Overview: We all want our kids to love reading. Teaching them to read is not enough; we must provide an environment that encourages them to enjoy books. Here’s how!
If there were a 12-step program for reading addiction, I would be in it. “Hi, my name is Ann, and I am a read-aholic.” I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love reading. Characters in books are my friends, and I have to reacquaint myself with their lives over and over again.
Frankly, I would rather read than be a responsible adult; and if I am behind in my housework, it is because I stole a few extra minutes to finish the chapter I was on. (And maybe snuck in another complete chapter — or two.)
So I am really glad that all my children love reading, too. When we come home from the library, a quiet settles over the house, because we’ve all grabbed a new book and hunkered down somewhere. Nobody is pestering to get on the computer or watch a movie, because there are new stories to be savored.
It is a no-brainer that reading develops many faculties in a child. A larger vocabulary, better grammar and spelling, writing skill – all of these are positively affected the more a child reads. Children learn from what they are exposed to; so the more the immersion in great stories, the better their language skills will be.
It’s important to realize, though, that it’s not enough just to teach our children TO read – we must encourage them to LOVE to read. Obviously this can’t be forced, and I’m sure there are exceptions to what I’m about to say; but I believe most children will learn to love reading if we practice just a few habits in the home.
10 Tips to Encourage Your Kids to Love Reading
1) Set an example. This is the obvious first step. If your children don’t see you reading, they will see no reason to read for themselves. Some people claim they don’t have time to read. I confess that I’ve never understood that. I can ALWAYS find time to read, y’all. If I were on the Titanic, and it was sinking, I’d be reading on the life boat.
But seriously, if there is time for watching TV, there is time to read. If there is time for Facebook, there is time to read. Your children need to see you reading your own books for your own pleasure, if they are going to want to do the same.
2) Read aloud. I think every parent knows the importance of this one, especially when the kids are too young to read for themselves. That time spent reading a bedtime story is so beneficial on so many levels, and most of us do put it into practice. It’s also good to continue the practice when they’re older, even as a family group sometimes. Then each of the ones that can read can take a turn being the speaker, as well as mom and dad. What better way to encourage them to love reading than to build a fun family time around it?
3) Teach respect for books. The things we value are the things we treat carefully. That goes in reverse, too. If we teach our children to take good care of books, they will see them as having value. Obviously this would be done in an age-appropriate manner. No writing in a book, avoid folding down the pages, be careful around food, etc.
4) Make library visits a priority. We go to the library every two weeks, and the library workers have become friends. Going to the library regularly means there is a constant influx of new stories in our home. There is also access to many types of books about many different subjects. This encourages the children to explore their interests and realize they can learn lots just by reading.
5) Have LOTS of books in your home. A child won’t learn to love reading if there are few books handy. There are many sources for inexpensive books, so cost does not need to be an issue. When a child claims to be bored, you can send him to the bookshelf. Encourage reading as something to do for fun. This is easier when there is a plentiful supply to choose from. Your child will begin to find his favorites, and then he will encounter the joys of re-reading, seeing new things the second and third time around, and making fictional friends. (See my post on tips for finding bargain books to get more information on building a home library.)
6) Schedule free reading for a large chunk of the school day during the elementary years. If you homeschool, this makes a great transition with what used to be naptime; now, instead of sleeping, the child is on his bed reading books of his own choosing. (And if he falls asleep, he probably needs the rest, lol.)
My own kids had two hours of free reading time every day during those years. It was enforced to be reading time, not drawing or playing or anything else time. (Another reason to have a large selection of books in the house.) And they survived. Once they got the idea that reading was their only option, they were very content to take a stack of books into their rooms and settle down for the allotted time. (And I’m sure you’ve figured out the side benefit for mom…) :-)
Related Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling With Biographies by Joan Concilio at Unschool Rules
If you don’t homeschool, you can still schedule reading time in the afternoons or evenings. Right before bedtime works well, because it helps the kids settle down a little bit before lights out.
7) Listen to audio books. I have a lot of great memories of listening to audio books with the kids. Mostly we did this in the car while running errands or going back and forth to church. Again, it’s just another exposure to language and stories and the idea that books are FUN. Often the kids wanted to get the paper copy of the book we’d listened to and read it for themselves.
8) Watch movies based on books. Ditto a lot of what I said for #7. Watching movies based on books leads to great discussions, including the age-old question of which was better and why. We all love to compare the director’s conception of a book with our own imaginings of it. This one has to be used in moderation, however, if one wants to foster a love of READING, lol.
9) Monitor what your child reads. Y’all, this one is VERY important to me. There are many parents out there who do not bother to make sure that their child is reading age-appropriate material. Just because it is in the juvenile section of the library does not automatically make it a helpful book for your child to read.
Many books are full of poor behavior, mysticism, disrespect to parents, sinful choices with no consequences, etc. — even those written for children.
Also, it IS possible for a library to wrongly categorize a book; I’ve found full-on sex scenes in books that were shelved as juvenile. (You can bet I brought that to the librarian’s attention.)
Please, please, please: help your child choose which books to read. Read them first if you have to. You cannot always undo the wrong understandings of important things in life that can be fostered in a child’s thinking due to what he’s read.
10) Do not legislate book selection. This is the complement to #9. Yes, DO carefully supervise what your child is allowed to read, even recommend books you think he might like, but do not force books on him that you think he SHOULD read. Of course, for school there is a certain amount of this that must be done, but even then, keep it to a minimum. We all remember how a great-sounding book lost all its excitement when we had to answer comprehension questions or write a book report. Allow your kids to read mostly just for the fun of it, without being required to complete formal assignments.
As a parent, one of the best sights ever is seeing your child absorbed in a book. And what a joy it is to then sit down with them and read your own! Encourage them to love reading, and this will be a common occurence. :-)