If you were to walk in our home, you’d notice books of all sorts stacked in every room. You’d find them on shelves and tables, on nightstands and bedside floors, even a few in the kids’ beds. We are a household of readers, which may not be surprising considering Mark’s and my own love for words. From the beginning of our marriage we have read books to or alongside one another, at bedtime and on road trips and such, so when we had children, it was natural to establish a regular routine of reading with them, too. We read board books and picture books and chapter books. We read books aloud and together. We read books independently. We talk about books and write about books. And as our children have grown older, narrative characters and plots from books have often infused their pretend play with one another and with friends. It makes my heart smile, big time. We recently partnered with Amazon and their Kindle for Kids, so as it turns out we are now enjoying books in a new way in our home. I’ve always felt reticent about e-readers. I love paper books. But over the last few weeks, I’m understanding more of their benefit in our home, not as a replacement to printed books but as a partner to them.
While our three older children are now confident independent readers, my youngest is still growing as a beginning reader. She is a busy bee, always preferring movement to stillness, talking instead of quiet, doing instead of observing. She is so much fun and an excellent maker and doer––which I love about her––but sometimes she needs extra encouragement for the sort of activities that require focused, quiet concentration, like independent reading. As a parent, I want to help nurture this ability to quiet herself and concentrate, and so we practice a little each day, just enough to form a habit of it. As for loving reading, she’ll get there in her own time.
I have been surprised to see how the Kindle is helping hold Olive’s interest in more difficult reading. Perhaps the format is more approachable and engaging for her right now. I’m not exactly sure, but I’m going with it. Currently, she reads aloud a single book in her collection to me, A Bear Called Paddington, a book we’re both loving, and I let her choose from her collection which to read on her own, often something on a lower reading level. We have stacks of beginning readers at home, which are ideal for their brevity and familiar words, but while were were away, she kept trying to read Paddington on her own, as well as Tales from the Odyssey, both of which are more difficult reading for her still.
Naturally, the other kids are enjoying it, too––my middle two children especially––and we’re filling their collections with free books for Kindle through Amazon Prime to feed their appetites for books, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Tales from the Odyssey, and The Hobbit to name a few favorites. Amazon also offers a Kindle Unlimited subscription for all Kindles that I may look into at some point. It seems perfect for a family of avid readers.
We’ve spent more time in the car lately than usual, and last week, the kids and I quickly left town for several days on a family emergency. Without time to check the kids bags, I was grateful that Olive happened to grab the Kindle, even when she forgot a winter coat and boots. During different points, when the busy house called for a quiet hour or rest time, the kids rotated turns with it, even their cousins! As I’ve watched them with the Kindle for Kids this last week, I thought it might be helpful to note some of the features I am loving for my young readers, for any of you also new to the world of e-readers:
Simple Screen / I actually love the analog feel of the Kindle, the way it looks like a book page instead of a computer screen, and yet it’s still intuitive enough with a touch screen. For the kids, this seems like a perfect blend: technology without the distracting frills. It helps direct their attention toward reading.
Scalable text size / As an adult, I have forgotten how intimidating small text can be. Both of my girls love that they can enlarge the text size in chapter books. For more challenging books, increasing the text size helps Olive to focus on each word, rather than the page of text. I think it also helps her feel she is getting somewhere faster, since she can flip the page more often. Action-oriented. Wink. Wink.
Create Individual Collections / As I’ve shared here before, we share most technology in our home, so I really appreciate that the Kindle for Kids allows me to create a specific collection for each of my children. We talk about the books they’re interested in reading and I inventory the content and double-check the reading level for the younger one. When my children want to read the same book (often!), I can put one book in more than one collection, although I only purchase the book once–just like our paper books. The collections give each of the kids a sense of independence and personal space with a shared Kindle.
Word Wise / When I read aloud to the kids and run across a more complex word, I’ll often pause and ask if any of them understands what it means. I also encourage them to circle new or unfamiliar words in their books during their independent reading, but more often, they simply skim over them. On the Kindle for Kids, you can turn on Word Wise for younger readers, which will add brief definitions in the margins to the more complex words on the page. If a child taps the word, it will expand to the full definition with examples and synonyms. These words are automatically filed on flashcards for you to review with your child when they’re done reading. I like to think of this as a reading assistant. Wink.
Setting Time / I assign quiet rest time or reading time daily for my kids. For the older ones, they often read longer than I plan, but for the youngest, it helps cultivate the habit or being still and reading. The Kindle for Kids automatically includes a parental controls option, where I was able to set up Amazon FreeTime. The parent sets up a collection for the child(ren) and assigns a specific amount of daily reading time before they can exit. Each of my children is able to keep track of how long they’ve been reading or how long they have left right at the bottom of the page. For parents of struggling readers, this tool can be used to help track time and progress for other rewards or incentives, too.
Password Protected Browsing / In order for children to leave the Free Time option, they have to have a parent password. So it prohibits my children from web browsing, which I love, as we don’t allow our children to browse the web on their own quite yet.
Two Year Damage Protection / Enough said.
Travels Easily / We don’t fly in planes often, but we do take road trips, run errands, and spend daily time outdoors. I love that this little thing can easily slide into someone’s bag, even my own.
Not just for the kids / Okay, so I made my own collection, too. Although I still prefer paper to screens––mostly because I like writing in my books––I love the convenience of the Kindle and imagine I’ll be borrowing it for myself from time to time.
Learning to read can be really challenging for some children. On this journey, I’ve learned it’s best to adapt to the children’s time and pace. Reading isn’t just for one season of life. It’s for all of life. It’s a long game, and to cultivate anything for the long run means patience in the beginning. Cultivate the enjoyment of stories of words at home, and you’ll cultivate a hunger for books.
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Thank you for sharing this. It sounds like our daughters have a lot in common. We too are working with her slowly and her ability to read is getting better bit by bit but it has been a struggle. We know that it will come to her in the right time and we are patient and encouraging to her, however hearing that others have the same timing is reassuring. =)
Thanks for sharing, Bethany. Faith and I were talking about you recently and how your older kids enjoy reading so much. Our boys are at the age where they are wanting to hear longer stories. I have a few books I have gotten, but would love to hear if there are any books your children particularly loved. Or if there is some magical list somewhere that you reference on what stories to read when :) As always, love your blog ?
Apologies for the delay, Kristen, and thank you. Oh man, the list is long. In the preschool years, we read whatever they were interested in, which seemed to rotate through themes: sharks, dinosaurs, Star Wars, and so on. We took a weekly trip to the library and stacked tons of picture books. For chapter read alouds in the PK years, we read the Narnia series, EB White books, some Beverly Cleary (they loved Ralph and the Motorcycle), Peter Pan, and others I can’t seem to remember in the moment. I hope that helps a bit. Big hugs to you all!