One of our readers recently wrote-
I’d love to read about ways to make sure that my kids love reading!
As someone raised by a “bibliophile” who still loves to read, I thought I’d try to tackle this.
First, I think it’s important to acknowledge that there’s no guaranteed formula that will produce a life long love of books. We’re all individuals and some people just don’t care much for reading. That doesn’t mean you can’t try, though! And whether or not you foster a love affair with books in your children, your efforts will produce something positive, even if it’s just a fond remembrance of times curled up in mom’s lap as she read. So, here are my suggestions on building a love of reading-
I firmly believe that the most important part of teaching kids to love books is to read them yourself. No matter how much you tell kids to love reading, there’s no message that sinks in like seeing a parent read. If you’re always telling the kids to go pick up a book while you’re picking up the TV remote, they will see that, and they’ll incorporate and model it. I know that this isn’t always easy when you have little ones. Once a voracious reader, I fell away quite a bit after my second daughter was born. For that reason, I tend to pick books that have short, simple chapters that I can leave easily for every day reading when I’m up and down constantly, while having a larger, more difficult book for those “muwhaha, they’re all sleeping!” moments.
It’s never too early to start! I started reading to my first daughter while I was still pregnant with her. No, really! Okay, so maybe you don’t need to begin quite that early, but even babies love the sound of reading. And if you’ve been reading daily from the time they were young, you’ll already be in the habit once they’re old enough to really “get something” out of it.
Find time to read, every day. For us, our guaranteed reading time is before bed. We almost always read at other times throughout the day, but bedtime reading is what we really try to make sure gets done. When you make time to read to your children every day, it shows them that it’s something that’s really important, like nighttime prayers or brushing your teeth. You don’t have to read them a novel every night- even a short 5 minute book keeps reading in your routine and gives you time together.
Live surrounded by books. This seems obvious, doesn’t it? But there’s a lot to be said for the visual of having a home full of books. Again, it shows your kids that books are an important part of life. At one point I think my mom had something like 4 or 5 full bookshelves packed with books! Besides just having them out, make sure you’ve put only ones you don’t mind little hands finding on the bottom shelves.
Have your children read to each other. At least a couple times a week, I have my 7 year old read her 3 year old sister a book. It’s good reading practice for her as well as some nice bonding time for them both, and of course my 3 year old loves to be read to! Again, it reinforces that not only is reading important, but it’s also a gift to be shared.
Let them read what they want. Okay, I’m sure we all know “that mom.” You know, the one who proudly proclaims (every single time you talk to her) that her 6 year old is reading chapter books, her 8 year old is reading the unabridged Lord of the Rings trilogy, her 10 year old is dissecting Chaucer, etc. And that’s great, really! If that’s what they love, then good for them. But don’t feel like your child needs to compete. The worst way to foster a love of reading is to try to force it, and an even worse thing to do is to squash a budding love of reading by trying to force specific books or genres. Obviously you’ll need to put your foot down if the reading is really inappropriate for your child or your family’s values, but in general, let them read what they want. If your 6 year old wants to read a ton of My Little Pony books, is it really the end of the world? If your 9 year old loves comic books, what’s really wrong with that? And anyway, they can be great bridges to to other books and unit studies!
I think this is just the start of all the ways we can foster a love of reading in our children. What are some ways you’ve found to do this?
Katie lives in Indiana with her husband and three daughters and can be found (trying) to blog over at Just Another Catholic Mom.
Photo courtesy of Jek-in-the-box.
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