Growing up in a house full of books, babies soon show an interest - even if this means ripping pages and chewing covers. I provided the lowest shelf on the bookcase for babies books - hard cardboard and soft fabric initially, and this grew as the baby learnt to look at the pictures, and to present a book of choice to an adult to have the story read and the pictures pointed out.
We all belonged to the local library. The children had their own library cards since they were toddlers, and were encouraged to borrow books regularly. Of course, at first they needed assistance choosing books. Picture books with few words were a favourite, and then books that could be read by the parent before bed etc.
One of my cherished early photos of my oldest son, now 31 is of him at 12 months and his father, reading in bed.
A second photo shows my son with his son in a similar situation.
Children have a wide range of interests, and it is quite easy to encourage these with books. These interests include: computers, art, gem stone collecting, bicycles, paper planes and games. My own interests include cooking, craft, gardening, alternative health and animals. My husbands have included theology, first aid, nursing and music. Books on all these subjects are on our various bookshelves, also novels of many kinds and many biographies and histories.
As they grew, they became more able to choose for themselves. As we lived in a small town, the children were able to walk up to the library by themselves. They learnt to use the catalogue, and also to consult the librarians for help as necessary. This also bolstered their ability to ask adults for assistance, eg in shops and at school, as they were used to having their requests dealt with seriously.
As well as books, comics and magazines are a great resource. Children who have trouble following a whole story while concentrating on words often find the small 'bites' of story per picture a great help in developing these skills. Magazines aimed at kids interests will also help - adventure magazines, music magazines etc. I also found the kids liked to have the subtitles turned on for movies they watched on TV – reading along with the characters dialogue definitely helped.
Because of the advent of computers into the home, computer magazines and 'game cheat sheets' can encourage reading. Often, games have fairly complex ways to enter, or pass through and kids have to read how.
The art of reading not just provides pleasure and amusement, but helps the child as he or she grows up in school, to research projects and further his or her knowledge of subjects introduced by the school. The ability to use an encyclopedia, newspaper, catalogue and people resources can only help a child grow, learn and develop his or her character.