Every parent wants their child to love reading. Reading is the foundation of all other learning, and children begin building the skills needed for reading long before they actually start school. A lifelong love for reading starts in early childhood with children’s first experiences with books.
To see the joy on your child’s face when they are hooked on their favorite book…there is nothing that compares. So how do we inspire our youngest, budding readers? Here are 9 easy ways to raise kids who love to read:
Find books on their interests
Children’s interests are always evolving as they grow, and providing books based on their interests is the #1 way to keep your little one engaged with reading throughout their life. Maybe your child loves dinosaurs or bugs, or has an absolute favorite disney movie… you can find books on literally anything your child might be fascinated by. When my son becomes interested in a new topic, I find a couple of books at our local used bookstore and leave them on the coffee table for him to discover.
Identify common themes of their favorite books
Does your child gravitate towards books with bright, bold colors? Do they absolutely love books that make them laugh? Do a lot of their favorite books have a baby animal as the main character? Identifying common themes of your child’s favorite books can help you find other books that will pique their interest, even if the topic itself is completely different.
Read aloud to them while they play
According to the NAEYC (1998), the most important activity for building the understanding and skills necessary for reading success is reading aloud to your children. Even if your child is too active to sit and listen to a book, you can read to them while they play nearby. There are so many language-learning benefits to hearing a book being read aloud. By playing and listening at the same time, your child is learning how to do two things at once as well as learning how to visualize a story without seeing the pictures. Often times if I pick up a one of my son’s books and start reading aloud, he will end up snuggled up next to me within a matter of minutes begging for me to “read it again!”
Read it AGAIN
Speaking of reading it “again,” re-reading the same books over and over (and over!) is extremely beneficial in raising a lifelong reader. Children love repetition, and reading the same book again and again is what gives your child the motivation and encouragement when it comes to learning how to read. They begin to pair words written in print with the words that we speak, and they learn not only that print has meaning, but that they can actually recognize specific words. Children also usually engage in retelling their favorite stories, which is an important pre-reading skill. Even though it can get exhausting reading the same books over and over, it’s one of the most critical things a parent can do.
Rotate their book collection
Just like toys, kids get bored when they see the same books sitting on the shelf every single day. Change it up every few weeks by storing away some books and bringing out a new batch. Your child’s interest in books may be rekindled just by having some new ones to browse through. Try strategically placing books in different places (for example, put a transportation book near their toy cars) to inspire their imaginative play.
Invest in some books on tape
Books on tape are another really great way to boost children’s engagement with books. Children love hearing stories being read in different ways, and books on tape can boost their listening and thinking skills. It also gives them a chance to become more independent by turning the pages along with the stories.
Read your own books (model reading)
Children need to see us reading our own books, for fun. Gasp! I know what you’re thinking… “I don’t have time for that!” But children need to know that reading is something that adults enjoy too. A lot of times I end up reading things on my phone, which I know isn’t the example I want to set for my son. I’m making more of an effort to find books on topics that I want to read, and finding the time to read them during my son’s waking hours.
Make reading a cozy, memorable experience
Reading together with your child is so much more than just a learning opportunity -it’s an time for closeness. Holding your child in your lap, snuggling up in bed, or singing songs while reading books sends messages to your child’s brain that reading is a comfortable and happy experience. When reading together is cozy, children will seek it out as an excuse to reconnect with you. Pleasant memories of reading together with you will boost your child’s relationships with books and make them more likely to be a lifelong reader.
Read as a family whenever possible
There is something special, magical even, about reading together as a whole family. Find a book on a topic that everyone enjoys, and build in that family time whenever you can. There is no better way to communicate the value of reading than to spend your family time doing it. Try reading together after dinner or right before bed, and encourage your kids to talk about what you are reading. This is such an easy way to encourage open communication with your kids which will greatly benefit your relationship.