Today, a guest blog by Sands Hetherington:
I immersed my son John in stories from the time he could understand speech. Bedtime stories were an absolute essential to us, like air and food. We may not have missed five nights in ten years, even on trips. And on trips we would listen to books on tape for days in the car. I read him everything from Aesop to Tolkien to Dahl (Harry Potter hadn't come along yet). By the time John was twelve, we had gone through most of Dickens and Victor Hugo. So he was always immersed in stories, and man did it ever work! He got an M.A. at Edinburgh University with Firsts in German and Russian, reads two or three books a week, and still watches Hobbit movies.
This is how the idea for stories came about: My son John had invented Crosley from whole cloth. One night when I was done reading, I may have suggested that he make up a night companion to go off to sleep with. Or maybe I didn't suggest it. He could have taken the initiative himself. But in any case, in a day or two, there was Crosley, red color, goofy name and all.
So at bedtime we started batting around the Crosley stuff. I encouraged John to make up episodes. I mostly listened. If he did come up with something, I told him how super it was and asked him when could I hear the next installment. I think he was still six. He got really facile at it, and I got the larcenous idea of putting the two of them in a book.
In my books I had to explain why Crosley was red, of course. (He was red because he was allergic to water.) And the rest fell into place fairly easily. Crosley first began as a lights-out buddy. But from there, he became part of Night Buddies Amalgamated, whose members sneak kids out on adventures when the kids aren't ready for bed yet. That's the story formula, and John was hooked, and I was hooked.
You may need some luck with the "getting involved" part. But anybody can do bedtime stories, and I haven't met a child yet who didn't take to bedtime stories. You just have to do it and do it every night. If you do, the child will enjoy it and look forward to it and quickly know literature as a pleasure. Then, when he learns to read, he will want to read. So get him in on the process if you can. It's as simple as that.