How I Taught My Child to Love Reading

love reading

Reading fun on a rainy day

We all know that it’s important for our kids to develop good reading habits. Teaching our kids to love reading helps develop their vocabulary and can improve school performance. It’s also a great way for them to learn about new subjects that interest them.

But kids aren’t born with an inherent love of reading, at least not the kids I’ve met. It’s something that has to be taught. It can be done, though, and you can do it with very little pain and struggle. Trust me. Bella, my now 9-year-old daughter, went from a child who didn’t want to read to one who reads a decent-sized book every week. She now reads at an 8th grade level, and is just as likely to ask for a new book as she is for a new toy or gadget.

Here’s what I did to help my child learn to love reading.

We Read to Her Often

We started reading to Bella when she was quite small. In the beginning, we chose books that had things she could touch or flaps she could lift. Pat the Bunny, and similar stories, were hands-down favorites. This kept her interested while we read the simple stories between the covers.

As she grew, we graduated to more complex books. We also started to let her choose what she wanted us to read. By letting her select our story-time books, we made sure we were reading what she wanted to hear. Of course, this meant that we often read the same book for weeks on end, but at least she maintained her interest. To break up the monotony, I would sometimes agree to read more, but only if we tried a new or different book. Happily for me, she usually complied.

You might be thinking that your child is too old for this. But you shouldn’t worry: even older kids like when their parents read to them. It’s an easy way to spend time with and bond with your child, all while helping them develop a love of reading. Assuming you have books on hand, it also doesn’t cost a thing!

I Let Her See How Much I Love Reading

Believe it or not, kids tend to develop a lot of the same habits their parents have. This isn’t just genetics. If they see you doing something, they are more likely to want to do it themselves. Also, if you tell them it’s important to read, but they never see you doing it, they won’t believe you.

I love to read, so it hasn’t been to hard to make sure Bella sees me reading. I always bring a book on vacation, which I read on the plane and in our hotel at night. Every day, I make time to read, whether from a magazine or a book, and Bella has noticed this. Now, if I’m enjoying a quiet night reading on the sofa, she’ll often spontaneously join me with her own book. It’s a great way for us to spend quiet time together without distractions from the television or electronic devices.

I Let Her Choose Her Reading Materials

I’ve already touched on this a little bit with my first point, but I’ll reiterate it here. Letting Bella choose what she wants to read has ensured that she stays interested in reading.

love reading

A well-stocked bookshelf with kid’s favorites can help encourage a child to read

When she was very little, we chose her books, of course. When it came time to read or look at a book, though, we let her pick out the one she wanted. As she got older (somewhere between ages 2 and 3), we started letting her choose the books she wanted from the library or bookstore. At first, she chose books based mainly on the pictures on the cover. Now, she likes to select books based on their genre or subject. She’ll also read the blurbs on the back to make sure the story sounds interesting. And, she’ll ask me for recommendations of books that I liked when I was her age. In this way, I’ve persuaded her to read several Roald Dahl classics and some of the Narnia books.

Don’t discount magazines and comic books as a reading source, either. Though these don’t have the perceived gravitas of books, they at least get your kid reading something. And some kid’s magazines are pretty high-quality. National Geographic and Time both have kids editions. Reading these magzines has sparked an interest in Bella in learning more about some of the topics she’s found.

We Watch the Movie

There are lots of kids’ books that have been made into movies. The Harry Potter series and The Chronicles of Narnia are just a few examples, but there are many others.

If Bella chooses a book that’s got a movie associated with it, we plan for a movie night once she finishes. We make a big deal out of it, complete with popcorn, snacks, and cuddling on the sofa. So, after she finished each Harry Potter book, we watched the movie. We also watched Eragon and The BFG when she completed those books. She is now reading through the Lemony Snicket series, and we watched the new Netflix series as she finished each book.

But we don’t stop there. After watching the movie, we like to talk about the differences between the book and the film. My favorite thing is when she admits that the book is better than the movie, which happens often. This is how I know she’s definitely my child.

We Talk About the Books

While reading is important, it’s equally important that your child comprehends what they read. To this end, as she’s reading a book, we often discuss what’s going on in the story. If there is something she doesn’t understand, like a word or a plot point, I help her figure out the meaning. With unfamiliar words, I have her use its context to decipher what it might mean. This has really helped develop her vocabulary. Even her teacher admitted she was impressed with Bella’s word usage and reading comprehension.

To make things fun, we also play around with the story. At dinner, we might talk about alternate endings for books and stories. Or, we may come up with ways we would change the story if we were its author. It’s really fun to see Bella’s imagination run wild, and I’m constantly amazed at how creative kids can be when given the chance.

Swap Out Technology for Books

This one is difficult, considering how ubiquitous technology is these days. But it can be done if you’re willing to stand your ground.

We made the decision to allow Bella to have access to screen time, even though it is limited and under our control. You may feel differently about technology, but we felt she would benefit from learning to use computers and tablets in this technology-driven age.

When we leave the house, though, unless it is for a long-haul flight, Bella isn’t allowed to bring devices with her. If we’re going somewhere that might require a wait, she can bring a book to stave off boredom. The devices stay home. Even when we are on long flights, we still bring along a book and alternate screen-time with reading time. Now, thankfully, she often makes the decision to turn off the tech and switch to reading before I say anything.

We also have a policy that time on the devices must be earned. In the summer, for every 15 minutes she reads she gets 30 minutes on a device. During the school year, we switch the ratio back down to even so that device time and reading time are equal. Bella has never fought this, and she seems to think it’s fair, so we are continuing this policy for the forseeable future.

I admit that we met some resistance, though, when we told her she couldn’t take her Nintendo out to restaurants or appointments. At first, she did not understand why other kids could have theirs but she couldn’t. But, we stood firm on the issue, and she quit arguing when she saw it wasn’t going to change things.

Does Your Child Love Reading?

This is what worked for us in getting our daughter to love reading. But there are many different techniques you can try to foster this love in your own children. What are some techniques you use to encourage your own children to read? Tell us in the comments!

 

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