Teaching children to love books and become strong readers impacts nearly every area of their lives. I consider it one of the most important jobs I can do as a parent.
Gizmodo recently posted about an international study by a team of Stanford and University of Munich researchers that found a correlation between the number of bookshelves in a home and how well children do in school.
According to the study’s authors, the educational achievements of British children whose parents owned two bookcases differed from children whose parents didn’t by 1.15 standard deviations. In plain language, that’s three times the amount of what the average kid learns during a year of school. — Gizmodo
I sure hope that’s true because we have books packed into every room in my house. They are one of the few things I really struggle to declutter. Fortunately, there are easy ways to encourage a love of reading in your kids.
10 Ways to Raise a Reader
1. Let your kids see you reading. You know how one of your kids sits down to play with a toy that no one has touched in months and suddenly everyone must have it right this very second. Yea, reading in front of your kids is like that. As soon as I sit down to read something for myself, my kids bring me mountains of books to read to them. I rarely make it more than a few pages into my book but my kids end up getting plenty of reading time in so I count that as a win.
2. Let your kids choose their own books. While I’d love to push my own personal favorites on my kids all the time, I’ve found that they enjoy books a lot more if they choose them on their own. That’s not to say I don’t pull out a few favorites now and then but I pick my battles. More often than not, if there’s a book I want my kids to read, I’ll leave it out somewhere conspicuous so my kids become interested in it on their own.
3. Keep books accessible. Kids are very much out of sight out of mind, especially when it comes to books. Keeping books easily available to your kids will increase the chances that they will actually read them. Keep books for younger kids in a basket on the floor or on a low shelf. Spread books throughout the house so there will always be something to read. We have books in nearly every room of the house in the hopes that the kids will choose to read over video games or TV.
4. Read aloud. Reading out loud with your kids is a bonding experience and that shouldn’t stop even when kids can read on their own. Older kids can still benefit from reading together because you can read more complex books and as they hear your pronounce harder words their own vocabulary will grow. Younger kids love to snuggle up and read a book. I’ve read to my kids since they were newborns and we’ve shared some wonderful books together over the years. Now my one year old sees her brothers reading and brings me books of her own.
5. Talk about what you read. Kids who struggle with reading comprehension can struggle as they get into the upper grade levels in school. You may be surprised that even good readers may not have great comprehension. Get in the habit of talking about what you read together or asking older kids to summarize what they’ve been reading. As comprehension strengthens kids will enjoy what they are reading more.
6. Tell your own stories. Storytelling is a bit of a lost art but verbal storytelling can really help improve kids communication skills and strengthen their imagination. Start with simple stories and have your kids take turns telling the story as you go. My dad used to tell us stories before bed and they still make me smile to this day. He made up an elaborate tale for my 3 brothers and I of the “kingdom of flatulence” , much to my mother’s dismay. It was years before I really knew what “flatulence” meant but I had a good laugh once I was clued in on the deeper meaning of the stories.
7. Leave kids asking for more. I have a little trick I like to use when reading out loud with my kids. I never stop reading when part of the story has come to a conclusion or at the end of a chapter. Instead, I prefer to stop at the climax so my kids can’t wait to read again next time. They leave our reading sessions anxious to read more and my hope is they’ll associate that insatiable feeling with books as they grow.
8. Use your local library. We already have books falling off every shelf in our house so there’s no way I would have room to buy every book I want my kids to read. We take full advantage of our local library and get stacks and stacks of books each week. Pick a day each week as your library day to exchange books and you’ll never have to deal with late fees. My kids get so excited on library day. It’s like Christmas at my house and my kids have had worlds opened to them as a result of our library habit. Local librarians are great resources for book suggestions that are age appropriate and cater to your children’s interests.
9. Let your kids be bored. This may seem like an odd suggestion but what kid wants to sit down and read a book when they have a TV filled with anything they want to watch and a massive video game selection. Limiting screen time and providing kids with unscheduled down time forces them to find something more productive to do. Sure, you’ll have a few complaint of “I’m bored”, but in the long run you are teaching your kids how to entertain themselves. At least half the time, if I keep books accessible, my kids will turn to reading.
10. Make books a part of your life. Once reading becomes a regular habit you can incorporate them into other areas. Keep books on CD in your car to listen to as you run errands. Watch movies of some of your favorite books after you have read them. Dress up as favorite storybook characters for creative play. Reading will open doors for your kids and help them discover worlds and topics that they may have never been exposed to before. Encourage that. Work with them to develop the skills they need to follow their own interests and dreams.
Don’t forget to download our free printable summer reading chart to help motivate your kids to read this summer!
What are you doing to raise a reader?