10 Ways to Instill a Love of Reading in Your Child
Teaching a child to read is one of the most important skills you can give them. Good readers excel at life, and conversely those that can’t read end up in dire circumstances. But being able to read and reading well begin with a love of reading. After all, those things we do well we usually also really enjoy, because we’ve put in the time to get better. Here’s how parents can help their children start down the right path to joy and success in life, as well as a world of adventure and knowledge in reading:
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1. Start at the very beginning. Begin reading to your child the same week they are born. I know you’ve got a lot going on and you’re not sleeping, but setting up a regular bedtime routine and reading to your infant can help them relax and settle into family life, and life in general. You may also find that enjoying a board book or two helps you relax in the evening.
2. Put books around the house. All kinds, and keep them within easy reach of small people’s hands. My precious art books are on a higher shelf, as is Patti Smith’s Just Kids and Roots — not necessary reading for elementary age children. However, my Renoir coffee table book and the half dozen versions of Alice in Wonderland all hang out around eye level. There are bookshelves in every child’s bedroom, filled with classics, my favorites and many they have chosen themselves. We buy used both online and in bookshops, and happily accept hand-me-downs.
3. Be a reader to grow a reader. Especially when they are young (and oh so impressionable) your child will value what you value. If you place importance on the frequency and pleasure of reading, voilá you have a child who loves to read. It might take just a little bit more than that, but not much…
4. Take your kids to the local library’s storytimes. Most libraries have several different storytimes, specially programmed for different age groups. Baby storytimes are great because the children’s librarian will have activities that are great for fine motor skills and print awareness. Remember, it’s never too early to start an appreciation for reading and besides, it gets you out of the house and meeting other parents.
5. You can learn a lot from a librarian, and then pass it on. All public librarians have a master’s degree in library science. They have been trained and educated to understand people’s research and reading needs and children’s librarians are familiar with child development, current trends in children’s literature and the educational needs of young people. They are also caring, invested members of your community and want to see your child grow and learn and thrive.
6. Put limits on screen time. What those limits are depend on what’s best for you, your child and your family. In limiting screen time, you make it necessary for the child to problem solve and find something else do to. They’ll need to exercise their bodies, minds and creative skills. Your child may not automatically pick up a book and spend the whole afternoon reading, but by limiting their time gazing at a screen, they will have developed the ability to concentrate on words on a page — vital for healthy brain development.
7. Make storytime non-negotiable. We read every night. Occasionally we might miss out for something really special, like staying up late for fireworks on the 4th of July, but that’s only once a year.
8. As soon as they can write their name, get a library card. It will give your child access, ownership and ability. The confidence a preschooler will gain by choosing a book and then going to check it out all by themselves is priceless…not to mention precious to observe.
9. Let them choose — most of the time. There’s only so many Equestria Girls chapter books I can endure. When it comes to reading chapter books for the next one or two weeks, we take turns. There was Charlotte’s Web and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and then I had to give in and allow for a My Little Pony Cutie Mark Crusaders chapter book, as demanded by my first graders. My fifth grader and I just finished The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (my choice) and before that, we read Bluestar’s Prophecy which is one of the Warriors series’ super editions by Erin Hunter. It features fearsome wild felines living and dying and doing amazing things (her choice).
10. Encourage your child to go to their school’s library. The more libraries involved in a child’s life, the merrier. If your child goes to the library regularly with their class, ask to see the book they are reading, discuss it, ask if they are enjoying it. Remind them to bring it back to the school library and get a new one. If there is no library at your child’s school, put aside your nostalgic frustration, and help your community bring back the School Library. It’s an important resource for teachers, parents and students.
Though parenting is a big and important job, don’t let it be an overly serious one. Remember that with anything that anyone loves in life, it should be enjoyable. Read to your child, listen to your child read, talk with them about what they read and fall in love with them even more as they fall in love with reading.