No child is born with a love of reading. It is something that we cultivate as parents. And the good news is that there are clear steps we can take as parents at home to encourage our children to grow their love of reading.
I call them the 4 S’s. In order to grow a love of reading, we need to make reading social, special, surprising, and something our children can control.
Let’s dive in.
The social component of reading is huge. Everything is more fun when you get to do it with somebody who you love – and you are that person to your child. Reading to your child is the single most important thing that you can do to increase a love of reading in your child. Reading aloud to younger children, sharing reading aloud with a young reader, and co-reading the same book with a teen, are all great strategies to be social in reading. While reading, make sure to make the event fun. Silly voices, pausing to ask questions, pointing at pictures, laughing out loud and sharing jokes from across the room – all of these strategies make reading more enticing and fun for your child (Bonus: They can also increase emotional intelligence.).
Creating a special reading place is key to helping your child love reading. A reading corner with easy to access books is a staple in every family home. There is a huge range of options here. The special teepee with a pile of books. A cozy blanket and pillow on the couch next to a stack of books. A bean bag in the corner by the bookshelf. All are great options. In my own family, we have a couch in the corner of our kitchen. It’s the reading zone. Surrounded with magazines, kid books, and adult books, it’s a landing spot for everybody in my family to raid the pantry and pick up something to read for a bit.
Variety is the spice of life, right? Well, kind of. Early literacy skills are built by re-reading a book many times. But at the same time, us parents go crazy reading the same things over and over, and we want our kids to grow into new interests. That’s why we want to keep reading a bit surprisingly by providing new books. Rotating books from the special reading nook to the bedroom, to the closet, and back around again helps kids stay interested and engaged. Always be on the look for acquiring new books – there are plenty of free options! Public libraries, free little book libraries, book trades, and hand-me-downs are all great resources. Beyond just surprising your kids with new books (or old books they haven’t seen in a while) think about curating a collection with unusual topics, fiction and non-fiction, picture books, joke books, and graphic novels. You never know what is going to spark your child’s interest, so keep the variety coming.
Let your child have control over reading: the space (“Do you want to sit here or there?”), the time (“Should we read before or after lunch?”), and the book (“What do you want to read?”). Letting your child control the process goes a long way to getting them engaged in the process. Keep in mind, you can’t force your child to read. So sometimes, a good strategy if your child isn’t in the mood to read, is to sit down and read yourself. Read the book aloud – they are listening even if they are across the room.
Just like a preference for sports or an interest in board games, there will always be differences between children in how much they like reading. Don’t stress about comparing your child to other children. Reading is something we want children to enjoy, and when parents are stressed about something, children can sense it.
Instead, adopt the 4 S’s and help your child learn that reading can be a lifelong joy.
I am an award-winning scientist, educator, author, and a mom. I help parents accomplish their goals for themselves and their families.
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