a peek inside the fishbowl

24 Aug, 2009

Kids and books

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|parenting

Many children learn how to read in kindergarten, even before kindergarten, but when she was five Emma was still struggling to put sounds to letters and stringing them together.

Was I a bad parent because my daughter wasn’t reading by the age of three? Or maybe she wasn’t going to be very smart?

It always bothered me when I heard other parents crowing about what great readers their kids were. I felt like a failure.

We’d been reading to her since she was a tiny baby. Mark and I both love books. There was reading material all over the house – all the time! Hadn’t we been doing everything right?

I’m here to tell you that if your kid isn’t reading in kindergarten, don’t worry. I needn’t have worried so much. Both girls are crazy about books and will read at every opportunity.

I think with Emma, the reading happened as a result of two things:

  1. 1) The introduction of the comic book
    It’s all about finding irresistible reading material. I never read comics growing up, but somehow came to possess a stack of old Richie Rich comics. Emma LOVED looking at them. We were camping one summer and it was raining. We took a trip to the local camp store and picked up some secondhand Archie comics for her to look at. She wanted to read them so badly that she forced herself to plow though and understand them.
  2. 2) “Special” treatment at bedtime
    Emma and Sarah are only 23 months apart. When they were very small we tried having separate bedtimes but Sarah would have none of it. (She’s always considered herself to be Emma’s equal!) So we made Emma a secret deal. The girls would go to bed at the same time but Emma was allowed to stay up later – as long as she was reading in bed.

I think these two things solidified Emma’s love for reading. She’s been non-stop ever since. She loves stories with magic and mystery. We were at Chapters yesterday and we bought a graphic novel that was recommended to me called Amulet. (I read it yesterday and LOVED everything about it.) But it’s not just about comics anymore. She’s also really interested in historical fiction (!) and has read several books from the Canadian and American girls series.  

I’m very glad we now have two extra readers in the house. It does my heart good when we all snuggle on the couch with our books.

9 Responses to "Kids and books"

1 | porter

August 24th, 2009 at 8:58 am


I really enjoyed this post Andrea…and I wish you had written it two years ago. I was so surprised at how quickly reading comes together once it does, does that make sense (tired this morning)? Mouse suddenly could read and spell, at least it felt sudden.

Recently I was speaking with someone about Mouse’s reading and I said that I wanted to find something that would capture Mouse’s attention more…she reads but I find a couple of pages at a time and she’s done. Anyway, this person recommended comics for Mouse. Are there any other comics besides Archie that you (or your readers) can recommend?

2 | andrea

August 24th, 2009 at 11:17 am


You’re right Porter. Once they get a handle on the basic idea it comes together very quickly. But they have to *want* to do it. That’s why it’s important to find really interesting reading material.

re: Different comics…

Disney makes a series of comics books for kids, ones which include characters like Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. The girls have both enjoyed these very much. Most larger cities have a comic book shop, this is a great place to find them. (Although we’ve had great success buying secondhand comics from places like Value Village).

Emma has really enjoyed our old treasuries of Calvin & Hobbes as well as Gary Larsen’s Far Side.

Some of the other comic-like books we’ve liked include Captain Underpants and the Geronimo Stilton series. The Bone series has also been recommended to me, though I haven’t picked it up myself.

3 | andrea

August 24th, 2009 at 11:33 am


I received an email about this topic just now and thought I’d cut and paste part of my reply here in case it’s of benefit to anyone else! It’s clear to me now that having very early reader (i.e. age 3) is really no indication of reading success later on. Some people are early readers and some are not. End of story.

Other things we did:

– We read A LOT at home and made a family ritual out of it. Every night we piled into bed [still do!] and read aloud to the girls. Sometimes all four of us would hang out and read/listen to the story. We always read chapter books. i.e. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a huge favourite.

– Separately, we’d help the girls with age-appropriate reading, but never at bedtime.

– Sometimes I’d read their books out loud to them while following along with my finger. Every once in awhile I’d stop on a word (often one I knew they knew) and ask them to read it for me.

It didn’t really click for either of my girls until they were in first grade. In fact, I think they were both one of the lower-rung readers going in, but at the top of the pack coming out. It’s crazy how quickly their reading improved when they finally got it.

Which reminds me… we subscribe to Owl and Chickadee magazines – and one called Chirp when they were small. They LOVED getting their own magazine in the mail! They pounced on it whenever it showed up on the doorstep. I really recommend it, it’s highly visual and geared towards very young readers.

4 | Scattered Mom

August 24th, 2009 at 6:40 pm


Oh and to chime in about the magazines, if your kids are into science try Yes Magazine (called Know for the younger set). They have been Jake’s favorite for years, and are Canadian!


5 | Loukia

August 24th, 2009 at 7:39 pm


Great post, Andrea. My oldest son just turned 4, and he has been a book lover since he was only a few months old. He would always pay attention to the book that was being read to him, he would sit patiently, enjoying us reading to him, and we read to him – and continue to do this – every single day. He loves books, and we do, too. He is not, however, reading on his own, even though he knows his alphabet and can now figure out what letter each word starts with. I’m not worried, but I do try now to teach him the words in bed when we are reading. I can’t wait to hear him reading himself!

6 | Nat

August 24th, 2009 at 7:49 pm


The Boy was slow to read too… (Learning issues. His reading and writing were behind his spoken word.) Comic books helped for sure. .. and Captain Underpants.

7 | Meghan

August 26th, 2009 at 8:32 am


“Baby Mouse” is also really good. My eight year old really likes reading them on her own.


8 | Totoro

August 26th, 2009 at 11:06 am


This post reminded me of a movie I saw this week. I know…movies aren’t books but this is sort of related in that you had mentioned that Emma likes books about magic. If you haven’t yet seen this film, you should. It’s on most “must see” children’s movie lists and I now know why. I rented my copy at Elgin Video (best video store in town) and noticed it at Videofliks. My 5 and 7 year old loved it and so did I.

My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)

9 | andrea

August 26th, 2009 at 11:14 am


Totoro is one of our all-time faves! The Miyazaki films are all great.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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