As the holiday season gets busier and you worry about finding the perfect gift for your child, you may want to consider a special gift that will not only entertain and educate children of all ages, but will also bring your family closer together: the gift of reading.
Reading with your child and encouraging your older children to read are among the most important things you can do as a parent because you will be providing your children with the opportunity to become better and more confident readers as they grow.
Here we provide some suggestions for gifts that will encourage your child to read. Don't shy away from Spanish-language books for your children — research shows that strong reading skills in a child's first language will allow them to become stronger readers in their second language (you can read more about this in Why Reading to Your Kids in Spanish Will Help Them Become Better Readers).
If getting a bilingual or Spanish-language book means that you and your child will be able to read it together, or that your child is more likely to read, it's a good investment. And if bilingual books or books in English seem to help his/her English skills, that's ok too! The important thing is that your child has the opportunity to read so that he/she can develop strong reading skills. Here are some ideas to help you get started!
Good books are wonderful gifts! Young children can enjoy the magic of a book's story and illustrations again and again, and when they read with you they will practice their reading skills and learn something new. If you're not sure how to find the right children's book, read Finding and Sharing Great Kids' Books. And older children just might find something that they can connect to in books written for their age group or in non-fiction books.
There is a wide range of magazines written for children and teen available, from magazines featuring stories and activities to non-fiction magazines about wildlife and nature, current events, geography, sports, and music. You can also order a magazine subscription for your home.
To see suggestions of some good English-language magazines for children, check out Reading Rockets' magazine list.
One excellent option is IGUANA, a Spanish-language magazine for kids aged 7 to 12. Each issue is filled with stories, games, puzzles, interviews with prominent Latinos, recipes, project ideas, jokes, articles and more! To learn more about the magazine, read Colorín Colorado's official review. To receive IGUANA at your home, you can order the magazine through a paid subscription.
Audio Books and Music
When you're at home or in the car, you can encourage younger children's language development by listening to stories and songs on audio cds. It's also a wonderful way to keep your child from getting bored while you are doing errands! Once you've listened to a story, talk about what you heard and ask your child what his/her favorite parts of the story were. Check the children's section at your local bookstore or music store to see which stories and musical cds they have available.
Activity Books and Puzzles
For kids who like to figure things out, keep busy, and do puzzles, you can find a number of activity books for kids of all ages that will give them plenty of chances to practices their reading, from crossword puzzles to word searches to simple brainteasers. You may even find activity books featuring your child's favorite story characters! While some children may like to do these activities on their own, doing these reading activities with you can be just as valuable as reading together. Most bookstores will have their activity books in the children's or puzzle section.
Lots of kids' and young adult board and card games provide children with an opportunity to practice spelling, reading, and word-building; they also allow families to enjoy the fun of reading together. In addition, there are many electronic games available that can boost a child's reading skills, but you should check the content of these games carefully before purchasing them.
And don't forget that your local library will offer numerous books, audio cds, and magazines to enjoy throughout the holidays. Check your library's schedule for special holiday events and story-time activities too!
By giving your child the opportunity to read, you are giving them the opportunity to become stronger readers and students. The gift of reading may start with a simple book or story, but its rewards will be discovered years later when an adult remembers his favorite story as a child, succeeds in achieving her goals, and remembers story time as a part of the day that he/she would look forward to. The gift of reading lasts so much longer than the holidays — it truly is the gift of a lifetime, and is one of the most special things you can share with your children.