If you have ever rescued a damsel in distress from a tower, battled fire-spitting dragons, flown on a broom alongside Harry Potter, and explored planets with the Little Prince, you know the power of stories. When you have spent many of your childhood hours lost in the imaginary worlds of books, you want your children to have the same marvelous experience. But how do you get your kids to fall in love with books if they are reluctant readers?
The benefits of reading for children
Reading has been the center of many development studies, and the medical literature agrees that it has a major impact on a child’s development. Reading increases literacy and language skills and results in overall better behavior and health. Reading also helps children develop a longer attention span and fosters their creativity, all the while teaching them valuable life lessons.
Why is it harder to get kids to read?
Over the past 20 years, technology, including phones, tablets, laptops, and TV streaming have become ever-present in our lives. Most parents will remember when the first computer entered their homes. Now we debate whether a 10-year-old should have a mobile phone or not. While technology can provide great benefits for learning, it can also become a major distraction.
Aside from technology, the other main hurdles on our children’s path to becoming regular book readers are poor phonemic awareness (understanding the sounds in spoken words) and limited experience with books. Luckily, you can overcome all the reasons why kids may refuse to read with some time and effort. A great place to start is following these 14 tips on raising an avid reader.
14 tips on how to get your kids into reading
1. Set the example
In the same way you must (at least pretend to) enjoy the vegetables at dinner, your little ones will be more encouraged to read if they see you reading. Modeling good reading behavior is a reliable way to inspire your kids to pick up a book.
2. Turn it into a family affair
If the whole family has the habit of reading together, it encourages your little one to join in. A win-win idea is to invite your kids to read in bed with you on Sunday morning — you get them to read, and you buy yourself some quiet time on the weekend! Whichever time and place work best for your family, schedule a group activity and read all together.
3. Enjoy the magical bonding time
Being read to is a special interaction between parents and children, one that science has proven to foster brain development and bonding attachment. Create a lap-time routine and enjoy the one-on-one time with your children.
4. Have books everywhere
To promote any habit, you need to make it easy to pick up (literally, in this case). Have books everywhere. They should be the exception even in a spotless home — definitely not to be stored away in tall, out-of-reach, and serious-looking bookcases. Have them in every room. Place some by the bed, near the couch, and next to the dining table. Leave some in the bathroom, the car, the treehouse, and any other spot your kids spend time. With a variety of exciting books, bright comics, and attention-grabbing magazines within reach, all your little one has to do is get curious.
5. Create a reading routine
Another science-backed way to encourage positive behavior is to establish a routine that permanently incorporates good habits into everyday practice. The most popular way is to add it to your child’s relaxing nighttime routine. But if your child is always restless and unfocussed before bed, try a different time during the day when they are less tired and more receptive.
6. Make it fun
To encourage desirable behavior in your kids, you have to make it fun. Reading at home should never be a chore or a test. They already get that at school. As a parent, make reading fun, relaxing, and enjoyable. Try letting your child choose the book, reading aloud in funny voices, adding props at story time, hiding under a cozy blanket together, or encouraging role-play (during the day). You can also lean on your local library for organized storytelling sessions, communal reading classes at the youth center, or attend a kids’ community event.
7. Use all the senses
We don’t need science to tell us that kids learn with all their senses at once. While multisensory learning is being explored in schools to help with literacy levels, what you can do at home is choose books that crinkle, pop out, have mirrors, use flaps, or incorporate textured materials.
8. Create a reading nook
A dedicated reading space is a great way to encourage your little ones to sit down with a book. Even more so if they get to customize it or “build it”. From blanket forts to pirate ships made of pillows and jungle-themed nooks with stencils on the walls, their imagination is bound to run wild no matter the motif.
9. Let them choose
Go to the library or bookstore with your kids and let them pick their next read. As long as it’s age-appropriate, all reading is good reading. If they choose a graphic novel about their favorite video game character, that’s still an engaging read that will improve their skills and foster a positive habit.
10. Talk about books
Over breakfast, in the car, at the dinner table, or in any setting that suits your family, ask your kids what they have been reading, who their favorite character is, what they think will happen next, and engage them in a conversation. This is a way to check in and increase their comprehension and summarizing skills.
11. Don’t interrupt
If your kids are struggling to get into reading, be mindful not to disturb them when they get started. Avoid noisy or fun activities that could break their focus and steal them away from the book. Definitely don’t start watching TV next to them. If you can, pick up a book and join them!
12. Take a book wherever you go
Whether flying to see grandparents, on holidays overseas, or simply running errands, always have a book, comic, or magazine with you. If you can get them to spend even a little time reading instead of reaching for a device, we have it on good authority that you’ll win parent of the year. Jokes aside, give them the option — your kids might surprise you.
13. Suggest books as presents
Ask your family and friends to buy your kids books for birthdays, the holidays, and other gift-giving occasions. Even better, ask if they can add a special message. This will add personal motivation and excitement, which could be just what your child needs to read the book. It also sends the message that books are a way to connect and an essential part of family life.
14. Choose books wisely
A book that is too advanced will quickly put a kid off, and if it’s one of the first books they are ever reading, it could ruin the experience altogether. Make sure you have age-appropriate literature for your children. To encourage their curiosity about a new book, you could choose some that cover important events in their lives. For example, there are books about starting school, the arrival of a sibling, getting a puppy, moving homes, etc. Seasons and holidays are also your friends, making it easier for the child to relate to the story.
Sewn with love,