Everybody knows reading is good for kids, but knowing and doing are two different things! So, what can you do to set up your child for success? Below are 10 ideas to encourage the book habit in your child.
1. Model it. I know, you’re busy and it seems the only time you have enough time to read a book is in the bathroom, but if you always talk about reading but never do it yourself, your child won’t think books are very important either. It’s kind of like the whole vegetable thing.
2. Make time for it. Reading takes time. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but if your daughter has dance, plays soccer and has voice lessons in addition to going to school and trying to do homework, when is there time to read? If we want our kids to read, we have to make enough room in their schedules so they actually have time to relax with a good book.
3. Visit the library regularly. Get your child a library card and make sure he uses it. Make going to the library to find new books a regular part of your schedule. Many libraries also have fun programs for young kids through teenagers to encourage reading.
4. Give audio books a try. I know audio books are not technically reading, but a child who gets hooked on a series through an audio book is more likely to read the next book in the series just so they can see what happens next. Getting kids to love stories is a great way to get them to love reading. Audio books are a great way to do that, especially for the child who finds reading more difficult. And who doesn’t love to be read to?
5. Don’t discount non-fiction. Often, when we think of reading, we automatically head for the fiction books, but not every kid likes fiction (it hurt me to type those words, btw ;)). My oldest son does not like to read fiction. He will, however, pick up an autobiography of an athlete or coach or a biography of a historical figure. If your child has an interest in a specific topic, make sure to visit the non-fiction area of the library.
6. Make technology your friend. Don’t be afraid to explore new ways of reading books with your child. If he is attached to his iPod, get him an mp3 downloadable book he can listen to. Kindle apps are available for iPhones, iPads and other technology. (just one warning – while many free downloadable books are great, some have some very questionable content, so just be sure you are aware of what your child is actually downloading!).
7. Read a book with your child. Not sure about a book? Read it at the same time as your child and then talk about it. Not only will you be aware of what your son or daughter is reading, but you’ll have the opportunity to have some great conversations.
8. Got a question – find a book. Does your child wonder why the sky is blue or how electricity works? There’s a book that can tell him. If you have a question, chances are there is a book that answers it. If we don’t mess it up, kids like to learn. Tap into their natural curiosity by tying it to finding a book that satisfies that curiosity!
9. Let it just be for fun. If your child is in middle school, they probably are a part of the AR program. I also know that teachers want kids to improve their reading skills by reading at or a little above their reading level, but if your child struggles to read finding a story that is easier for them makes reading much more fun. That’s a connection you want to make for kids. If it always feels like work, they will never look at it as something they want to do.
10. Bribe them. Every summer, I told my kids that if they read at least one book a week (and the amount depends on your child’s reading level), they would get a reward at the end of the summer. If you are creative or have young children, you can pull out all the stops and use charts and stickers to keep track or make the rewards more frequent for young attention spans.