by Sara Legatt
It might seem unnecessary. Aren’t kids great at building boredom on their own? Don’t we spend much of our days fighting the endless “I’m bored”?
For literacy’s sake, stop fighting it.
Embrace boredom. Encourage it. Celebrate it.
The next time your child says, “I’m bored,” (and I can promise there will be a next time—boredom is right up there with death and taxes on the list of certainties) find your most happy-about-the-A+-on-the-spelling-test voice and say, “Oh, GOOD, honey!” Because your child has just been given the best gift ever. Then make yourself a cup of tea and sit down somewhere comfortable with a really good book.
Other than giving you the chance to get lost in a book of your own (by which I mean “model good reading habits”), what in the world does boredom have to do with early literacy?
Boredom spurs creativity. It spurs deeper play. It spurs whole worlds filled with knights and dragons and firefighters—worlds in which you do not necessarily belong.
Strong readers are able to stay focused on a solitary task for a prolonged period of time. Boredom can help us move from periods of external, short-lived entertainment to deeper, internal, self-created entertainment.
Strong readers are able to create, love, and live in imaginary worlds. Boredom can nurture a child’s ability to navigate these imaginary worlds.
Let your children find ways to live in their imagination. Let them be Anne Shirley for a little while. Let them be Ramona. Let them get into messy harmless mischief. Let them dig worm houses in the garden. Let them fill the living room with cardboard tubes and rolled up pieces of paper and fight a war against a bad guy named “Goonabella.” (Or whatever your kids are interested in.)
Boredom=imagination=creativity=strong readers=you get to sit down with a cup of tea and a good book. (And if you’re looking for another suggestion, read CODE NAME VERITY. Then send me a note and we’ll chat about how amazing it is. Deal.)
1. Make no plans.
2. Provide paper, tape, markers, cardboard boxes, and/or small, simple, non-battery-powered toys.
3. Make a cup of tea. Put it on a small table, strategically positioned near a comfortable chair. Sit. Relax.
4. Resist the urge to direct your child’s play. Because you’re busy doing something else. (For instance, reading CODE NAME VERITY, or sending me an email so we can gush over it together.)
5. Respond to the inevitable, “I’m Bored!” with sincere congratulations.
6. Pretend you can’t hear the whining.
7. Make contented noises.
8. Wait for the boredom to eventually fade into fascinated imaginative play.
9. Realize you’re late for something and try to pry your child away. (The easiest way to encourage a behavior is by attempting to deny it, no?)
10. Make another cup of tea. Congratulate yourself for contributing to your child’s literary awareness.
Sara Legatt lives in Minnesota with her husband, three young children, and one clumsy cat that thinks it is a dog. Sara has a B.A. in Elementary Education, has worked for more than a decade as an Early Childhood Educator, and is a Piano Teacher to the best students in the world. Sara currently writes middle grade novels and picture books. She can be found at http://saralegatt.wordpress.com.