“My kid doesn’t like to read,” I sometimes hear in frustration from moms who love books themselves. I can get the frustration. We love to read. We form book clubs. We look at it as a special break. Then…pulling teeth when asking our kids to do so.
Here are a few strategies I’ve used over the years that, I believe, have contributed to my kids’ love of reading. Some of them were not even thought out, but just organically “happened” as I shared my love of reading with them.
- Early Exposure: We had books EVERYWHERE. In the living room, in the high chair, in the crib. My daughter, here at about 14 months, would literally spend hours sitting in piles of books, “reading”:
Books were “toys”…I didn’t stress over teeth marks and ripped pages, which is contrary to some advice. I let them mutilate them and truly enjoy them…by the time they outgrew the baby books, most looked like they had been handled by hungry tigers. By the way, the first book C is “reading” in this video is Where’s Spot, a must for any toddler.
- Read Aloud. Every day. And we did, from the time they were babies. Not only that, it was the time of day I most anticipated: quiet, special time with my two precious angels. Personally, I try to read at a level that is beyond their own skills: reading chapter books to a picture book reader teaches them to use their imagination. Besides helping your children, you’re also helping yourself: reading aloud is brain exercise. In addition to academic benefits, there are a host of other reasons to read aloud. For more information on this topic, Jim Trelease has an excellent book on the importance of reading to your children.
- But Don’t Read Aloud ALL the Time: Encourage them to read at the next level. My son has been begging for two years for me to read Harry Potter to him. I let him know if he’s not old enough to read it on his own, he’s not old enough to hear the story. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to read the books at 5 and 6, now, at age 7, he’s halfway through the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and is reading obsessively until he finishes all of them!
- Model By Example: Do as I say, not as I do! We all know that one doesn’t work. Let them see you reading…often. Let them read next to you on the couch. Tell them that this is your special break time, and they can either join you or play quietly.
- Don’t Edit Their Choices: Yes, it would be nice to think that our kids only enjoyed classics such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Winnie the Pooh. And my kids have enjoyed both. Both they have also enjoyed um…classics like Captain Underpants and Wiley and Grampa. Don’t go all Farenheit 451 on them.
- Visit the Library: Go often, get excited about it. Take little ones for story time. Help older ones find books that interest them…show them the monster truck books, the puppy books, the football books. Then, don’t just sit there and watch them read…find one of your own and enjoy it while they are browsing (see point #3!).
- Use Books as Incentive: When they do something exceptional, I pull a book out of my secret stash and use it as a reward, or take them to the bookstore. When they are doing something exceptionally naughty, it’s “Sorry, no reading tonight…right to bed after dinner.” Books are seen as a reward in our house, not a punishment.
- Turn Off the TV!: Other than the occasional movie, we don’t watch much TV around here. I believe if entertainment is spoon fed to them, they will favor that to reading. Studies show that too much TV affects literacy. If you start leaving the TV off before habits are formed, they won’t expect it.
This is what has worked for us…but it may not all work for you. Do you have any other suggestions? Please post your comments and ideas here!