Literacy-rich environment. Have you heard the term? In my quest to grow bookworms, I want my kids to be raised against a backdrop rich with literacy: books, storytelling, writing, songs. It all works together to create a climate in our home where we share in the joy of reading and language.
So what does that look like with two energetic little ones and only so many hours in the day?! Their endless energy and need to explore, usually by tearing apart things, digging in dirt and the like, could seem to be at odds with a literacy-rich environment. And that would be true if it were all about sitting still, listening intently for long periods, and answering comprehension questions. Fortunately, that’s not what it’s about!
But, in my own home, I’m finding that the battle isn’t really against the attention spans and energy levels of my bookworms. It’s a struggle that I, Mama Bookworm, am waging against my own distractedness.
As part of my self-assigned professional development, I’ve been reading Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters. What a challenging, timely book that is compelling me to rethink how I am going about my life. A word I keep coming back to is mindfulness. It’s so easy to let the “downtime” be swept away by distraction: the many dings of my smartphone, commanding me to check that email, respond to that text, reply to that status update. The laundry pile, the dishes in the sink, crumb-covered kitchen floor, they all beckon. I can pull away and oblige. The kids won’t notice if I take a quick peruse of the facebook newsfeeed. It’s only two minutes. I’ll just tidy this pile. They need to learn to play without being entertained. Right?
Or, I can be the master of my device. I can recognize that I am a Stay at Home Mom, not a Stay at Home Maid, or a Stay at Home Social Media Mogul. I can focus my energy on the souls in my care. I can be mindful of the way I set the tone in our home.
If I want to raise kids in a literacy-rich environment, I can heed the advice on my smartphone’s lock screen and be all there. When I do, I never regret missing a mindless video someone just posted on social media. On the other hand, when I am fully present, I easily find ways to incorporate literacy in our day, layering it on top of our daily activities.
I read while we’re hanging out at the park sandbox.
I read Pete’s a Pizza while we’re eating a pizza dinner.
We sing in the car, and at the stoplights I add in some motions or clap to the beat rather than sending a quick text. (Is it a moving violation if I’m not moving?)
I don’t want to be at odds with cultivating the literacy-rich environment I long for. But, I find that I am my own worst enemy. So I’m working on being mindful of how I fill our time, of being fully present with my kids and taking advantage of the windows of time when I can engage the kids in some literacy fun.
It’s easy to drift, to try to survive till naptime, till dad gets home, till bedtime. But I don’t want to drift! I want to cultivate a literacy-rich home, and it’s my job to do so! Here are some ways I’m setting myself up for success by making literacy available and appealing:
- Books that I truly love are everywhere! We have baskets of books in every single room. Perhaps the most important rooms are the kitchen and play room. The kids’ bedrooms are a given; we’re always going to read in there. But when there are fabulous books in the kitchen and playroom, it’s easier to grab them while the boys are eating or playing. (Anyone else’s kids enjoy marathon eating sessions? Like 45 minute lunches?) Books that feel like drudgery to read I donate or put into the closet to revisit down the road.
- Books are traveling companions. We bring books in the stroller and in the car. If we have some unexpected waiting time (how many books can we read while the car’s getting gassed up?), or find a nice spot like the aforementioned sandbox, we are ready to read! These are usually books that aren’t part of our normal rotation, so it’s even more special.
- I realize that kids can multitask! As an experiment, I began reading a book while Toddler Bookworm was playing. It didn’t seem like he was listening or aware I was even reading, so I stopped. Immediately I heard “More mama! More reading!” Another time I skipped some pages of a well loved book. He stopped and came to investigate the book, turning pages to find the section I missed. Hmm. Yeah, they’re hearing more than we give them credit for! This is how newly mobile Baby Bookworm hears the majority of his books, as he multitasks (i.e. as he finds new ways to tear apart the house)!
- I realize that there’s more to literacy than books. (Gasp!) Books may take the forefront in my own home as Librarian in the House, but we also enjoy storytelling, finger plays, action rhymes, and music. Our favorite children’s musician is the Laurie Berkner Band, and you’ll find one of her CDs in our car at all times. I also have 3×5 spiral bound index cards with our favorite finger plays, action rhymes, and song titles recorded to jog my memory. I often grab that right after a diaper change as body rhymes lend themselves nicely to that time.
I know the goal is a worthy one, so I am fighting to be more mindful and intentional as I build a literacy-rich home. How about you? Is this struggle familiar to you?
Keep Reading, friends!