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21 Day Reading Challenge

It is time to make a habit of reading with our children.

Lately, reading in the Sutter household has been sporadic at best.  It is such a simple task, and because of that, it seems to get pushed to the bottom of the list.  There are so many other “necessary” things that HAVE to get done.  Laundry.  Dishes.  Grading.

But I am determined to reset this habit in our house, and place it higher on that “to do” list.  So, today, I begin the 21 Day Book Reading Challenge.  It is meant to encourage us busy mommas to slow down, cuddle up with our little ones, enjoy reading again, and share our favorite books with each other.  I hope you join me!  (Scroll to the end for more information on the challenge. Free tracking chart available in the Parenting Toolkit.)


We all know that reading is important in life, but sometimes we forget how many ways this simple act can benefit a child person.  (It’s not just good for our kiddos, it’s good for you too, momma.)

Obviously, reading is strongly associated with language development; and while that is reason enough to promote reading, it is not the only benefit gained by curling up with your little one for story time.

Did you know that the simple act of reading can help a child develop their linguistic, mental, behavioral, academic, and emotional skills?  I don’t know of any other activity that can cultivate all of these areas as completely as reading can.

Let’s look at some of these areas more closely.

  • language development
  • attention span
  • factual information
  • critical thinking skills
    -cause and effect
    -sequential order
    -past, present, future
  • understanding and acceptance of difficult concepts
  • positive attitude towards learning
  • curiosity

*Remember, scroll down for information on the 21 Day Reading Challenge.


In 2003, researchers Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley at the University of Kansas conducted an extensive study on 42 high-income, mid-income, low-income, and welfare families with 1 and 2 year old children.  This study is called “The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3.”  The study revealed, among other things, that children of high-income families are exposed to 30 million more words than children of families on welfare.
To read more about this study, visit the American Federation of Teachers.
To read about another similar study performed by researchers at Stanford University, visit the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

The easiest way to close this word gap is reading.

Reading aloud with children provides an opportunity for them to hear the sounds of individual letters, blends, and words as a whole.  As their learning develops, this will progress into letter, blend, and word recognition; sentence structure; paragraph structure; and formatting.


When my children were very young (approximately 6 – 18 months old), their attention span for reading was quite short.  In fact, there were times when we only got through a page or two of Dr. Seuss before calling it quits.  But we did this each night, and as time went on, their ability to pay attention and focus on the story improved.

In a society riddled with hyperactivity diagnoses, perhaps a conscientious push towards reading could help lower the number and severity of these cases.


One of the more obvious, but often overlooked benefits of reading, is that factual information can be learned.  For children, reading can introduce them to exciting information about the world around them.  As they grow, reading (especially nonfiction) can continue to provide them with information about new and different aspects of the world.


In addition to providing facts, reading is especially helpful with honing a child’s critical thinking skills.  Whether it is nonfiction or fiction, reading allows children an opportunity to think.  This develops their understanding of cause and effect, sequential order, past/present/future, etc.

All learning must be scaffolded.  We cannot expect someone to know how to perform an advanced activity without first learning each simple activity that creates it.

For example, a 15-year-old boy does not simply take the keys one day and successfully drive his dad’s truck to school.  He may try to.  But, he is not going to perform the task very skillfully.

This is the same with reading.

We cannot expect a person to perform the higher-level critical thinking skills needed to fully understand the cause-and-effect of To Kill a Mockingbird or analyze the role of government in dystopian novels like The Hunger Games, much less be able to apply this comprehension to real life, unless this person had practice with these skills in a much simpler form.

Say, by reading Little Blue Truck and learning the cause-and-effect of helping others. (That dump truck sure learned his lesson.)  Or by reading Little Blue Truck Leads the Way and hearing how a kind and fair mayor successfully helped his town solve their horrible traffic problems. (So there is a political leader out there who actually cares about what the people say, imagine that.)

Having the opportunity to use your brain to think and learn is a blessing.  Let’s bless our children with this opportunity.


Related to critical thinking skills, reading allows children to be exposed to difficult ideas and concepts in a safe environment.

One of my English classes is currently studying the power of words and the importance of literature for young adults.  We just finished reading The Book Thief.

Yesterday, I asked them to think about the dark subject of this book (the Holocaust) and whether or not young adult literature should expose teenagers to this type of material. The answer was, across the board, a resounding, yes.

Every single one of these high school juniors believes that reading literature that covers sensitive, delicate, or taboo topics is vital to their development.  They argued that teenagers are moving from the innocent world of childhood and into the dirty, messy world of adulthood.  What better way to discover the harsh realities of the world than by reading about them as opposed to experiencing it firsthand?

They also added that, during this particular phase of their lives, many topics are difficult to discuss with an adult, and literature can provide a venue for them to explore the topic safely.  (While this is typically associated with older children/young adults, this can also be helpful for young children who have experienced a traumatic event in their life.)


Something that will significantly help kiddos (and teachers) is having a positive attitude towards learning.  When a child has a large number of positive experiences associated with reading and books, those same feelings just naturally progress to learning in general.  They were able to discover so many wonderful things about the world and people and animals and plants while cuddled up reading with mom and dad, and this discovery will continue on their own as they get older.

Learning becomes something they enjoy and look forward to rather than something that gets pushed to the back-burner of life and all its responsibilities and expectations.


My personal favorite benefit of reading – building curiosity.  Literature is a beautiful method of exploration and, for a person who enjoys reading, it just never stops.  I never finish a book and think to myself, “well, that was good.  Now back to things that really matter, like laundry [insert your own mundane task here].”  Reading almost always sparks an interest in something new.  I become more and more curious about all different aspects of our world.

This is something that can come in handy for a person who may not necessarily enjoy school itself.  I have many students who are highly intelligent, love learning, and are curious about so many interesting things.  They just don’t do school the way the public education system does school.  This doesn’t mean that they won’t be successful.  Their natural curiosity can help guide them to a rewarding, fulfilling life.

21 Day Reading Challenge

Okay, so now that we remember WHY reading is so important, let’s jump right into our 21 Day Reading Challenge!  It doesn’t matter whether your child was born yesterday or if he is 16 years old.  Every person, no matter their age, benefits from being read to aloud.  So, even if your kiddo isn’t so little anymore, get back in the habit of reading and discussing literature with them.

Here is your official invitation:

WHO:  busy mommas and their sweet little ones

WHAT:  take the time to read together (see below for book ideas)

WHEN:  every day, whenever you can (I like reading right before bedtime.) Check out Stacy’s article from Kids Stuff World about moments to introduce reading.

WHERE:  couch, chair, bed, floor, teepee, EVERYWHERE

WHY: see above

bookshelf 1

One of our (many) bookshelves is Reading Challenge ready!

Share your Reading Success Online

Each day, I will post a picture of us reading. I encourage you to do the same. Post a picture of you and your kiddos reading.  Put it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, wherever you want!
If you aren’t already following SodieDooDotch on social media, be sure to do so now, so we can share our Reading Challenge Pictures with each other.
Follow on Instagram, here.
Follow on Twitter, here.
Follow on Facebook, here.

Tag It

When you post your picture, be sure to tag it, so we can promote reading across social media and keep up with each other.
I will be using the following hashtags:

Get Your Children Involved and Motivated

To ensure that our children are part of this process as well, I will be using a sticker tracking chart (provided in the Parenting Toolkit), so they can have a visual of how many days of reading we have done.  I am printing this chart and keeping it on the fridge.  Each day that we read, the boys will get to put a sticker on the chart.  At the end of the 21 days, I will be taking my boys to Half Price Books to let them pick out a new book as a treat for reaching our goal.

Go visit the Parenting Toolkit page to access this printable and use with your own children!

If you aren’t yet a part of the SodieDooDotch community, join us now and get access to the FREE tracking chart printable!  (See form at the end of this post.)

Need some ideas of books to read with your kids?

Here are some of my favorites for young children (ranges from infants – preschool):

Little Blue Truck
Little Blue Truck Leads the Way
The Day the Crayons Quit
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site
Goodnight Cowtown
Letters From Felix
Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me
Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?
Are You My Mother?
Go, Dog, Go!
Proverbs For Young People
On the Night You Were Born
The Little Boy Who Lost His Name
Love You Forever
Green Eggs and Ham
The Tickle Tree

Ideas for early elementary age kiddos:

See this article by Anna Geirge at The Measured Mom. It offers great chapter book options for 1st – 4th graders.

Ideas for upper elementary age kiddos:

A Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom
Harry Potter
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Also, check out this article by Anna Joy at Path Through the Narrow Gate. She offers book options specifically for 10 and 11 year old boys.
And this article by Autumn at It’s Always Autumn. She lists 25 wonderful books for kiddos ages 8-12.


Lots of good stuff here, today!
I know you realize the importance of reading.  Now, join me in making it a priority!

Remember, commit to 21 days of reading with your little ones.
Share your success with us.
Enjoy the time with your family.

I can’t wait to see all of our pictures of what we are reading with our children over the next 3 weeks.  Remember, use
so we can keep up with each other!

See you soon 🙂

P.S. Don’t forget to go print your FREE tracking chart!


**This post was shared on:

Lovely Little Link Party by Bloom Designs

A Little R & R Linky Party

Your Whims Wednesday Link Party by My Girlish Whims


Join the 21 Day Reading Challenge


Spend time with your little ones.

Rediscover the joy of reading.

And get your own FREE tracking chart to help your little one keep up with your reading progress!

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12 Comments on 21 Day Reading Challenge

  1. Anna Joy
    April 14, 2016 at 6:08 AM (2 years ago)

    Thank you for this challenge! These are great suggestions.

    • Erin
      April 15, 2016 at 2:01 PM (2 years ago)

      You are so welcome, and thank YOU for all of your great suggestions! I have two little boys, and I know that it won’t be long before we will be looking for more advanced (quality) reading for them. I will be returning to your list when that time comes. 🙂

  2. Judith Porto
    April 14, 2016 at 3:12 PM (2 years ago)

    Thank you Erin! I love all your ideas, suggestions and thoughts about why reading to our children is so important.

    • Erin
      April 15, 2016 at 2:03 PM (2 years ago)

      Thank you for all your encouragement. Can’t wait to see pictures of some of my favorite people reading together!

  3. Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom
    April 18, 2016 at 4:50 PM (2 years ago)

    I read aloud to my children every day! We actually start our morning homeschool time with several read-alouds. I love reading to my children and it’s SOOO important!

    Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop).

    Wishing you a lovely day.

    • Erin
      April 20, 2016 at 10:41 AM (2 years ago)

      I wish we had time to read more in the morning, but it just doesn’t work out. It is such a relaxing way to start your day. With our schedules right now, though, it just doesn’t work out. I am a teacher, so I can’t wait until summer when we can read anytime we want to!
      (Thank you for the SHINEBlogHop opportunity!)

  4. Charlene Asay
    April 19, 2016 at 2:43 PM (2 years ago)

    I am so glad you joined us at Family Joy Blog Link Up Party. You have a lovely blog. Hope to see you often on our party. Have a wonderful week.

    • Erin
      April 20, 2016 at 10:35 AM (2 years ago)

      Thank you for the opportunity! I love seeing what everyone is posting about! See you again soon 🙂

  5. Kristen
    April 19, 2016 at 3:41 PM (2 years ago)

    I love how you suggested some books for preschool age! We read every night with little E and it has helped his attention span and improved his ability to memorize/pick out letters of the alphabet. I will have to check those books out so we can add them to our collection. Thank you for sharing! I found your link on Family Joy Link Party!

    • Erin
      April 20, 2016 at 2:51 PM (2 years ago)

      Hey Kristen,
      Isn’t it fun seeing the growth our children experience through reading?!? I saw a huge improvement in attention span with my 4 year old because of reading. (We are still waiting on it with my 2 year old :-/) If you end up getting and reading any of those books, I would love to hear back from you on what you and your little one thought about it!

  6. Rachel Osborn
    April 20, 2016 at 3:14 PM (2 years ago)

    Darn, I was reading with my daughter earlier-I should have seen this sooner!! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this at the Family Joy Linky Party!

    • Erin
      April 21, 2016 at 5:13 AM (2 years ago)

      Hi Rachel! Love to hear about you reading with your daughter. You can always start your 21 Day Challenge today 🙂


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