I’ve had a few questions lately about how to get kids to read more and how to encourage more reading at home. I recently posted about how my oldest daughter set a goal to read 50 books this summer (she actually accomplished it in less than a month!), and it sparked a few conversations on the subject.
We do love books in this house. My degree is in English, and I started collecting children’s books before my kids were even born.
Not that my kids are a bunch of geniuses or anything. I didn’t teach them how to read before kindergarten, and they are all currently reading at or just slightly above grade level. But they all like to read (or look at) books, and spend plenty of time reading on their own.
I’ve come up with 8 ideas on how to encourage kids to read. They are applicable at various ages/stages.
How to Encourage Kids to Read
Turn off the technology
This is a no-brainer, but I have to say it. If the TV is on (or iPad is available) kids are going to be less likely to pick up a book and read. Movies and shows can have their value, but its always better for kids to be using their imagination and building their reading skills.
Read to your kids
Yep, this is another no-brainer. You’ve heard all the studies, you know its important. Just do it! Set aside time to read to your kids. Books have always been an important part of our kids bedtime. From about 9 months old on, I read my babies a story as part of the bedtime routine, and it continues on as they get older. We have lots of books around the house, and we take trips to the library often (sometimes twice a week!). I love books, and my kids know it. So far, that love has been pretty contagious!
Let them see you reading
I think its so important for parents to set a good examples as much as possible. Its important for kids to see us reading actual real books or magazines. I’m pretty sure when my kids see me on my phone, they assume I’m playing games or on YouTube (nope.), so even if I’m reading articles or an ebook, it doesn’t quite count. Let them see you reading a real book when you have a spare minute or at bedtime.
Create a family tradition with reading
I have a friend who, every summer, reads a Harry Potter book out loud to her kids. Then they finish it, they have a family movie night watching the sequel that corresponds with the book they just completed. Make reading a fun family past-time and create a family tradition around reading. Maybe once a week, (Sunday afternoons sound lovely) set aside an hour to lounge around the living room reading books and having a fun snack. Or perhaps a picnic in the park with a great read aloud chapter book. Instead of movies on roadtrips, maybe try reading a book together. Start a Christmas tradition of doing a Christmas book advent.
Make sticker charts
Schools are big on reading logs and charts, and I kind of hate them. But this summer my daughter make her own sticker chart to track how many books she could read this summer. Some kids are motivated by charts (or by the reward at the end) so its definitely worth a try. You can count minutes read or books read (or both!).
Start the book with them, and let them finish
I stumbled on to this idea randomly one day, as I was sitting and reading to my girls and had to get up to tend the baby. I had to stop reading riiiiiight as it was starting to get good. My oldest picked up reading right where I left off because the anticipation was killing her! Sometimes kids just need a bit of a nudge to get them started.
Let them read comics or Guinness Book of World Records
As much as we’d love our kids to be reading the classics, or books we loved as children, sometimes you just have to let them read SOMETHING. My oldest daughter really found her love of reading when she discovered graphic novels (check out our post about her favorite illustrated and graphic novels here). Comics, Guinness Book of World Records books, or other non-fiction books are great for reluctant readers. They feel less intimidating, like you can just read bits here or there. And you can really hone in on finding topics that appeal to their interests.
Give them flashlights to read after lights out
My 9 year old started sneaking flashlights into her room this summer, and secretly reading after lights out. Initially, I wanted to take away the flashlight and force her to just go to sleep. But I decided it couldn’t hurt too bad (especially in the summertime), and I love that she is reading. So I’ve let her do it. I think when the school year starts again, we’ll just adjust bedtime up a bit to allow for extra reading time.
As a parent, your example and attitude towards reading is crucial. Show them that reading is a fun way to escape to another reality for a bit. Help them see the value in growing your imagination through books. Re-kindle your own love of reading, and let that spark grow within your kids.