Looking to help your kids develop a love for books and reading? Most kids become avid readers not because of luck but as a result of regular, positive exposure. Check out these tips to help your kids learn to love books.
I love reading with my kids. It’s something I look forward to at the end of the day and something we occasionally make time for other than at bedtime. No matter how busy we are, I always try to make time for reading with my boys.
Not only do I love spending time reading with my boys, but I also hope to instill in them a passion for reading for pleasure. Given all the distractions and other activities, this isnt such an easy task unless we’re intentional about it.
Also, standard school routines and structures don’t often foster a love of reading for pleasure. I really love my boys’ school, and they’ve had great teachers. But due to the structure of our education system, it often suffocates the love for books many young kids develop as toddlers and preschoolers.
Required reading is boring. Tests and quizzes and projects used as evidence of having read the book blow out the flame of pleasure reading in a matter of years.
When adults read books, we don’t enjoy being quizzed on the minutae of what we read. We want to relish in how the books make us feel, talk about how we connected with the story, and just enjoy it. Would you show up to a book club if the first activity was a quiz on details administered by the book club host? Boring!
This is no different for kids.
School doesn’t snuff out the love of books for all children. But it is incumbent upon parents to actively mitigate the risk of children coming to see reading as nothing more then a means to an academic end. We need to stoke the fire for reading or it will wither out with textbooks and reading tests.
To be clear I’m not faulting teachers for this dilemma. Most teachers work within the confines of district requirements and federal education guidelines. They’re also working with children who have a variety of reading levels and interests, so it can be hard to energize an entire class to adore reading for pleasure at one time.
Some teachers have started workshop formats where students get to choose the book they read for a specific unit or topic from a collection curated by the teacher. It’s much more work for the teacher but definitely helps keep kids engaged.
As parents, there are many things we can do to help our kids foster a love of reading. Some of them take time with others are pretty simple. But no one signed up for kids because parenting is easy.
13 Tips To Help Your Children Love Books
Today I wanted to share with you thirteen ways I help my boys continue to develop their reading skills and find pleasure in cuddling up with a book.
Read Aloud Regularly
Many families enjoy reading aloud before bed. We love this too. If you don’t read aloud to your kids now, start here. Let them sit on your lap while you read to them. Connecting with our kids through shared reading experiences is just about the best way to help kids develop an appreciation for books and a love of reading.
You can also read aloud during breakfast or any mealtime. Read aloud while waiting in lines, at the doctor’s office, and even while traveling. Little pockets of ten or fifteen minutes of reading make a big difference, so don’t discount how much kids can benefit from squeezing in time for books in the empty pockets of your day.
Leave Books Around the House
Make books readily available throughout your house. Don’t pack them away in closets and shelves where kids can’t reach them. Kids are much more likely to pick up books and engage with them if they are in many places and within their reach. Having books around the house also makes it easier to pick up a book to read aloud together in the pockets of time that pop up throughout the day at home.
Related Reading: Promote Literacy While Building a Home Library on a Budget
Create a Reading Nook
Create a special little space for reading, if you have a spot available. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy, but it’s a great way to draw kids into books. We have created these little reading spaces at various times. They didn’t always last more than a few days or a week, but they were novel and special while they lasted. Even a fort that you keep up for a few hours or a few days can be a perfect reading nook to cuddle up with some books.
Read To Kids While They Play
Grab a couple of books and read to kids while they play quietly with toys like blocks, Legos, or crayons and a coloring book. Many kids listen more actively when they can fidget or keep their hands busy. Just because kids are not sitting still doesn’t mean they aren’t listening.
Make a Chart To Track Reading Goals
Make a star chart to track reading progress, adding a star for each day that the kids read or listen to books. You could also use one of these reading charts (2019 Summer Reading Chart and 2020 Summer Reading Chart) from Everyday Reading to track reading goals. Lastly, make a BINGO style chart to track reading at different times and places. Whatever style suits your fancy, use a chart to keep track of how much you’ve been reading together and celebrate milestones.
If you make a BINGO chart, here are a few ideas to include on your chart. Mark when you read together in the following places or situations:
- during breakfast
- during lunch
- after dinner
- before bed (put this on a few times)
- while waiting at a restaurant
- on a train / subway / public transportation
- waiting in line
- at the library
- via audiobook in the car
- via audiobook in the house
- at a park
- in your front yard
Related Reading: 6 Ways to Enjoy Reading Outside
Create A Special Reward or Connection Tool
Connect reading to something else that kids enjoy. For example, you might have a special box of snacks or toys that only come out during reading time. Your kids only play with these toys or indulge in these snacks during reading time, which makes that time something to which they will look forward. We have used this before (especially during summer vacation or when school is out of session) and call it the book club snack bar.
Some parents balk at the idea of rewarding kids for reading. Don’t we want kids to read for the sake of reading, not because they are earning a reward? Yes. Of course, we hope that someday our kids value reading for the intrinsic pleasure it provides. But we generally don’t develop a passion for something until we become pretty good at it. Kids just learning to read aren’t likely to love reading just to read when it’s hard.
If you’re a parent who fears using rewards will create bad habits and your children will only read when something is being offered in exchange, consider how often extrinsic rewards are used for adults. We go to work to earn money, for example, not usually just to feel good about our actions.
External benefits influence our behaviors regularly throughout life, and that’s not always a bad thing. Making reading fun by using rewards isn’t going to stifle our children’s love for reading. In fact, not incentivizing them to overcome the hurdles of learning to read will probably be more detrimental than the rewards.
Let Them Choose Books
When my boys read for pleasure, I always let them choose the books they want to read (within reason of course). Presuming the content is not inappropriate by our family standards, I let them read whatever books they choose.
Sometimes they might choose simple picture books. Other times they choose books I know they cannot read. However, I do not want to discourage them from nestling their nose in a book, so I let them pretend to read while they flip through the pages and enjoy whatever sparks their fancy.
Related Reading: How To Choose Books To Read With Your Children
Parents Choose Some Books
Although I let them choose some books, I also choose books that I want to read to them. I want to mix in books that I know are appropriate for their age level, that include and discuss topics they might not otherwise choose on their own, and are enjoyable for me.
At bedtime for example I usually allow each of them to choose one picture book and I choose one picture book so we end up with a mix a books I have chosen and they have chosen. This way, I can incorporate books about topics like environmental matters and social justice while also reading their picture books of choice.
Read Together (Even When They Can Read On Their Own)
Shuffling our children off to a quiet room to read on their own is not always the best way to establish a love for reading. I think my boys’ favorite part about reading is that we do much of it together. They love sitting on my lap, getting my full attention, and engaging in discussion about the stories.
Reading together not only when the boys are young but continuing to read aloud as they get older helps instill that books not only provide entertainment but also foster connection between important people in your life.
Discuss Books With Them
As I mentioned above, one of the significant benefits of reading for pleasure is the connection we create with others about the books and stories we share. When your children are reading or when you’re reading to your children, ask them questions about the book. Be engaged and show interest in what they are doing. Not only will you connect with them over the topic and create opportunities for valuable conversations, but it also shows them you care about how they are spending their time.
Take Them To The Library
Having books at home is great, but we don’t need massive home libraries to raise readers. Take your children to the library and show them the seemingly endless array of books available to them. Surely they will find something they like. Introduce them to the librarians, and encourage them to ask the librarians to help them find books they want to read.
My boys LOVE the library. We visit about once a week, even if just for fifteen minutes on the way home from summer camp or school. It’s a great way for them to relax, decompress from a long day, and hide out in a corner with a new book for a few minutes.
There’s no better place to incubate a love of books and reading than the place that is home to more books than we can imagine. If you’re unsure how to use the library, check out this post that has lots of great tips on making the most of your local library.
When you do go to the library, be sure to let them choose a bunch of books, even if you think those books are terrible. If the content is inappropriate for your family culture, then by all means take a pass on the book. But if the kiddos love it and you just think it’s lame or boring, don’t be the breeze that blows out their excitement about books. Let them bring home the books that draw them in.
Fostering a love of books is more important than reading about life lessons through the lens of the most articulate children’s authors all the time. Sometimes we just need to let kids enjoy whatever books get them turning pages and connecting with the tactile experiences of holding a book.
Related Reading: Ways To Support Your Local Library & Why It Matters
Visit and Support Little Free Libraries
We love borrowing books from the library, but my boys also enjoy having some books they can call their own. Little Free Libraries are a great way to build your personal library and pass along a few books you no longer use.
Try A Storywalk
Have you ever followed a Storywalk? A Storywalk is a series of stands along a path in which the pages of a picture book are situated so you can read the book while you walk together. Check out more about the Storywalk we visit that is managed by our local library.
There are so many ways to help kids connect with books. And books then become our window into the rest of the world. They teach our kids about the places and people we don’t see at the grocery store or in our neighborhoods. Books introduce complicated topics and provide a springboard for difficult conversations with our kids. Reading is such a great outlet for kids and a great way for families to connect.
Do you have any wonderful tips that have helped your children come to love reading? Share them in the comments!