Guest contributor Loren Stacks has been freelancing for a couple of years. When he’s not hunched over his laptop in coffee houses he can be seen in obscure bookstores or lined up for a concert. He writes regularly for SecureYourTrademark.Com. In this guest post he provides insights on how to develop your kid’s reading habits.
Reading is a fundamental part to anyone’s life. Not only can it be an enjoyable pastime, but it is the main source from which children and adults grow and learn. As parents, we have the responsibility of giving our children as many tools as possible to make sure they grow to be the best individuals they can be. A love and desire to read should be one of those tools.
Training your child to develop a reading habit does not have to be as daunting as it may sound. There are many ways to get your child to learn the art of reading. One of the most important ways to do this is by starting as soon as possible. Begin reading to your child when they are an infant. They may not understand what you are saying, but by beginning early, you are setting a precedent and you are bonding with your child. Set some time aside each day to read to your infant or toddler. If you have trouble holding their attention, choose books with colorful pictures, read with silly voices and engage your child while reading, by asking them questions about the story or asking them to point things out in the pictures. By incorporating story time into the bedtime ritual your child will come to expect and love this time with you.
As your child grows and learns to read on their own, story time should evolve from you reading the story to your child to your child reading a favorite story to you. Choose short stories when they are just learning so they do not become easily frustrated. Letting your child pick out their favorite stories will guarantee their undivided attention.
As your child becomes a more confident reader, he or she may not want to read to you anymore, but they will still want your time. To keep your children engaged in books, suggest reading with your child. Pick a time of day where you and your child can sit side by side reading your own books quietly. Children generally look forward to having their parents’ undivided attention. By setting time aside each day to sit with your child and read, they not only have your time, but you are setting an example by showing them that you also enjoy reading.
Apart from reading with your child, there are many other ways to jumpstart your child’s reading habit. Allowing your child to choose their own books is one way to ensure they will enjoy what they are reading about. Talk to your child about what they would like to read about and make regular trips to the library, so that they can explore and find something that they will love. Help your child find a book about what interests them most, whether it be pandas, fairies or bugs. Make the habit of visiting bookstores during trips to the mall and encourage them to pick out something they want.
On trips, make sure they see you carrying books more than being in front of the computer. Children tend to take after their role models which are naturally their parents. Apart from this make sure that you have a conducive atmosphere for reading at home. Select a designated place where both you and your child can read which have comfy couches. Try playing classical music in the background.
If all else fails and your child still shows resistance, a rewards system can be beneficial. For example, every five books your child reads on their own will earn them a treat, whether it is an ice cream cone or a walk to the park. Eventually, your child will become accustomed to reading and it will become enjoyable.
Have any of these strategies worked for you? Are there other ways you’ve developed a reading habit in your child? Leave a comment and join in the conversation.
E.S. Ivy says
I often get asked how I turned all my kids into big readers. The short answer I used to give is “I don’t know,” because at first I was truly puzzled. But when I started analyzing it, I realized that there were many things my husband and I just did naturally, such as having a stack of books on both our bedside tables.
I also started noticing that lots of parents who asked me that question were concerned about the *kind* of books their kids were reading, that they weren’t reading books that were literary enough, challenging enough. I think it helps to let kids read any level of reading they enjoy. For example, when my son was in first grade, pretty much all he checked out from the library was the comic Garfield. He thought it was hilarious. “It’s a cat who loves lasagna, get it?” I didn’t get it, but I didn’t push him to check out anything else either. He “got it” and that was the important thing. Reading comics didn’t seem to stunt his reading progress. When he was 12 or 13, he read the entire Lord of the Rings series. I have a hard time following that book as an adult!
I’ve been meaning to write a post about this topic for a while. This is has gotten me thinking about it again!
I agree that having books and seeing their family read (on a consistent basis) is very important. My son read very early (sort of on his own), but wasn’t very interested. But seeing his older sister and his dad and I must have helped.
Reading is just a cool thing to do in our family!!
Also–what worked for me was never to give up. I kept putting fun and different books in his hands, and it finally became something he enjoyed.
I’d say that I’ve purposefully followed all of these suggestions while raising my kids. Also, it may sound simple, but because I adore and love reading myself, my kids have grown up hearing me constantly talking about how FABULOUS books and reading are. I guess it’s a form of indoctrination, but it’s worked. 🙂
Loren Stacks says
Thanks for the comments everyone. I am a believer in leading by example so I think what we show our kids everyday they emulate. This includes everything from reading to shaving. Thanks Jen for working with me on this, I enjoyed writing the post.
Barb: 1SentenceDiary says
You make important points: start early, read to your kids, let your kids see you reading, and let them choose their own books. However, in all honesty, I think this list is somewhat simplistic.
In my (admittedly limited) experience, there are many reasons why reading may or may not click for kids. For some kids, reading is relatively easy and they learn to get lost in the story. For others, reading is more difficult and therefore they find that the stories they *can* read are too dull for them. Or, they may be the kind of kid with a ton of energy, and sitting still that long may be difficult. Or the child may be exceedingly literal, and have trouble dealing with the unknowable details at the beginning of any book (in the first few chapters, a reader rarely understands what is going on). Or, well, the list is endless.
My kids (both teenagers now) have seen their parents and grandparents enthusiastically read throughout their lives. I started reading to them when they were infants, we talk about books all the time, and I have spent countless hours trying to find them books they will be interested in. I, their mother, am an avid reader and always have been. Are either of my kids joyful readers? I would have to say no.
At this point, for my kids it’s all about finding a book that somehow hooks them. If the story grabs their attention and holds it, they will read several hours per day to find out what happens next. If the story doesn’t grab them quite quickly, getting them to read is an incredible chore.
I’m sorry if this sounds condemning. I realize that I am going on at length and am no doubt overdoing it. Years ago, I got tired of looking for help on this topic and finding the same advice over and over: read to your kids early and often, let them see your own enjoyment of reading, and allow them to choose their own books. That’s good advice, but not nearly enough for some kids and their parents.
Perhaps this site could host a future article about how to encourage a reluctant reader to pick up a book. My own kids are older now, but perhaps it could help someone else.