“I assign 30 minutes of reading each night,” said my 6th grader’s reading teacher at Back to School Night. Then, he shrugged and finished his sentence. “But we all know that reading is the lowest priority for the kids, and they aren’t doing it.”
Say what?! Nope. My husband and I weren’t happy with that at all. Reading is what comes first in our family, and there’s a good reason for it: we’ve always embraced and encouraged reading, and a reading teacher who isn’t going to do that is a genuine concern for our family.
Reading relaxes us; it keeps our brains moving and our minds in tune with our surroundings. For many, this skill comes naturally, but some need encouragement. There’s no better time to encourage reading at home than when children are young, to help them build a natural love of reading.
9 ways to encourage a natural love of reading
The love of reading needs to start everywhere today. Whether your kids are six months, six years, or 16, it isn’t too late – or too early – to encourage reading within your family. Let’s prove our reading teacher wrong. Let’s show that reading is a priority for our children because reading is a lifelong skill that will be useful in every career path, every adventure, and every luxury.
Be a Reading Role Model
Allow your children to see you actively reading in your home. By keeping a book nearby and taking time to sit and read, they’ll see that reading captivates you and will be curious to feel the comfort that you feel when you read a book. The more you are observed reading, and the more likely your child will also pick up a book.
Try to set aside at least 10 minutes each day for family reading time. Oftentimes, it won’t even have to be announced as such. Just as a yawn can be “contagious,” so can picking up a book.
Allow Your Child to Explore a Book
A child doesn’t have to actually read the words on the page to be able to enjoy a book. Looking at pictures helps children identify keywords and helps a child to preview a story before reading it. Children become more and more creative when they are able to create a story based on a few familiar words and the images featured. Encourage them to make stories; don’t always make them focus on the words that are written. Even toddlers can “read” independently by turning pages and drooling over the images, which teaches them how a book works.
Keep Books Throughout the House
Reading materials can be kept in nearly every room so that there’s always something to read, not just in bedrooms or library areas. Keep books in bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms, and even the car. Getting lost in a good book can happen anywhere, at any time.
Invest in a Variety of Genres, Topics, and Characters
Your child may be interested in trucks this week, but keep books about artwork and travel nearby as well. Children’s interests change by the minute, so make sure that you have a bit of everything that will interest your child at any time.
As Long As There Are Letters, They’re Reading
While it’s ideal that a child will read a book, other materials such as stories, poetry, encyclopedias, cookbooks, magazines, computers, newspapers, and brochures all offer opportunities for reading. Encourage children to read many mediums to spark interest, broaden their horizons, and relate to topics of interest.
Scratch That… Who Needs Letters?!
Wordless picture books offer an opportunity to help children learn through context. They learn to look closely at the images, deciphering the illustrator’s meaning. They learn tracking cues (where the eyes search and follow through a story). They learn about character development, plot, and suspense. They become summarizers. Even better, they become storytellers.
Encourage Reading with Positive Energy
The topic your child is obsessed with today may not be of interest to you, but take 10 minutes to show how proud you are that your child is so interested in a topic. Ask her what information she’s learning and discuss how to learn more. Chances are you’ll soon learn and embrace her interest.
Discuss What You’re Reading
Whether you’re reading together or your child is reading on her own, ask questions. Asking questions helps your child to see that you are interested and encourages him to want to read more. Ask questions that help him to reflect on what he has read as well as predict future outcomes, which will likely make him want to read more.
Share what you’re reading, take turns reading out loud, or read to your child. What’s important isn’t that the words are read correctly. It’s that you share a love of the stories and an interest in the words that create the stories that paint your days. Read often and enjoy it.
The more it becomes natural in your home, the more your child will become a natural reader. Soon, he’ll be the one encouraging you to read at home.