A few weeks ago I gave you 5 motivators to get your kids reading. Since then, I found To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence, a rather terrifying study of reading’s decline and its effect in today’s culture from the National Endowment for the Arts. In an environment so hostile to the production of avid readers, I didn’t want to leave you with a desire to help, but no ideas on how to get your child’s nose into books. There are two groups of people this could apply to, toddlers who haven’t yet learned to read and reluctant readers who could but don’t want to. Here are a few thoughts to get you started.
For the Younger Crowd:
- Surround them with books. Easy access to fun books is essential for developing a love of reading. Create your own personal library of favorites.
- Let them see you enjoying a book. Kids notice these things and want to emulate them.
- Read books with them from a very early age. As soon as your baby can focus, let them look at the pictures. When they are older, you can choose fun, interactive books that encourage participation. A few examples would be : Press Here by Herve Tullet, There are Cats in this Book by Viviane Schwarz, the classic There’s a Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone, and The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.
- Include the library in your routine. Many public libraries offer programs for toddlers and pre-schoolers. Even if you can’t find a program or make it to one, a trip to the library appeals to kids. They get to choose what they want from the shelves and take it home with them, something they can’t do at a store. We used to make library day special by walking over to the coffee shop down the street and reading a few of our new books over a hot chocolate.
- Point out print in the world. Words are everywhere. Show your youngster how important and useful they are by finding them on stop signs, food in a grocery store, directions to a game, even the name of the scent on their shampoo.
- Help them flex those information organization muscles by making up stories together. Ask them how the sky ended up blue or the tree grew sideways. If they are more logical and real world, like my son, have them tell you how they would do something, like climb a cliff or invent an ice cream flavor.
For the Older Crowd (this may include you!):
One major key to getting older kids to read is CHOICE. Of course we want our kids to read award winners and classics, but they need to be able to choose what they want. Outside of the abbreviated clips of words on social media, any print will build those skills they need. Use your knowledge of their interests and search out what might catch their imagination. Maybe subscribe to a magazine about their hobby, buy books on tape, or get to the library to skim all of the possibilities. If you can hook them into something, eventually your kids should appreciate more varied text on their own.
- Put reading into everyone’s routine. Yes, I mean you, too. Make time, even just fifteen minutes, for the whole family to settle in with a book. It seems the older kids get, the busier our lives get. There’s no way our kids will read if they don’t have the time. When they see you not only making that time but participating in a routine, you send the message that reading is valuable.
- Read what your child reads. If your child is in elementary school you can still read aloud to them, or pair up to alternate pages in a book. Once they’ve grown beyond that, try to read the same book your child is reading. You can talk about the book together, ask questions, extend their learning from it, and give them individual attention.
- Go to print for information or explanation. Anytime you need to know something or want to know more, go to a print source with your kids. This is as simple as searching “spiders” on the internet when your kids ask you how many poisonous spiders there are in the area. Instead of answering, “I don’t know,” “I think three or four,” or “We should ask Grandma,” take the time to read the answer. This subtly reinforces for your children that print can give answers and even be interesting to real life.
Take these suggestions with the two universal truths in mind. One: You know best. Your ideas and creativity will be the most effective motivators. Two: It’s okay if it doesn’t work. Do not despair, lose hope, or label yourself a terrible person. As helpful as it is, many people succeed in life without a love of the printed word.