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PROVO — Healthy habits go beyond just diet and physical exercise — stimulating our brains is just as important. One young mother has found a way to keep her family's minds active together.
Janssen Bradshaw reads thousands of pictures books to her kids each year. It's part of their everyday routine. However, she's also set an example of reading herself.
"I usually have like five or six books going at any time," she said.
It allows her to unplug, learn something new, and generate good conversation with friends and family.
“It just gives you such a great opportunity, if you're reading nonfiction, to learn about something new, or fiction, kind of escape to a different world,” Bradshaw said. “I just think it’s such fantastic entertainment, [and] educational value. I love books.”
When she is reading a good book, Bradshaw always has something to talk about with someone else. “I think books in general… also really lend themselves to great discussions and connecting with other people," she said.
Bradshaw blogs about how to make time when you’re a mom to read on your own and how to build a family culture of reading in your home at Everyday-Reading.com.
She said makes reading a priority by finding ways to multi-task.
"I'm a huge audiobook fan," Bradshaw said. “I listen to something every day on the way to and from the gym, while I'm folding laundry or doing dishes, and if you can listen on double speed, then you can really crank through quite a lot of books."
Bradshaw and her kids also listen to audiobooks while they are in the school pick up line. She said the secret to developing a habit of reading is finding something you actually enjoy.
"If you're really into it, you put your kids to bed a little early, stay up a little later, you finish your dishes a little faster, you put down your phone quicker,” she described.
Bradshaw said it’s also important to choose a time to read without distractions. “Whether that's getting up early, or getting carpool pickup line five minutes early," she explained.
Bradshaw encourages people to put their phone in another room and to start reading for at least ten minutes before putting the book down.
If you start a book and find you are not interested, Bradshaw said it’s simple: "Just give it up and pick something new … because you don't watch a TV show that you're not really interested in.”
Intermountain Healthcare's Dr. Neal Davis said reading is critical to early brain development. "The more positive, and the more just by quantity, language-based interactions that a child has, that really builds health into a child's brain," he explained.
Davis said reading is about more than just words though, it fosters an important bonding opportunity.
"Nurturing interactions matter," Davis said. “Having a language based reading experience with the parent is really powerful, very calming, and very fun. Kids tend to love that type of interaction.”
He said those interactions will have a lasting impact on children. "It's actually powerful memories that you have as a parent, right?"
Bradshaw experiences this first hand.
"My two-year-old daughter says, 'Arm around me, arm around me' when I read to her which is really cute," she said.
Bradshaw finds new books through online books blogs and on Instagram using #bookstagram. She also recommends a book subscription called Book of the Month Club, which sends you five books in the mail each week.
She said monthly book subscriptions through Amazon’s Audible or Scribd are worth the cost, but also takes weekly trips to the library to check out free books with her girls and stores a basket in her house full of checked out library books.
Bradshaw has a master’s degree in Library Information Studies, worked as a children’s librarian in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and now reviews books for kids and adults regularly on Everyday-Reading.com.