One of the many favorite special moments that I get to share with my son throughout the day is “storytime.” I started this tradition with him, while I was still pregnant, reading children’s books to my tummy. I knew he was listening, because he would kick up a storm each and every time that I read to him. Storytime has since been a fun family tradition that we share.
Not only does reading provide those extra special bonding moments between you and your child, but studies have shown that in starting early, you can also promote improved communication skills and brain development. Of course, no matter how old your children are, it’s never too late to start a storytime tradition with your family.
There are so many AMAZING books out there, catered to all different age groups. I always feel the best plan of action for getting your child started in their reading journey is to join your local public library. It’s free and many libraries offer an incredible assortment of children’s books. Some library’s even partner with neighboring city locations in an interloan program, allowing for an even larger selection of books to chose from.
Another wonderful program to consider is Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. I had accidently (and so happily) stumbled upon this program when my son was only a few weeks old, and immediately signed him up.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a free reading program available to children of all ages. After going through a simple registration process, your child will receive a different book mailed to them each month. According to Dolly Parton, her vision for the program is for, “children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create. Moreover, she could insure that every child would have books, regardless of their family’s income."
Launched in 1995 and available in four countries, this program (as I write this) now has 830, 414 children registered, and that number just continues to rise. What a great thing, right?!
What I love most about this program, is that they actually send you age-appropriate books based upon your child’s registration information. My son has received some really great books, several of which I would’ve never heard of if it weren’t for this program. Parents can easily enroll their children by filling out a short online registration form on their website.
Just a Quick Note: While this program, unfortunately, is not available in all cities. (I even ran into this issue just recently when we bought our home and had to move not too far from where we were previously living.) The good news is, the program aims to expand with the help of local communities. If you go to register and find that the program is currently not participating near you, a prompt should pop up asking if you would like to be notified when it does become available in your area.
The last free book program that I want to mention, Operation Paperback, is available exclusively to veterans and military members. This program receives gently used books from generous donators throughout the country, and in turn, sends them to veterans and military families. Operation Paperback was started in 1999, and has since sent out over 1.9 million books to families. They actually have book genres for all ages, including young children. It is a really nice program to participate in, and we’ve received a wonderful selection of books from them. If you are a veteran or armed forces family member, you can sign up for periodic book shipments on their website.
No matter what age your children are, reading together can prove to be such a rewarding family tradition with many benefits that genuinely last. Perhaps you already read with your children or would like to start. I hope that the programs mentioned, above, can be useful to help continue or launch your child on their reading adventure. I know just watching my son’s facial expressions as I read to him are truly priceless.
Do you know of any other free programs out there that promote childhood reading? I know there’s got to be more out there. If so, please feel free to share, below. I’d love to hear about them! (Also, if I find out about any additional reading programs, I will be sure to post a follow-up)