When you make reading fun for children and help your kids to love reading, you provide a gift that will enrich their personal and professional lives for years to come.
Even though teachers play an important role, parents are a child’s first teachers. To nurture a love of books, parents can begin reading to their children as soon as possible.
Consider the following tips to help build literacy skills in your child at every stage of development and make reading fun.
How to Help Younger Children Love Reading
Start by reading to your baby
It’s never too soon to get started. Read to your baby for a few minutes at a time until their attention span grows. Point to the pictures. Use rhymes and songs to teach language skills.
Make reading fun and interactive
Train yourself to read in an animated way. Pretend you are putting on a private book show just for your child. While you’re reading to your child, give them a turn to “read” a page to you by telling you what is happening on that page. Find a word and ask if your child can produce a rhyming word. These are some ideas to help reinforce reading to little ones who are not yet actually reading words.
If your young child is a new or emerging reader, have them take turns reading the pages to you or a sibling.
Enlist your child’s teacher or caregiver
Develop regular communications with your child’s teacher or caregiver. Be open to feedback. Especially teachers may spot any areas of weakness in reading skills that you can work to correct before they become serious issues. They can also help recommend books that your child might enjoy.
Visit your local library and bookstores
Take your child along to the library and to children’s events at local bookstores. Get them a library card of their own as soon as they’re old enough to do so.
Make a library event a special adventure by exploring books together, and letting them scan their own books for checkout. You may even consider allowing your youngster their own “libary” bag to put their treasures into for transport to and from the library.
A trip to the bookstore can be made special just by taking time to read titles, or purchase a small book for good behavior.
Encourage your child to write
Giving your child opportunities to write will help reinforce their literacy skills. For new writers, help them understand the letters and sounds then show them how they work together to form words.
For the youngester who is writing words, you can leave each other notes on the refrigerator. Write greeting cards together and send them to relatives and special friends in the mail.
How to Help Older Children Love to Read
Set an example of reading for pleasure
You may need to set an example in your own home to counteract trends that show a general decline in the reading of books. Let your preteens see you reading. In a world where reading is on the decline for most adults, this is important.
In 2014, the Pew Research Center revealed that one-quarter of American adults hadn’t read a single book in the previous year.
Help your teen find time to read
The average teen spends a lot of time on social activities and electronic media. You can set reasonable limits, such as a nighttime curfew on using cell phones and watching TV. After that time, their only option will be to read a book or some other non-tech activity.
Cracking open a book before you go to bed could help combat insomnia. A 2009 study from researchers at University of Sussex showed that six minutes of reading reduces stress by 68% (more relaxing than either music or a cup of tea).
This is because, when reading a good book, your mind is distracted from daily stresses and worries that causes tension. Stories give your mind the option to be somewhere else for a little while. This means you can leave your own troubles behind. Reading also allows your muscles to relax and slows down your breathing, leaving you feeling calmer and ready for sleep.
Build a home library
Keep reading material available around the house. Create a comfortable and inviting space for family members to read. If you don’t have an extra room, you can still set aside a corner of the living room or den, or put up shelves just to hold books.
Look for books that reflect your teen’s interests
Let your teen pick their own books as long as the titles are age appropriate. Stay up to date on zombies, werewolves, and other popular trends. Or maybe your teen is into movies and would find interest in reading books about how movies are made, or behind the scenes. The point is to keep your teen reading.
Integrate reading into fun family activities
If your teen is reading Hamlet in their English class, offer to take them to a live performance. If they enjoy a movie based on a Jane Austen novel, buy them the paperback. Take the opportunity to re-read it yourself so you can discuss it. Help them develop their critical thinking skills by discussing books as part of everyday conversations.
The teen years can be a busy and difficult time. Celebrate any progress you make without exerting so much pressure that your good intentions backfire. If your teen isn’t reading as much as you would like, it is not the end of the world.
Reading for pleasure broadens the mind and enriches our shared cultural and civic life. You can help your children get off to a good start by learning to love reading. It will help build basic comprehension skills and change their lives for the better.