Six Ways to Raise Kids Who Love to Read
We were just talking the other night about how much we love to read. Want to know what makes us feel rich? A stack of new books from a favorite author and time to dive in. Our kids love books as much as we do. It didn’t come naturally to all of them, though. Here are the ways we encouraged them to love reading just like their parents:
Read aloud. There’s just no substitute for pulling a child into your lap and reading them picture books. Those early experiences connect reading with love and attention.
Don’t stop reading aloud. We think of reading aloud as something we do before our kids read, but there is a lot to be said for sharing a book together at any age. We discovered this as newlyweds when we started reading to each other to help us stay awake driving. We loved reading the same thing, becoming immersed in the same story. Reading a book aloud as a family will draw you closer together.
Get lots of really good books. Not all literature is created equal. Love of reading isn’t built on tie-ins with the latest movie. Books like that are like cotton candy – big and exciting looking, but they dissolve to nothing. Surround your family with books that will become old friends. Here’s a list of our favorite picture books and here are some of our favorite books for older boys.
Develop a Culture of Reading in Your Home. If you read, enjoy, and talk about books, your children will see a lot more value to them. Don’t make reading like cod liver oil, instructing them to take a dose, but never going near it yourself. A literary home raises literary children. Not sure what to read? Tell us what genre you like (mystery, adventure, biography, etc) in the comments and we’ll try to make some suggestions.
Limit Electronics. Watching videos and playing games is just really easy. So easy that kids will preferentially choose that kind of entertainment even though the things they end up doing don’t build language and creativity the way books do. Sometimes you’ll just have to tell them no. When we’ve let ours spend too much time watching and too little reading and playing, it’s painful for awhile (those things can be addictive!), but they always come around and start doing more profitable things.
As we’ve gotten busier, it’s been harder to find time to read aloud. Audiobooks multiply our time. They allow us to share books as a family in the van or to free up our hands to do mindless work like folding clothes while we listen.
Audiobooks are great for teaching reading comprehension. While reading is still a struggle, audiobooks teach kids to understand how the written language sounds and to follow a story. We especially love older stories like Hero Tales by Theodore Roosevelt, Pollyanna, Five Little Peppers, and G.A. Henty novels because an exciting book with complex language and vocabulary prepares kids to fly in comprehension once their decoding skills catch up.
Most of all, audiobooks show our kids the power of story (without the work of reading). Radio Theatre audiobooks, especially, like ours for A Cry From Egypt (with 50 actors!) make stories come alive for our children.When kids understand that a book can take them anywhere in the world, let them become anyone in history, and experience mysteries, wars, adventures, and more, they will want to read – badly!
Don’t despair! Sometimes it takes a while to raise a reader. One of our sons was 11 before he learned to read. It was tough, but he reads all the time for school and pleasure both now. It’s pretty exciting to us to hear him jump into a discussion and talk about books he’s been reading. Wow. Your children can grow up to be readers, too. It starts at home.
Hal & Melanie