“She hates to read!” I complained to my girlfriend.
At first, things were fine. Meghan could color, cut, and paste like the best of them. But, when it came time to teach our daughter how to read, struggles became apparent. It was hard to believe—especially when she came from a long line of bookaholics.
Fifteen years later, this same child is getting ready to graduate a year early from college. Her major? English. This same child who cried over silent g’s, eventually became our most voracious reader. Her nose constantly stuck in between the bindings of a book, her junior high girlfriends teased her when we put her on restriction from books for a week.
So, what did we do that helped encourage her hunger for the written word? We took a radical sabbatical, a year-long break from soccer, to dancing lessons, which gave us more time to read together as a family—especially after we kicked our TV to the curb. It’s been almost three years without a television. It’s been one of the best decisions we’ve made. When the TV isn’t constantly on, the kids will actually reach for a book.
Does your family enjoy reading? Do your children spend more time with video games than with books? I’ve included a few tips to making readers out of all of your children:
- Read in the car. When we drive our kids around, they know to bring along a book. One of our children gets carsick, so he’s off the hook—he listens to books on tape instead.
- Family date with a book. Borders and Barnes & Noble have cafés, which meant Paul and I would grab a mocha and pull up a chair in the children’s’ section. While their dad and I read books, often they climbed into our laps with a request, “Can you read me this?”
- Turn off the TV. Give a child the choice and they’ll choose passive entertainment every time. Turn off the TV and hand them a book. We did. As a matter of fact, we’ve been TV-free for almost three years and our kids have survived.
- Be an example. The greatest way to instill a love of reading in your children is to let them see our love of reading first. So, when was the last time your son or daughter saw you read a book?
When our family was Just Too Busy, we didn’t have time to read. During our twelve-month time-out, it was miraculous how much time became available for us. Reading became one of favorite family pastimes!
Editor’s Note: Read Jennifer’s review of Joanne’s book Just Too Busy at 5 Minutes for Mom today, and leave a comment OVER THERE to enter the giveaway!
We’d love to hear your thoughts about what you’ve changed to encourage your kids to read more here or which of these ideas you’d like to implement, but to enter the giveaway, please leave your comment on the post at 5 Minutes for Mom.The giveaway is closed.
Guest contributor Joanne Kraft has a passion for encouraging women. A sought-after speaker, Kraft has been published in Today’s Christian Woman, In Touch, ParentLife, Kyria, and P31 Woman Magazine. She is the author of the nonfiction book Just Too Busy: Taking your Family on a Radical Sabbatical. Joanne lives with her husband Paul in the California Sierra Nevada Foothills, where they are raising their four children. Follow her on Twitter @JoanneKraft and visit her at JoanneKraft.com. or GraceandTruthLiving.com
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Melissa B says
I really think this book sounds interesting, my Daughter read by the age of 5, and I think the fact that her Dad and I read to her every night – helped very much in her reading habits!
All of us still love to read every day!
While we may not make the same choices that your family has made Joanne, we certainly do make a concerted effort to keep reading as a regular part of our daily lives. Thanks for sharing your perspective with us!
Reading in the car is our big thing. Thankfully none of us get carsick, so instead of relying on DVDs and hand-held gaming, I really encourage my kids to use that time to read.
At home, we give in to computer time, Wii time, and TV time, but this summer I also have enforced “no electric” times, in which they usually end up reading.
One thing I’d add to the list is to read aloud with your kids, no matter what age. It’s a fun way to connect and prove to them that you do value what they are reading.
Melissa – I’m SURE your reading to your kids has had a huge impact. Great job!
Dawn – Good for you! Where were you fifteen years ago when I needed some parenting common sense!?
Jennifer – Another thing that helped…when my older children could read, I’d have them read a book to their baby brother or sister. It made them feel all grown up and encouraged reading in both siblings.
All the encouraging, modeling, removing distractions, (and all the other strategies that I tried) didn’t amount to much actual reading time for my kids. Finally I simply made a rule — 30 minutes of reading every day. Each child has to find a way to fit it in, and if they miss a day, they have to make it up the next day. I also made a rule that they had to read at least 5 chapters of a book before they could decide they don’t want to read the rest.
I know it’s radical, and many people have told me that by forcing it I’m turning it into something they have to rather than something they might want to do.
But the truth is, I was desperate. Nothing else worked.
So far, it’s been a qualified success. My daughter will rarely choose to read, but once she starts on her required 30 minutes she sometimes reads for longer. My son is a tougher cookie, and with the exception of The Hunger Gamees (which engaged him in such a way that he desperately wanted to know what happened next) only reads the required amount.
But reading, like anything, takes practice. And part of the reason my kids don’t like it that much is because they are not good at it. And since they don’t do it, they don’t get better. It’s a vicious cycle. I felt I simply had to take action.
I’m not quite ready to follow Joanne’s lead and give up all other activities, I can certainly understand how she got there.
Barb–I wouldn’t give up all our activities either, but the book was still quite inspiring about making small changes.
I admire that you are so consistent with making your kids read. I agree that if you make them read, they will find some things that they like and find that it’s not so bad.
Nancy Ann Wartman says
We’ve had strong readers in our home too. Lots of reading aloud here. Looking forward to reading “Just Too Busy”
Scott Hunter says
Absolutely right about kids and passive entertainment choices! My son will take the X Box over a book any day, but we’re working on it! I’m trying to encourage him to read one of my books – good grief, it’s even written for his age group! That’s how hard it is these days!