Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our children just naturally loved reading? Of course! It would be equally wonderful if I naturally loved making dinner but, let’s face it, that’s not happening. Instead, I do what’s necessary to make dinnertime work for me (the crockpot and 15-minute meals are my BFFs).
The same is true for our kids and reading; we have to make it work for them. Some kids naturally enjoy reading and some would rather eat dirt than read for just twenty minutes. (I have one of each in case you’re wondering.) So what are we moms to do when we want to instill a love of reading in our unenthusiastic children?
Over the years, I’ve made a concerted effort to implement what I share below in the hope my kids will have at least a drop of the passion for reading that I do. So far, they each find joy in reading in varied degrees, but it’s usually not hard to get them to do it. And, “library day” is their favorite day of the week, so there’s that.
If you want to start on the path to raising readers, give these things a try:
Make reading a priority. As a homeschool family this happens rather naturally for us, but reading time can be a priority for any family who wants it to be. We all have different schedules (and scheduling difficulties) to contend with in our own families, so I’m certainly not trying to convince you to make a big production here. Whether it’s a nightly bedtime story, a short story at breakfast or during bath time, or a Saturday morning read aloud routine; just fit reading in where you can. A little goes a long way.
Read together…even when they can read on their own. Think of your kids’ ability to read on their own as just one of many ways they should be exposed to reading. There is a significant difference between hearing a story from you, a seasoned reader, and reading a story on their own. Hearing stories out loud helps kids learn how a story should flow and gives them a different way to absorb information. It’s also a perfect opportunity to spend some relaxed time with them and score free snuggles.
Let them read what they want. Personally, comic books do nothing for me. I’d almost rather read a phone book. My son, however, loves comic books and will read them without whining, which gives them a unique value to me. Reading is reading. Whether it’s a picture book, comic, novel, or newspaper, give your child the option to read what interests them. Kids thrive on choices and feeling in control, and this is one area where we can give them those things. On the flip side, if you want to ensure your child never truly enjoys reading, make them read only what you choose for them. Nothing squelches a passion quicker than having it forced on you.
Keep books everywhere. Seriously. Keep them in the car, in the bathrooms, in the living room, in the bedrooms…everywhere. We moved most of our kids’ toys from their bedrooms to a playroom in the basement, but we kept books in both places. Why? Easy access! My kids usually won’t look for anything, so having books in all the places they might be makes it easy for them to pick one up and read when the mood strikes. If you’re worried about a mess of books all over the house, decorative baskets are your friend!
Be a good example. I am, and always have been, a book nerd. I make no apologies. But even though my reading passion runs deep, I still have to make sure I’m conveying it to the kids everyday. They actually have to see me reading, which means I can’t always wait until they’re asleep to whip out a book. I also show interest in what they are reading, even if it’s not all that interesting to me. We discuss not only the books we read aloud together, but also what they read on their own. This dialogue reinforces the importance of reading and also helps me gauge their reading comprehension.
Make it fun! Anything is easier to do when it’s fun. Life gives us all kinds of things that aren’t fun (laundry, dental exams, filing taxes, etc.), but reading is something we can make fun if we choose. As is always my advice, make this work for you. If you’re crafty, do some book-inspired crafts with the kids after reading. If you have a flair for the dramatic, read to your kids like you’re auditioning for a play (you’ll probably always get the part). Read outside, or in a tent, or in a dark room by flashlight. Anything you can think of to shake things up a bit will work. The idea is to have fun, however that may look for your family.
If you’d like to read more about raising kids who love to read, check out Read to Me by Bernice E. Cullinan (afflink). The book provides practical tips, ideas, and exercises for reading with kids from infant through twelve years old.