was the month that Harry Potter got delivered straight to our beach house rental and my dad was the first one to have dibs. I think one thing to remember is little kids develop the same habits they see their parents do, and that was definitely true for me!

  111. becky says...

    I love the popcorn idea!! but hesitate with any other food. I see more and more that parents reward with food or that the kids get preoccupied with food and miss the purpose of the activity (example m&m and potty training). Reading is a reward in itself. I love the idea of making it a family experience either everyone reads independently in the same room at the same time or taking turns reading from the same book.

    • Ana D says...

      M&Ms and potty training is a pretty hilarious analogy to bring to the party. Unless there’s a hidden cadre of 7 year olds who still only use a toilet if given candy afterwards…wait. WAIT. If you know about the toilet-resistant candy rewarded elementary school cadre, you have to tell us. It’s like being an undercover cop. You have to tell us if we ask you.

    • becky says...

      So the point may have been missed but that’s okay :) it’s not that candy doesnt work in the short term, it’s that with repeated use it sets up long term expectations for it to be there in the future or just in general to be rewarded for milestones. Kids connect the dots, “oh if I do this I’ll get a reward even if it wasnt offered”. Ive heard many times “what will you give me?” towards parents. As a professional long term nanny I’ve seen my share. Just sayin but everyone doesnt have to agree :)
      Just as an additional thought to my original comment. I visit the library numerous times a week. Even if we dont check out books, but attend story time, socialize with the librarian, and play with others if helps sets up a good foundation. But not every child will be a reader and that’s okay too.

  112. Jessica says...

    I love reading. Do you and your husband read ? I think that when kids see their parents read they want to read! This is as simple as that.
    I would love that giving my children my passion for book and reading! This is a great chance, we have to get library all around us.

  113. Whitney says...

    Last week I sat on the back deck reading next to my almost 8 year old. He was reading his chapter book and I was reading mine. Listening to the birds in the trees, feeling the warm breeze, and reading next to my (oh so grown up) son. It was a perfect scene. Dinner was later than usual that day, but reading next to my son was priceless.

  114. Melinda says...

    Well gosh, I couldn’t agree more with the notion of reading before bed. All snuggled up and sharing stories is one of our most coveted moments as a family and something I will always treasure. Regardless of how the day unfolded, that time spent reading is sacred. Thank you for the great ideas and all the reading inspiration. Books are magic and a true bonding experience!

  115. Willemien says...

    Growing up in Holland I used to love the ‘children’s book week’.
    It’s a big nationwide event where schools, libraries, bookstores and even the national railroad organise activities related to reading or specific books. If you’re a kid it’s impossible to avoid books and reading that week, it’s everywhere.

    It’s only one week a year, but it adds a lot of excitement and makes sure every child is immersed in the world of books and reading at least seven days a year.

    • agnes says...

      that sounds magical!

  116. Sarah says...

    My mother and grandmother always inscribed books for me growing up. It made the books feel like treasures. Unquestionably, my favorite book was “Linnea in Monet’s Garden.” It’s about a little girl exploring Monet’s home and gardens and learning about Impressionism, and boy, did I love it. So much so, that I dreamed about visiting Giverny for 30 years. This past summer, I finally made my way to the lily ponds and charming, green-shuttered house. I dug out my childhood book right before the trip and was particularly moved by the inscription from my mother, “12/25/89: To Sarah, my talented artist. Love, Mom.” In Giverny, I picked up a new copy to be inscribed for my baby niece so that she, too, can fall in love with art, nature and reading.

    • Melissa says...

      Oh my goodness, Sarah, we have this book (a hand me down from my artsy grandmother) and my 11-year-old has loved it for years and years and it is solely because of Linnea that she, too, dreams about visiting Giverny. It’s on the very top of her list of places to visit. It made me tear up to see that you finally made it and passed on the book to your sweet niece. Books are magical.

    • emily says...

      This is so incredibly sweet.

  117. Amanda says...

    My mom used to gift me an entire (large) box of books for Christmas each year. I was a voracious reader as a kid, and still carry around a list of my favorite books from those early years in my head. She always tried to seek out diversity in books, as well – by topic, as well as by the race/gender/age of the protagonists. I will forever be indebted for the care she put into choosing all of my books, and the quantity in which she gave them to me!

  118. M says...

    Oh my goodness I have a lot of thoughts on this. Please forgive the long comment in advance. I have two boys who are voracious readers. Constantly with books in their hands. They are now in middle school and high school and have been this way since they were young. Here are things we did that I know made a difference:

    – Let them read what they’re interested in reading. We bought ALL the Dave Pilkey/Captain Underpants books and we bought them willingly. I have a friend who refuses to let her grade school child read those books which I think is a huge mistake. If you let them follow their interests whether it’s Capt. underpants or comic books or Lego magazines, they associate reading with something that’s enjoyable.

    – Spend a lot of time browsing for books they might be interested in. I really look hard at various bookstores and online and the brochures that would come home from book fairs. I know that big box bookstores get a bad reputation, but the Barnes & Noble children section really is outstanding. Wide variety and incredibly knowledgeable salespeople. Spend time there just looking and familiarizing yourself with all the great series for kids that are available.

    – Merchandise at home! Once your child is finished with a collection of books or a series gather it all up and line it up on the bookshelf attractively. It might entice them to reread and there is nothing wrong with rereading a book or series. It can be very comforting to a child. My oldest read Harry Potter more than 10 times, and he told me on his last reading that he got something different out of it every time. It can be a pain to gather up all the books over and over and over again, but this is something I noticed did make a difference. It also made it easier for the younger brother to read the series his older brother had read a couple years ahead of him.

    – Have family reading time. When they were young enough that they had to keep reading logs for school, we would all sit down as a family in the living room after supper for at least 30 minutes and read together. It was really lovely time and we actually still do it quite a bit although thankfully those reading logs are done.

    All of this said, I think it’s really important to not take too much credit or blame. I do think some kids tend in the direction of an interest in reading and parents can’t take too much credit for that. Just like some kids tend in the direction of being adventurous eaters, and some kids tend in the direction of being athletes! I think the things we did encouraged kids that were already prone to be big-time readers. So don’t blame yourself too much if your kid is not a book addict and if you’re like me and your kids are I would caution against taking too much credit. :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what wonderful ideas! loved this one: “Have family reading time. When they were young enough that they had to keep reading logs for school, we would all sit down as a family in the living room after supper for at least 30 minutes and read together. It was really lovely time and we actually still do it quite a bit although thankfully those reading logs are done.” thank you so much, M.

      and i totally agree that kids are their own people — some will naturally love reading and some won’t (no matter what you do) and that’s okay!

    • Kristin says...

      I love your comment so much. I have nothing against making reading fun, and I have tried many of your (and Jenny’s) suggestions. But sometimes you just have a kid who is not interested in reading for pleasure.

      My husband and I are very big readers (I keep a log of what I read and it’s usually around 90–100 books a year), and we actively encourage and obviously model reading to our 3 children. We all go to the library regularly, and in general books are a big part of our lives. However, we have ended up with 1 voracious reader (age 10), 1 reader who is interested only if they are really into the book (age 7), and 1 reluctant reader (age 12). Personalities and preferences have so much to do with whether you love to read or not. My kids are all good students, but not all of them love to read.

    • Jo says...

      Thank you!! this comment spoke to me.
      I’m that mom, who expected her son to love reading just because she always did, and is now appalled that he treats reading as a chore.
      My son is only interested in reading comics and animal facts and I’d thought he needs to read fiction (for his imagination skills, right?), and history and science and what not.. Smack on my head.
      May be he will not become a reader like his mom, but he already loves desserts & sports & trees and animals like his mom. I need to learn to accept him the way he is. easier said than done.
      End of rant. And thank you!

    • Andrea says...

      What a wise, encouraging and just plain kind and thoughtful comment. Thanks!

  119. Karen says...

    I have to admit that to me, Catcher in the Rye got worse when I’ve read it as an adult. He just seems like a petulant, angry, rich white kid. Blegh. Hooray for reading, though!

    • Justine says...

      My son had to read Catcher on the Rye for summer reading, and he loathed it. I’d always meant to read it so thought I’d give it a go. I couldn’t get past the first three chapters because I really didn’t like the writing style, or the characters. Life is too short to read books you don’t like!

    • Leanne says...

      I think I waited too late to read Catcher in the Rye (in my early 20s), and this is exactly how I feel about it too.

    • Sarz says...

      Thank you, Karen! I thought the same thing; where I once found him endlessly relatable, I now think he plays into teens’ cynical leanings. I suppose high school English reading lists have a fair bit of that gloomier fare, though!

    • Lorna says...

      This was my first thought too! Re-reading it I thought gosh, who is this guy ugh hahaha. Am totally with you and the post on hooray for reading though! :)

  120. katie says...

    I LOVE children’s books – as does my husband. The joke when our first was born is that we had a full bookshelf but less than a week of clothing! I was more excited to purchase books. My game-changer as little man developed adorable obsessions (buses, bikes, balloons, giraffes) was the keyword search on our library website. MAGIC. Stories whose titles never would have indicated a match are found. And to a busy working mom, our library network is amazing for holds and transfers – I can pop in Saturday afternoon and grab my pile off the hold shelf if I don’t have time to wander the aisles. It must be a hoot to the librarians stocking the shelves – “little N is obviously into bikes at the moment…” I almost left a note for a fellow parent clearly doing the same thing with a train theme :-).

  121. I worried about this a lot before I had my daughter. “What if I have a child who…DOESN’T LIKE TO READ?!” For a bookworm like me, it was unthinkable. Then, when I noticed my daughter is super active, hates sitting still, and is extremely extroverted, I thought she wouldn’t enjoy the solitary pleasure of books. BUT! She’s almost 4 and one of the things every caregiver has commented on (after her crazy verbal skills and outgoing personality) is her love of books. She sits up in bed at night and “reads” till she falls asleep, she brings books in the car and to restaurants, and she loses her mind when I surprise her with a tall stack of “new” books from the library. And she can’t even read yet! It makes my bookish heart so happy…and hopeful that we will one day live out my greatest parenting dream: reading our own books side by side on the couch. :)

    • alison says...

      My husband and I thought the same thing with our two children, now 12 and 10. While the older doesn’t love reading as much as his younger sister, he will still read on his own almost daily!

      Totally second the family reading time comment in a different post…we have that often as well and it’s so lovely.

  122. Rebecca says...

    I think the title is misleading. I have done every single thing listed here, and I myself am a voracious reader. And, not exaggerating, I’ve done every single one of these things.

    However, one of my kids is definitely a “reader” and the other isn’t. Who knows if the tide will turn when he is older, it might, but certainly hasn’t yet. I’m not beating myself up over the fact that I didn’t raise a “reader,” and I hope that any other parent in my situation who has followed these examples isn’t either. Set good examples, always—but don’t expect that they will lead to your kid turning out to be a certain way.

    • Penny says...

      YES! I am always in the middle of a book–and constantly and consistently read to my now 19 and 16-year old boys from the moment they were born. They saw me often with a book/magazine/journal in my hands, signed up for library cards early, allowed them to pick out anything that interested in them at the book fair/book store/thrift shop, and had designated reading times at night. Neither has turned out to love reading (yet?)–trying to remain hopeful!

    • Becky says...

      Agreed! I have four kids. I’ve homeschooled them all and spent innumerable hours reading too and with them. Some weeks I’ll read two or three novels myself. The two youngest (15 and 12) always have at least one book they’re reading. 17yo loves audio books but he’s got a reading processing issue that makes reading a chore. 19yo is in college so his reading is mostly school right now, but I think he’ll come around to it again. People are different!

    • Chris says...

      Sigh. My teenager is not a reader. I used to look forward to her enjoying the books I loved – Secret Garden, Skating Shoes, etc. but nope. I did read to her all through childhood, which she did enjoy. She read some chapter books, but it just never caught fire for her. She reads the required books for school of course. But my husband became a reader in middle-age so there is always that possibility.

  123. Jo says...

    I have memories of walking to and from the local library with a cart of books. And the smell of the library! It’s still one of my favorite feelings as I walk into a library – pure, unconditional acceptance among the stories and fantasies.

    My son will be 2 next month and you can bet…we read every night. Now, he is starting to “read” on his own. He sits in his room “reading” books and asking us to read. He’s beginning to tell his own stories, too. It melts my heart in the most amazing way. I can’t wait to try reading parties, what a brilliant idea to engage in more reading throughout the day!

  124. agnes says...

    Stories are a big part of my life and I have told my son stories since he was born. I love children’s books, and I must confess that 90% of the time I buy books for my son because I like them and I want to read them (for me). We also talk a lot about stories and characters, as if they were real (because they kind of are). Reading aloud, as a family, is great because it also builds a culture of common stories, jokes, etc. I love all your advice, especially the popcorn party and the book swap for birthdays!
    I love readers, libraries, bookshops, they’re a second family and home to me!

  125. Michelle says...

    We always visit the public library on vacation! It’s free, they can be loud in the kids section, and it’s fun to see what fun things they offer. One mountain town had a box of outdoor toys you could “check out” and play with in the yard. I even got a seasonal library card at our annual summer getaway!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes!!!! we do this, too, and i love it! the library in camden maine had “discovery kits” on all different topics (volcanos, dinosaurs, flying on an airplane, etc.) and each one had books, games and even costumes on those topics. you could check them out for a week, and it was amazing to bring them back to our airbnb for the boys to play with. they also had a GREAT kids area with story times and a lighthouse you could climb! always such a treat to visit libraries on vacation :)

  126. Brianna says...

    Our family did reading parties all the time while we were growing up, but with no special gimmick. An announcement of “Reading Party!” was enough to get all three of us kids curled up on the couch with my mom, each reading our own books for hours. One of my fondest memories.

    • Leanne says...

      This is my idea of heaven. Together with the people I love, reading to ourselves. ;)

  127. Emily R says...

    My dad read to us and then with us every night before bed. I became an avid reader, and my sister did not. I loved those times with my dad and sister. I wouldn’t know any other way to go to bed other than reading.

  128. Lovely. I’m a reader – my parents were readers – and I’m working hard to be sure my daughter is a reader.

    We just celebrated her birthday for the first time in preschool, and I wasn’t eager to bring in treats or buy cheap goodie-bag-esque stuff for her classmates. I ended up buying one of her favorite books from an indie bookstore, include a little inscription, and donated it to her classroom. This, combined with the fact that she got to wear her ‘special birthday shirt’ (a thrift store shirt that I sewed a ‘3’ on), made for a special day. I see this being a tradition that I follow through with for some years to come.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s beautiful, kellyn!

  129. Taylor says...

    Also! as to number 4–present an alternative idea of literary protagonists! Jia Tolentino talks about this a lot in her new book Trick Mirror–but most public schooling (and parents) are woefully behind in the idea of who the “modern protagonist” (what we used to call the “every man”) is–and often literary heroines are incredibly one dimensional (marriage, literally its always marriage) or the characters we’re told over and over again are stand-ins for universal experiences or analogies for what it means to exist in America (Holden, Gatsby) really look and feel nothing like us. (I personally find Catcher in the Rye a painfully frustrating book every time I’ve revisited it, with Holden becoming less and less like the teens of today, and for the better!)

    Jo has made a ton of useful and amazing book recs in the past, I just have PTSD from HS teacher making us unload Gatsby as this figure of American capitalism and how I would have loved, just once, to not have a homework assignment be “understand this white male protagonists struggle.” I hope by the time my kiddos are assigned reading lists it’s less of the same.

    • Lily says...

      YES! As a POC, I’m very intentional about the kinds of books we bring into the house because the public school curriculum (ours at least) is rarely great about including content that’s reflective of the children they serve. Your comment about having to understand Gatsby made me think of Marley Dias’s impetus for starting #1000BlackGirlBooks (“If I have to read another book about a white boy and his dog…”)

  130. Bonnie says...

    …and sometimes readers are just born, thankfully. Love the idea of the popcorn reading party.

  131. Julie says...

    Our book club is just starting to have members having babies. I started buying a kids book and using the first page as a guest book where we have all the members sign it. I’ve ordered the below page to insert into the book and it’s so lovely. Well wishes from book readers to a new to this world little reader. It’s so fun!

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/268227875/book-themed-baby-shower-guestbook?ref=shop_home_feat_3&zanpid=10690_1563556615_10db31821c0bcaca8d4282fb5f65f150&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_source=affiliate_window&utm_campaign=row_buyer&utm_content=258769&utm_term=&awc=10690_1563556615_10db31821c0bcaca8d4282fb5f65f150

    • Leanne says...

      Our friends threw us the sweetest baby shower for our little guy – the first in our group really – and everyone’s gift was their favorite childhood book. Everyone was given a little card to put why it was so special that was stuck inside the front cover. THE BEST.

  132. Andrea says...

    Lovely post! May I also add two simple and free ideas:
    1. VIsit your local library. My daughter is 8 and absolutely loves the library. She’s had her own card since she was 4. I love how the library experience also inherently teaches responsibility and community.
    2. Be a parent who reads. Our kids imitate what they see, no? In addition to reading to her, we set time aside when we all have our respective book in hand and read in the living room together.
    Love to all of you at Cup of Jo!

  133. Jennifer L. Sullivan says...

    I love this post and am excited to try reading parties! We have a regular ritual around reading and tea. My kids are all different ages and I’m always looking for books that will appeal across their spread (currently, 8 to 13.) A few nights a week, the kids pick a flavor of tea and we load up a tray with the teapot, mugs, sugar, and sometimes a dessert, and then gather in the living room to read a few chapters of our current book. I’m telling everyone about our latest pick, The Nest by Kenneth Oppel. It was a huge hit for my middle school boys and elementary girls, and it’s a nice spooky-ish read for autumn. Highly recommend!

  134. Sonja says...

    I LOVE this and look forward to instituting popcorn book party tonight.
    My Dad read whatever we (all girls) were reading growing up, The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, Ballet Slippers, and dove right into YA with us, Twilight! And then, when I was 23 and visiting home my cousin gave me the Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy…anyway, my Dad read those too. Now that I’m 30 I pass along whatever book I’m done with to my folks; so far this year we’ve read Small Fry, Educated, Maid, Save Me the Plums, Less, The Power, Hillbilly Elegy, Normal People, Conversations with Friends, and The Mothers. Once I’ve wrapped up The Farm they’ll read that too. So, really, you can make anyone a reader. :)

  135. Tricia says...

    My daughter’s second grade teacher reads “Wonder” to her class every year. It’s adorable watching all the kids get SO EXCITED about a book. Even though it’s not required to purchase it all of the parents are being pestered for a copy. The best kind of peer pressure :)

  136. Eve says...

    Definitely trying the party book swap idea! My kid (2 years old) is a huge book lover which shocks me a little because I wasn’t a reader until my 20s or 30s. What caused it? Seeing her parents read (I’m reading books/magazines 100x more than scanning my phone when she’s around) and having lots of different zones of books. One more thing, as I read to her, I try to pay attention to what she’s looking at. If she’s not done analyzing a page, I stay on it and talk about the pictures. Or just pause. No need to speed read. Then again, I only have one data point here.

  137. Emily says...

    To raise a reader, one must be a reader…and the rest will follow. It’s as simple as that.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i agree that seeing your parents reading makes books feel so enticing. my parents always had books open and we would read in bed together sometimes on saturday mornings. i treasured that time as a kid!

  138. Lisa says...

    Two things to add:
    1. Let them see you read.
    2. Let them gravitate to their own reading interests.

    I am a voracious reader. As a working mom whose spouse is often out of the house during bedtime, I’ve found myself “suckered into” laying with my two kids as they fall asleep. I read to prevent myself from falling asleep. As they’ve gotten older, we’ve moved into both relaxing and reading next to each other, stopping to share funny things about our books. It’s cherished time for all of us. It’s also how they see us fill our evenings and our quiet moments. They make sure they have a book with them for all outings just in case they get bored.

    As for their interests, I’ve tried and failed to suggest books to my daughter. She’s simply not interested in what I suggest. So I let her wander the library and pick and choose with the exception of encouraging her to have a challenging selection of books.

    My son, almost 6, also loves to read. But the things that grabbed our daughter’s attention – fiction, novels, adventure – aren’t interesting to him. Again, free rein at the library, which means we read a lot of science books about space missions and lots of lego books. He loves to say that he likes to read about true things.

  139. Rezia says...

    My mother would read to us, in her bed, individually. We took turns on Saturday night- one week it would be my older sister, then it was my turn the next week, and eventually my little sister joined the rotation. She did this from about age 6 to 12. It was treasured one-on-one time with Mom.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that it was one-on-one time. that’s really special.

  140. I LOVE the bookswap idea! I’ve done this with my friends before, but how great to replace the junky toys and candy with a well loved book. Thank you!

    • Claire says...

      Yes, it is a great goodie-bag option! I buy used copies of books my son has not read yet, but will like, and give those out as the goodie bag. I always buy an extra few so each party-goer gets to have a choice, and then my son gets to keep all the leftover “new-to-him” books at the end. I loathe the small trinkets that immediately get lost around the house when the birthday parties are over; a book as a gift for coming to a party always feels so special to me.

    • Ana D says...

      That’s so cool, Claire. I’m 20 weeks pregnant and have already had two extensive conversations about birthday party goodie bag philosophy. I can get behind your strategy, 100%.

      I wonder what my next oddball “gotta figure this out before the baby is born” challenge will be…