Raising kids who enjoy reading can make a big difference in their life. Beyond the fact that reading is the cornerstone of their school experience, there are numerous benefits for adults who read. Here are some tried and true ways to help your child fall in love with reading.
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How to Raise a Kid Who Loves to Read
There are no guarantees in love, right? We can’t completely control how much our kids enjoy reading but there are some things we can do to nudge our kiddos towards the I Love Reading camp.
Here are 10 of those ways.
1 -Take your time reading out loud to your child
Reading out loud to your child is one important way you can encourage your child to read more. I’d argue that the way you read aloud, also makes a difference.
Imagine for a minute that you are meeting a friend for coffee. You’re ready for a nice, leisurely talk with some hot cuppa something good. To your surprise, your friend rushes in, sits down, starts talking, does some forced listening, looks at her watch, and leaves.
So much for leisurely and enjoyable.
When we read with our kiddos, we can do it for the allotted 20 minutes, just to get it done, or we can look forward to the experience, and focus on savoring the books. There’s a big difference.
When we sit down to read, it helps if we aren’t rushed. We can look at the pictures, comment on the cute dog in the corner of page 5, and reread the part that made our kiddo laugh. We can go back and reread something that we didn’t understand or talk about something the book reminds us of.
All of these things turn reading into an experience, not a chore.
2 – Read like you are acting
Let your inner Emily Blunt have some fun! This is creative and can take some of the boredom out of reading a book you don’t like…or have read 100 times already.
Try making the characters talk in different voices.
Make sound effects whenever possible. (Like knocking on a table when someone knocks on the door.)
Pay attention to exclamation marks and commas so you pause and use excitement correctly.
Not only is it more engaging but it will also help your child understand the book better.
3 – Don’t just read the words
When we read we oftentimes just read the words on the page, like we would do for a chapter book or adult novel. But when reading picture books, it’s important to remember that the pictures are a huge part of the book!
Your child will probably have a lot to say about the pictures – things that they like or that they think are funny. My daughter likes to pick which girl she would be if the page has a lot of girl characters.
I like to comment on the style of the art work if I really like the illustrations. Some books are done with watercolors, some with ink blots, etc. When you start paying attention to the pictures, it’s like visiting a tiny museum filled with art work.
4 – Find a book series your child likes
The best thing about book series is that once your child finds one they like, they have a lot of adventures to go on!
Characters are usually pretty static and stable in the series – for example, in every Fancy Nancy book, Nancy loves being fancy – so it makes it easier to understand and make predictions. Because of this predictability, your child will have a solid idea of what to expect even before reading the book. That’s a confidence boaster!
A warning about book series, though. Once your child finds one they like, you may be in a long-lasting relationship with those characters whether you like it or not. (As in years, people!)
Research even shows that when kids read books with characters that look like them, they eventually read more. Keep that in mind if you are the one choosing books for your child.
Here is a list of some great series books that are popular with young(er) children. By about 2nd grade, many kids may be gravitating to older picture and chapter books. My almost-8-year-old still likes many of these books along with “more mature” chapter books, though.
- Curious George
- Biscuit books
- Knuffle Bunny (and all Mo Willems books)
- Pig and Elephant books
- Harry the Dirty Dog
- Richard Scary books
- Fancy Nancy (girls)
5 – Get excited!
Energy is contagious so your child will pick up on the energy you bring – or don’t bring – to the table.
Now, this can be difficult if you really don’t enjoy reading and/or reading to your child. If that’s the case, try finding a few books that you are actually excited about reading. Or try faking it a bit! (I’ve done that plenty of times when reading books I didn’t like.)
Whenever there is a book that I’m excited to read – maybe a new Fancy Nancy, one by a favorite author of mine, or one my kiddos checked out at the library – I let my kids know. I’ll say something like:
“Oh, I can’t wait to read the cat book you picked out at the library today! Let’s get in bed early so we can really enjoy it!”
If you model excitement about reading, chances are your kids will pick up on it.
6 – Make reading an enjoyable experience
Research shows that when kids value reading for fun and consider it important, they will read more. To help kids see reading as an experience, not a chore, pair it up with something else desirable.
Some of my favorites:
- Snacks and drinks + cozying up on the couch + books
- Flashlights + fort + books
- Stuffed animal + books (reading not only to my child but to the stuffed animal, too!)
- Cozy spot in my bed + extra time + big stack of books
7 – Re-read and repeat
Recently I told my daughter that it was okay to read the same books over and over again. In fact, I told her that it was not only okay but that readers do it all the time with favorite books.
When children are little they can listen to the same book over and over and over and over and over….you get the point, right?! But even when children are older and are independent readers, they can be encouraged to reread favorites. Just like you pick up on something new each time you rewatch a movie, people do the same with books.
This may get old for you but take heart: one day you’ll realize that you haven’t read a particular book in months, maybe years, and you’ll realize that you may not ever read it again. (Sniff, sniff.)
8 – Limit screen time
Results from this Scholastic research showed that kids who use technology less, read more. This included all types of technology – watching TV, messing around on the computer for fun, using cell phones, and being on social media. Keep this in mind as you manage the technology monster.
9 – Keep books around
The same research showed that having books around was associated with more frequent reading in kids 12-17. So if you don’t keep any books at home, you may want to start a small collection. We get tons of books from the library but both of my kids have a healthy collection as well. That way they are never too far away from something to read.
My son is a huge reader – he loves reading and will happily do so for hours. He picks out books when he goes to the library at school or if we are at a bookstore. But, when we go to the library together, he likes to plop down with some comic book and is very happy for me to pick out books for him.
I have no problem with that.
He doesn’t always enjoy the process of finding books – although I know he can – and when I pick out books I expose him to ones that he might not have picked himself. Usually we come home with a stack of books and he usually ends up reading about 75% of them – a few he doesn’t like but, hey, I’ll take those numbers.
It helps to have books around that are on your child’s reading level – this should be on the report card – as well as simply some fantastic picture books and novels for older kids. I love this reading/book site run by teachers! It’s a fantastic resource!
10 – Read
This is a hard one if you aren’t a reader yourself. But, research shows that if you are a frequent reader, there’s a better chance your child will be, too.
One thing you can do to hack a reading habit yourself, is to find a book that even sort of interests you and read it for just 10-15 minutes each day in front of your child. That way, you are modeling reading to your child without having to devote hours to reading yourself. And maybe once you develop the habit of reading consistently you will start enjoying it more.
There’s no guarantee that you will raise a kid who reads often and enjoys it but these tips should tip the scales in your favor.