Learning to read is an important milestone for any child, but a parent’s job doesn’t end when your child finally learns to read on their own. You want to foster a love of reading that will last throughout your child’s life. Reading can be especially impactful for military kids. Not only will reading and writing help connect them with family members and friends who live far away, but books can also be useful tools during periods of military life stress, such as during deployments and PCS moves. In honor of National Literacy Month, here are some creative ways to encourage your military child to read.
Make books a part of bedtime routine: The love of books can begin at any age. Keep colorful, sturdy books at home to read to your baby or toddler. While it may be years before they learn to recognize the letters and symbols, very young children find comfort in the repetition of a familiar story. That’s why they request the same book again and again. Reading before bed is also a great calming activity and bonding time between parent and child. You won’t regret starting this nightly routine.
Visit the base library: Your base library is a wonderful resource. Not only do they have books, magazines, DVD’s, music and audiobooks to check out, but they also host a variety of activities specific to military kids. Younger children will enjoy the songs and interactive activities from story time. Older children may be able to take free classes like coding or 3-D printing and find resources for school projects.
Replace electronics with books when you go out: Whenever you head to a doctor’s appointment or a restaurant where you know your child will spend time waiting, it may be tempting to grab a tablet or game system to entertain them. Instead, encourage your child to bring their favorite book to read. If you visit the library often, they will always have new titles to choose. Not only are books quiet entertainment, but they are fun and educational too, providing more lasting benefits than video games.
Read every day: Task your child with doing their recommended reading homework. Teachers at most grade levels encourage 10-20 minutes each night. You can read to your younger child or encourage an older child to read on their own. Provide fresh reading material throughout the year with trips to the library.
Get rewards: Pay attention to school reading incentive programs. Your child may be motivated to read more for a monthly prize or reward. Some schools give coupons for free ice cream or pizza for reading accomplishments. Take them out and celebrate when they reach milestone goals.
During PCS moves
Use audiobooks in the car: PCS moves can mean long car trips for the family. Instead of relying on individual electronics to entertain the kids, consider using audiobooks. Find longer books or series written for older elementary kids so the whole family can enjoy the story.
Keep favorites close: Familiar objects help children feel more comfortable during a big move. When you are living in a hotel or in a new town, children will feel more relaxed if they have their favorite books and toys with them. Let each child bring a backpack with some favorite books as their entertainment during your move.
Ship books ahead: When moving overseas, families can prepare an express shipment that will arrive at the new location when they do. Be sure to include some books in the express shipment so kids will have something to read while waiting for Household Goods to arrive. You can add favorite titles, new activity books, or other new surprise titles for them to enjoy before you find the base library.
Stories can connect across the distance: When a parent is gone, children miss their voice, their face, and their role in everyday household routine. Reading books together is a great way to stay connected during deployment. In locations where video calls are not available, service members can use apps like United Through Reading or A Story Before Bed to record themselves reading a book. The child at home can then enjoy reading with their parent any time!
There are many opportunities to encourage literacy for your children. No matter what age they are or what challenges they are facing, military kids can benefit from reading. Books can be learning opportunities, sources of comfort, and opportunities for connection for military kids. Use these methods to foster literacy in your household today.