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Reading Activities to Inspire a Love of Reading

Books are a big deal in our family.

If you’re a parent, then you already know that the benefits of reading with children are profound. In addition to developing a child’s language acquisition and literacy skills, reading impacts a child’s behavior and attention, helps develop empathy, and offers “windows and mirrors” into experiences similar and different from a child’s own. 

On top of all that, books are incredibly fun and can be a gateway to art exploration and creativity. 

Spending time together reading is by far the most important activity to inspire a love of reading! 

But, beyond that, I wanted to share some of the reading activities and traditions that we use to build excitement around books and reading in our family.  

Weekly Library Trips 

The number 1, best, most fun reading activity is…going to the library! 

We re-read books over and over again. And even when I’m tired of reading a Lightning McQueen story for the 100th time, there’s still value in reading it again. 

But I take my kids to the library each week and check out new books to read. There is always excitement about new books! And my library strategy helps too.

  • Ahead of time, I do some research and put a few titles on hold.
  • Typically, I reserve books that I want to read with the kids (because my reading enthusiasm is also important).
  • I reserve books that match our current interests (outer space and honeybees at the moment) and a couple of character books that are part of a beloved series (right now it’s the hilarious Splat the Cat books).

If you aren’t putting books on hold as part of your library game, I highly recommend it. There’s no need to track down a bunch of specific books while managing the kiddos.

Once we are at the library, I grab our holds and let the kids browse books to check out (also known as encouraging them to take a break from the super fun library computers to find their books for the week).

It is always a fun mystery to see what we will discover and many of our favorite books were discovered by chance at the library. 

We are grateful that our library does curbside checkout during the pandemic. But the kids miss browsing and discovering new stories for themselves. I long for the day it is safe to wander the stacks again. 

Book Inspired Art and Activities

I have learned that the art, activities, and projects my kids enjoy most are those that build upon their interests.

So when we get hooked on a specific interest (like space), we read books and then do activities and art that connects with that interest.

It doesn’t have to be fancy either! After reading one of our favorite space books, we’ll go outside and draw a chalk solar system or find rocks that look like planets and practice orbiting the sun.

Here’s the link to a Nature Solar System Collage we created a while back too. This project can easily be adapted to fit your kids interests.

Weaving books together with creative and tactile experiences helps kids integrate ideas more fully into their understanding of the world. And it’s fun!

Books as Gifts

Another way to build excitement around reading is through books as gifts. 

When my youngest was a baby, I had the kids do a sibling book exchange for Christmas. I ordered the Mouse Cookies and More book for baby to give to her brother.

And then, I took my son to the bookstore and let him choose whatever book he wanted to give to his sister.

He put so much thought and care into his selection and chose a really cute Musical Christmas Tree board book. It can stand up on its own and plays Jingle Bells really, really loudly. It’s not what I would have selected, but it was perfect.

To this day both kids love their books and my son remembers how he bought the book for his sister. We’re definitely doing the sibling exchange again this year! 

A few other book gift ideas:

  • When my oldest was born, my mom, sisters, and aunt hosted my baby shower and asked guests to bring a book rather than a card to help me start building our home library. It was wonderful!
  • When we read books that were given as gifts, we talk about who the book is from and it’s a great way to feel connected to family and friends! 
  • When our youngest was born, a family member gave us a generous gift card to Barnes and Noble. It was a perfect second baby gift. We were able to buy some fun new books for baby sister, and we bought special titles to help our oldest with the transition. 
  • I also enjoy buying books for birthdays and holidays. It’s meaningful for me to connect memories of my kids ages and stages with books. And I am guilty of writing sentimental inscriptions on the inside of books too. It’s like a living childhood memory book. 

If you want the ultimate, fun, reading activity…take a kid to a bookstore and tell them to pick out whatever book they want for themselves to buy and keep. Don’t try to talk them into something you think is cool, really let them choose for themselves. Seriously, it’s magic! 

Keep Favorite Characters Alive

Another reading activity that we love, is reading book versions of the kids favorite TV shows. 

I know the battles that can arise when it’s time to turn off the TV following the day’s screen time allowance. Book series based on favorite shows (and vice versa) have been a great transition from screen to reading/playing. And they allow kids to live in the creative worlds of their favorite shows a bit longer. 

Read Books Everywhere

I’m revealing myself as a complete bookworm here…but you can’t read the books you don’t have with you!

I usually keep a couple of books in the car, pack a book in the diaper bag or backpack, and have a book within reach at all times for moments when we need to redirect attention.

It’s also fun to creatively mix up reading locations. We’ve tried the following ideas with great results:

  • Create a reading nest with piles of blankets
  • Make a reading fort inside or in the backyard
  • Take books on nature walks and read while having a snack
  • Read books at the beach while drying off and wrapped in towels

When kids expect a book will always be there, I think it hardwires them for more reading.

Embrace New Book Formats

We recently started listening to more audiobooks. In the car and around the house, it’s enjoyable listening to a dramatized story as a family. On Spotify, we’ve been listening to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Cars on repeat.

The library is a great resource for audiobooks too. Our library has digital audiobook loans as well as fun picture book and CD audiobook combinations. We were able to pick up a book/CD combo for I’m Fast by Kate and Jim McMullan. My train and racecar-loving kids listened to it over and over again!

We’ve also checked out many digital books from the library. We try to limit time on screens, but the kids love reading on the iPad. It’s nice to have an alternative format that will engage them in reading if it’s been a particularly hard day and we all need to chill out with a newly downloaded story.

Create a Seasonal or Themed Book Shelf

Whenever the seasons change, a holiday is approaching, or the kids get really interested in a certain topic, we’ll go through the house, and find all of our books that fit that certain theme. We organize our forward facing book shelf and immediately there’s excitement about the theme and the books. 

This is a fall/current interests shelf the kids helped put together.

We’ve done themed shelves about space, animals, bugs, food, gardening, winter, spring, summer, fall, back to school, emotions, cars and trains, and more. It’s also a great way to re-read titles that have been out of the usual reading rotation. 

Speaking of the actual books…

Diversity and Representation

I want to share an important note about diversity and representation in picture books. I believe it is essential for kids to read books that reflect the diverse world around them. Unfortunately, there is a serious misrepresentation of underrepresented communities in the children’s books that are published today.

On my own personal journey of learning and as a parent looking for ways to teach my kids about diversity and social justice issues, I have learned so much from Charnaie at Here Wee Read, Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL), and the team at We Need Diverse Books.

Please visit their sites and check out their book recommendations. I highly recommend following them on social media as well!

 Barefoot Carrot All-Time Favorite Picture Books List

“I could no sooner choose a favorite star in the heavens.”

Danielle De Barbarac, Ever After 

While choosing favorite books does feel a bit like choosing stars, many special titles have found their way to us at particular moments and helped create memories that make them especially loved. So here’s the Barefoot Carrot All-Time Favorite Picture Books List!

Some of these titles are more popular than others, and I fully acknowledge that whether or not someone likes a book is quite subjective and personal. Still, I hope you find a new book to check out from the library, or add to your home collection.

Side note, we also have some vintage Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse books that are all-time favorites, but I can’t find links to them anywhere online.

If you are curious to know more about how to display books for kids in an engaging and functional way, read on!

Forward Facing Book Shelf

We have books all over our home in different rooms and stored in different ways: in bins, on shelves, and on the floor in stacks. The presentation of books isn’t the most crucial piece, reading is. 

One of our many floor book bins.

But I wanted to share a bit more about our forward facing bookshelf and why we love it so much. 

I’m sure you’ve heard the idiom, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Well, in real life, it doesn’t work that way. When kids can see the cover of a book, they are much more engaged in the reading experience (think about those beautiful book store and library displays and how they create excitement). 

There are many great options for forward facing book shelves. I don’t think you can go wrong with a book shelf solution that is low enough for kids to reach and is safe and sturdy.

But I did a lot of research when I was pregnant with my oldest and ultimately, we chose the ECR4Kids Forward Facing Book Shelf. We’ve been really happy with it so I wanted to share a few of the reasons why I think it’s a great choice.

Easy to Reach

There are a lot of bookshelves that are absolutely beautiful but will never be fully accessible to toddlers and kids. The lowest shelves on the  ECR4Kids Forward Facing Book Shelf are completely accessible for the littlest littles while toddlers and bigger kids can reach all of the shelves. 

I find that my kids are more likely to pick up a book from the forward facing shelf than another pile or stack in the house. And, as a nice bonus, it’s more fun to put books away on a forward facing shelf too! Who knew?!  

Green Guard Certified

Whenever possible, I look for products that are healthier for my family and for the planet. ECR4Kids products are non-toxic and Green Guard Certified. 

Minimalist Design

Since the design is minimalist, the books themselves really shine on the shelves! I love that the book display becomes a piece of art that reflects our lives at any given point in time. 

Sturdy Construction

The book shelf is made of quality birch wood and has solid construction. It feels really stable and I’ve never been concerned with it tipping due to the triangular design.

Holds Lots of Books

The shelves can hold a lot of books. We can stack most picture books at least 2 deep on each row. Or if you want a more streamlined book shelf look, you can place fewer choices on the shelf. 

Alternatives

Even if you don’t have space for a forward facing book shelf, you could re-create a similar effect by standing a few books up in a designated space or on a small table.

There are a lot of creative ideas for DIY forward facing shelves on Pinterest too.

If you’re going to buy or make forward facing book shelves, I think the most important thing is to consider the kid as the primary user and make sure they can get books from the shelves safely

One last note about buying books

You already know that I’m a big fan of the public library. But, if it is in your budget, there are a lot of great options when it comes to buying books too. And buying new books supports the talented authors and illustrators who create works of art for us to enjoy!

Whenever possible, it’s great to support local bookstores and small shops. Warwick’s in La Jolla is a wonderful independent bookstore in my community! I’ve also found some really beautiful titles at one of my favorite local stores called L.E.A.F. in Carlsbad.

The “Book Nooks” in our community are great resources too. Donated books are sold to raise funds for library programs and each time we go, we seem to find at least one gem. It’s a great, inexpensive way to add books to the home library.

We’ve also had luck finding fun vintage books at thrift shops and I managed to track down a few special titles from my childhood on Ebay. 

This year, I also discovered Bookshop as a place to buy books online and support local bookstores. I curated a few Barefoot Carrot book lists on Bookshop to make it easy to support small businesses and buy books online. You can specify the bookstore you want to shop from or support several different bookstores in one purchase. If you shop using my links, I receive a small commission and appreciate your support! 

What are You Reading?

Do you have a favorite book or reading activity to inspire a love of books? We’d love to hear the creative ways you encourage reading in your family!