Some kids fall in love with reading on their own. Some kids need a little push. As a devoted reader myself, it’s important to me that my kids learn to enjoy good books.
It’s so important, in fact, that I have to be careful about not pushing too much. That’s how I’ve come to hone the five tips below.
Show them how it’s done
If you want to raise readers, kids need to see you reading: not because you have to, but because you choose to. Consider this your permission slip to crash on the couch with a good book. (Anything for the kids, right?)
To make the most of your role model position, consider opting for paper books over ebooks when your kids are around. This leaves no doubt it’s not screen time you’re enjoying, but reading time.
Be their partner, not their boss
If you want to raise a kid who loves to read, don’t be their adversary. Don’t make them read books like you may make them fold their clothes, or eat their vegetables. Instead, position yourself as their ally: you are in this reading thing together.
Your job isn’t to force them to read because it’s good for them; it’s to help them find a book that helps them fall in love with reading. I can remember the first book that kept me up till 2 a.m., furtively reading under the covers with my flashlight. (It was Emily of New Moon.) My husband didn’t get hooked till he was 17. (His book? The Firm.)
With your help, the kids in your life can find that book sooner rather than later.
Make reading a communal experience
Books bring people bring together around a common shared experience. So share it! Read aloud to your kids (even if they’re old enough to read on their own). Listen to audiobooks together in the car. Read the same books your kids are reading so you can talk about them together, whether your child is five or fifteen (or thirty-five!). You’re fostering a love of reading and you’ll get to have great conversations.
A few words about reading aloud: make sure that everyone enjoys the stories, including you. Don’t kid yourself that you’re helping your child by reading a book you’re not enjoying. Kids are smart. If you don’t like it, they’ll know, so set it aside and try something else. (It is okay—even good—to model abandoning a book. Really.)
“Fill your house with lots of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.” Dr. Seuss was onto something with that advice.
Literacy experts recommend creating a “content-rich environment” to encourage young readers. In other words, make it so your kids can barely turn around without seeing a good book! Keep books they’re already interested in, or that you think they might enjoy, in plain sight wherever your kids hang out.
You don’t have to be pushy—in fact, it’s better if you’re not. Just leave those books where your kids can find them. At my house, this means on the kitchen counter, on the coffee table, by the sofa, on their nightstands, even in the car.
How do you find books you think they’ll enjoy? Ask your friends or your kids’ teachers. Hit up your local library or bookshop. Great reading lists abound. And of course, My Reading Adventures is packed with book recommendations for kids!
Let them read what they want to read
You get to read what you want to read. Kids want to read what they want to read, too. When they don’t get to choose, it feels like school—and most kids feel like they already have enough school in their lives. Reading at home should be fun.
Don’t worry too much about whether your kids are reading the “right” books. If you want them to be readers for the long haul, don’t worry about whether they’re reading Quality Literature. Just let them read.
Anne Bogel shares her love of all things literary on her popular blog site Modern Mrs. Darcy and on her two podcasts, What Should I Read Next? and One Great Book. Anne is the author of several books, including Don’t Overthink It and I’d Rather Be Reading. She and all her books reside in Louisville, Kentucky, sharing space with her husband, four children, and a yellow lab named Daisy.
NEW from Anne – Anne’s book journal for kids, My Reading Adventures, comes out next month. To learn more or to preorder and get some fun extras for you and your child, click here.
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