How We Raised Kids Who Love Reading
Far be it from me to champion myself as a totally with-it, rock star parent, but I do take pride in triumphs when they occur.
In a world filled with children whose thumbs seem to get more movement than their legs while social media sites garner more visits (exponentially) than to the grandparents' house – our kids, though far from perfect, all love to engage in an activity that seems like it must be forced upon nowadays.
They all love reading.
This often feels like an accomplishment, particularly when I see the surprised looks on other parents’ faces. No, we didn’t brainwash them. Threats were not made. And neither my wife nor I were English majors (though, I did work at the campus library in college).
But I like to think that some of our decisions along the way helped nudge them toward an inclination to read. While I’m here to impart our methods for making this happen, it’s not like this can be recognized as a foolproof formula for ensuring lifetime readers. However, I do believe these ideas can certainly help.
No phones, no electronic gadgets, no video games – We’re not anti-technology, but the fact of the matter is that if you don’t have the toys, they can’t use them. As much as you’re playing on your phone during your day, your kid is doing it even more. A book could replace that urge to play whenever there’s downtime.
Drive time = reading time – When you’re in the car, hand them a book. The car might be best for shorter reads, such as comic books, but have a variety of books handy and they’ll reach for them. Of course, make sure they always have one in their bookbag for that school bus commute twice a day.
Read together – If you read to them or let them read to you, they’ll stay engaged longer. They’ll also have more fun sitting with another person as they’re learning the ropes. It’s just more fun.
Be an example – I used to see my parents constantly reading as a child, and it made me want to be like them. Now our children are repeating that behavior, and hopefully the cycle will continue on with their families. Be that strong force in their lives which they can emulate. If you love reading, your kids will probably love reading, too.
Visit the library often – Regular visits to the library will keep reading at the top of the mind, and they’ll be hungry to explore the shelves searching for their next interesting story.
Volunteer at the library – If you and your kids love reading, you can serve in some volunteer role at the library. Chances are they’ll have a stronger attachment to it as they grow in life. Even being a part of regular reading programs is a great start.
Seeing is believing – Everyone seems to tell you that having a book nook, reading corner, etc. is a good idea – and it is. But so is having books around your house literally everywhere. Put them on coffee tables, next to the beds, in the bathroom – anywhere you can. Imagine having candy bars sitting in every corner of your house, available to anyone, anytime. Your child would devour them. Now imagine those candy bars are books.
Give books as gifts – Gifting books is beyond cool, and if you’re trying to encourage a non-reader, try giving those titles which offer interaction: pop-up books, scratch-and-sniff books, sound-making books. You loved them as kids, and your kids will, too. And don’t forget to ask relatives to give your kids books, as well.
Limit TV – You knew this one was coming, as TV is probably the strongest deterrent to reading. While there can certainly be value in certain TV programming, reading will almost always be the better choice. Think of reading as the fruits and vegetables, and TV as sweets – give the latter in moderation.
Offer incentives – One summer I created our own “summer reading program” where our kids charted their time spent reading. My wife and I offered rewards and the end, and it was fun for everyone.
Do your kids love reading? How did you help encourage that love of reading?