As a reading teacher, a Simplicity parenting coach and a mom of two boys, raising kids who love to read has always been a priority for me. Because I love to talk about books, listen to books, read books aloud, listen to podcasts about books and most of all read books, I’ve been able to raise two prolific readers of my own. But, you do not have to be as
cuckoo immersed in books as I am to get your kids to love to read.
Whether your kids are toddlers or teenagers, I have some ideas that will resonate if raising kids who love to read is a priority for you. As our reading life ebbs and flows. I revisit these ideas to get us back on track.
Be choosy about screen time and extracurriculars
Raising readers in this digital age is tough. If given a choice, most kids will choose screen time over any other activity. Be extra choosy about what your kids do on a screen so there is plenty of time left for books! In today’s world where screens are such a part of our environment, its hard to give a strict limit of say, 2 hours of screen time a day. Be sensitive to your child’s needs and if their screen use trumps other activities like reading or spending time with family and friends, cut back.
Be just as choosy about extracurricular activitiess. It is no secret that kids are often overbooked and over scheduled, leaving them with little downtime to recharge. Kids should have plenty of time to just hang out and get bored and then reach for a book!
Don’t be too choosy about what kids read.
I have to admit that I am not a fan of everything that’s out there for kids to read. But, barring anything completely inappropriate, I let my kids read what they want.
This means there have been lots of Wimpy Kid and Minecraft books in my kids hands over the years. But I am okay with that. As long as they are reading and see reading as a fun, enjoyable activity, I’m not too particular about how it happened.
Luckily as they have grown, so has their taste in books(mostly) and I make sure to sneak in some great read alouds and audio stories to expand their palate.
Carve out regular reading time.
Schools often have daily silent reading time so why not start something similar at home? Developing the habit of reading with your kids,especially if you have reluctant readers, will serve as a reminder to you and them.
Be kooky and have fun with this. You can nudge your kids a bit by plopping yourself down on the sofa and opening up a book. Younger kids will love if you just start reading aloud from a fantastic new book. Older kids may want to stay in their PJS and read all morning on Sundays. Get creative and do what works for your family.
Depending on your kids, you may have to model this for awhile before they will join in. Remember, habits usually take 30 days to form, so keep at it. Our reading time is right after dinner(or after our after dinner walk). We have about an hour or so to laze on the sofa or in bedrooms and just read. We have been doing this for so long, it just happens. I love the time to sit and read with my kids or catch up on whatever book I am into at the moment.
Set the stage: make it comfy!
Make sure there a few inviting spaces around your house that just beckon your kids to sit with a book. Set the stage by making sure you have a comfy chair or two, floor pillows,and good task lights. Place baskets of books close by or strew some good books on a nearby table. If you build it and they will come!
Beds are naturally comfy and a perfect place to chill and read. Make sure your kids have a bedside lamp or a small book light to make nighttime reading easy.
Be a good role model
Modeling a behavior is very powerful!! Kids will do what you DO, not do what you say. You can offer all the best reading opportunities possible, but if kids don’t see you reading, they’ll think, ” Why bother!” Kids who see their parents reading understand that reading is FUN and something many people CHOOSE to do.
Keep an ongoing list of books to read.
My dream is to have a big wipe board in a prominent place where everyone in the family writes down the books that they want to read…what a great way to get your family talking about books and authors. I do keep an ever growing list on Amazon by adding books to my cart as I hear about them.
I regularly consult several sources-Honey For a Child’s Heart, The Read-Aloud Revival, my pinterest board, and our local library. I never force books on my kids–but I may choose them for a read aloud or just casually place them in one of our many book baskets.
Visit different libraries.
Its always fun to take a little trip to a nearby town and visit their library. Find out which ones are in your local library’s network and you can even check out books. Butven if you can’t checkout books, it’s always fun to take a look around. Hang out their kids section–maybe they have an extra cozy area to read or a big fish tank to look at. These visits are perfect for a rainy day or when you need a little new inspiration.
DO NOT incentivize reading
I am NOT, nor ever have I been an advocate of bribery of any sort when it comes to reading. Giving prizes sends the message that reading is not that fun and you need to be bribed to pick up a book. I want my kids to read because they enjoy reading, not because they are hoping to get a prize. Alfie Kohn(his book is a must read) cites numerous studies that reveal that kids are turned off and do less of the activity when they are being rewarded. After all, reading, itself, is the reward.
Offer a Variety of Reading Material
Offering a variety of reading material can keep things fresh–especially for reluctant readers. There are lots of options out there beyond the chapter book. We love vintage comic books, word puzzle books, magazines, reference books, cook books, picture books, and graphic novels.
Check out our favorite non-fiction books HERE.
Get Hooked On An Author!
When I was teaching in Chicago, my students did not have the luxury of having lots of books at home. At age 7, they had not been bit by the reading bug, so I had my work cut out for me. I still remember when Tim Shanahan came to my school to give a talk on the benefits of getting kids hooked on an author.
I chose Shel Silverstein for my 2nd graders and boy, did it work. In fact it made my job EASY. We read Shel’s books over the course of a month, talked about them, drew pictures about them, wrote about them. and Poof!, I had a classroom full of kids who loved reading. The idea is simple. If kids love one book by an author, they will most likely love ALL of the books by that author.
Look for authors with multiple books so kids can work their way thru them all. Series are all the rage right now, so it should be easy to find one that appeals to your reader. We love Mercy Watson, Piggy and Gerald, Percy Jackson, Hank the Cow Dog, Magic Tree House, Magic School Bus, Maze Runner, Geronimo Stilton, Humphrey, TinTin, and The Doll People.
Here’s more authors that are easy to fall in love with. We love Roald Dahl, Shel Silverstein, Oliver Jeffers, Mo Willems, Mem Fox, Kate DiCamillo, Rick Riordan, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Bill Peet, Beverly Cleary, Eric Carle, and Stan and Jan Berenstain to name just a few.
Encourage a Love of Stories
Great readers love a good story-they get immersed in the plot, the characters, and read to find out what happens next. Kids are naturally drawn to stories and there are so many ways to fill your lives with great ones.
Listen to stories–check out audio books from the library or download them onto your computer. My kids love to listen on an iPod. Make it a habit, listen in the car, on Saturday mornings, during road trips, before bed, or during dinner. WE love Sparkle Stories, an online subscription series of amazing stories. We also regularly listen to CD’s from the library in the car. The whole family can be involved creating great memories around stories.
Read aloud to your kids– a lot. Keep reading aloud until they will not sit and listen, which is probably when they leave for college. We make a nightly habit of it and sometimes even read at the dinner table!
Tell stories to your kids and listen when they tell you stories. I kept up the tradition my grandmother started of telling super silly stories at bedtime. There was a Broccoli family and a Panty Hose Family(can you tell that one was invented by my Grandmother?). I’d make up a silly story and they’d make one up, usually with quite the same plot each night and my kids just loved it. I don’t know why we stopped!
Reading teacher digression: But listening is not reading, you say? Listening to books can be a great way to get kids immersed in story and a way to experience the sheer joy of escaping into a good book. They can listen to a book that is above their reading level, giving them access to all sorts of new vocabulary. Once they love stories, they will want more and reading on their own is a great way to do this.
Talk about books with your kids
This may seem little forced at first, but give it a try. Tell your kids about what you are reading. Share your favorite childhood book with them. Ask them about what they are reading.
Sarah MacKenzie, from the Read Aloud Revival, has a great list of questions that can be used for any book. Hang out at Barnes and Noble and peruse the racks of books. Pick up books at the library you’d think they’d like. Suggest books for their list(see above). The more you talk about books, the easier it will become.
Give your kids an allowance for books
Letting kids take ownership of their reading is important. Visits to the library are fantastic, but there is something special about owning your own book. Books can be pricey, though and you can plow through your budget very quickly. I started giving my kids an allowance for books awhile ago. They get 5 dollars a month and we shop at Goodwill or the library book sale room. The low dollar amount forces them to be choosy. They are learning to budget and often explore new authors and get some great vintage books, too!
Wait! The list is done? I still need more ideas!
More to read on reading: My oldest son is a great reader thru and thru. Reading is one of his preferred activities and when we are home (or in the car), you will most likely find him lost in a book. Check out all of the things we can learn from observing a great reader.
Do you know about using book darts to engage kids more fully in their reading?
What our summer reading looks like: HERE.
Please tell me about your favorite ways to get your kids to read. I love to hear new ideas!