Reading is the key to learning. When a child enjoys reading, the whole world is open to him. He can educate himself and learn anything. I’ve been fortunate that my children love reading. I suppose the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! When I think about the things that have probably helped get my kids to love reading, these are the habits that come to mind.
Surround them with books.
Studies have shown that children who live in homes where there is lots of literature around have better reading and math skills than homes that are lacking in a personal library. This doesn’t have to mean expensive trips to Barnes and Noble. I get most of my books for almost nothing at: library book sales, yard sales, Paperback Swap, and thrift stores. Use the library to find books your children love, and then try to purchase those inexpensively. Books to read for pleasure, in my opinion, are where the majority of dollars in a homeschooling budget should be allocated.
Make reading pleasurable.
I never read to my babies in utero. It felt weird and forced to me. But I did start reading to them at an early age. Children who associate reading with pleasure will do more of it. Have a special reading corner with a comfy chair, and books within easy reach.
I also didn’t stress about when my kids began reading. I didn’t “teach reading”. I simply read to them. A lot. It seems to have worked. From research I’ve read, pressuring kids to read when they’re super young has no benefit. (Lots of studies quoted in Jim Trelease’s wonderful book on this point.)
Choose books you enjoy.
There is no law that states that you must read books to your kids that you don’t enjoy. I read a lot of kid lit, and some of it just plain sucks. Don’t waste time finishing a story you think is dumb. If you’re engaged in the story, you will make it more interesting to the kids.
At the same time, don’t get your feelings hurt if the kids don’t like the same books you do. My 11 year old nearly broke my heart when he told me he wasn’t enjoying Little Town on the Prairie. I didn’t force him to listen to the readings after that. He did, however, love Farmer Boy. Win!
Read to your kids every day, regardless of their age.
Babies enjoy being read to, perhaps while you are nursing or putting them to sleep. Older children enjoy all sorts of picture books and later, chapter books. Kids can understand literature that may be too challenging for them to read on their own, so pick books that are just a little more mature than you think your kids would read on their own. My husband read books like The Princess Bride and other young adult chapter books to my stepdaughter when she was just a preschooler. I think this has much to do with her smarts and her voracious appetite for books now.
And once a child can read well, don’t stop reading aloud to them! This is a great way to stay close to your older kids too. Share something with them from a book you’re reading and start a discussion with them.
Sweeten bedtime with books.
Most kids balks at bedtime. If what you need at night is a little peace and quiet to spend time with your spouse, then let your child stay up past bedtime if he or she is reading. And only if! Even a child who is a little less likely to pick up a book will do so if they get to stay up later.
Choose books that reflect your child’s interests.
Pay attention to what your child likes, and go to the library and choose appropriate books. If you need help, I highly recommend The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. Not only does this book have fabulous lists of great kid’s literature, it has a lot of great research that will convince you of the value of reading aloud to kids.
Another wonderful book? Esme Codell’s How to Get Your Child to Love Reading: For Ravenous and Reluctant Readers Alike. Esme is an author, a mom, former school teacher and owner of a “reading salon”. (She is also a super cool righteous chick who was my childhood penpal. I always knew she would do amazing things!) Esme is truly an expert in children’s literature and her book is a treasure.
Think outside the book.
It doesn’t have to be a book to “count”. Children’s magazines are another way to encourage reading while learning about interesting subjects. My kids love National Geographic Kids. (I actually read it as soon as it arrives in our mailbox!)
My 10 year old devoured a book about eBay selling written by a successful eBay entrepreneur. Ilana, 9, recently read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. If you have a child who is less inclined to read because they are strongly kinesthetic learners (I do), then try audio books. That child in my family loves to go to sleep at night to audio books.
Minimize electronic entertainment.
The less time they have available for video games, the internet and Tv/movies, the more time they’ll spend reading. Period. Reading is more work, and kids and adults alike will default to passive if given unrestricted access to electronic media.
Be a reader.
You knew this was coming, didn’t you? Sometimes we moms think we’re too busy to read. Perish the thought! I would be very unhappy if I didn’t carve out time for personal reading. Sadly, studies show that most Americans don’t pick up a book once their formal education is over.
Make time to read. Turn off the TV, computer, and your phone and carve out 30 minutes a day to read. If your kids see you reading, they will think that this is just what adults do. If they’re bored, they’ll reach for a book. (In my house, they’d better because a bored child will find himself assigned a chore if they complain to me!)
Do your kids love to read? What did you do to get them to love reading?