Growing up I didn’t just like to read, I LOVED to read. I was the kid who was supposed to be cleaning my room or coming down to dinner, but instead I was reading. I never went anywhere without a book, and at night I would crack open my closet door and turn on the light so I could sneak in and read (sorry, Mom!).
Reading can be an education, an adventure, and an escape. Sometimes it means getting lost in a story in another world, and other times it means learning something new. Since becoming a mom I have hoped that my children would grow up as readers, but sometimes it’s hard to know how to foster that at a young age. These are a few simple things I recommend to raise readers.
Read to them.
You’ve probably heard that it’s important to read to your kids, and that’s defintiely the first step. More important for me was developing a routine of reading. Make a habit of reading to them every day and keep books where they are always available.
Our family has “book time” in the mornings. I lay out a small blanket for each child and they sit on their blankets and look at books; I also read aloud to them while they sit. You have to start small and maybe only have them sit for three to five minutes, but you can build up to about twenty to thirty minutes for older preschoolers. This time has really been key for my kids learning to enjoy books, and it really is a gift for me. Now that they are used to having that time, sometimes I find them sitting and looking at books on their own outside of “book time”.
Even with young children, I find it helpful to read “bigger books” out loud to them, so we started a habit of reading a chapter book at bed time once they are snuggled up. It’s different than reading picture books and helps build their listening skills (and also helps them calm down and get ready to sleep!). At first I wasn’t sure if they would get it and if they would remember the continuing story every night — in fact, I’m sure they don’t remember all the details from night to night — but they still beg for their “bedtime story” and enjoy listening.
Take them to the library.
Let your kids pick out their own books. Let them see the vast amount of things there are to read. Reading will become an activity and an adventure when it includes a trip to the library. Find out what activities your library offers for children. Going to story time or a program can make it more fun and interactive for them. We love our small local library and find it helpful to go regularly. We’ve also been to some wonderful events at the Hoover Libary. If you’re close by, you should check it out!
Choose good books.
Just like we want to feed our kids healthy food, it’s important to help them listen to quality books. Around here we enjoy a bit of balance, so we end up with some Disney character books alongside our Beatrix Potter. But they seem to enjoy them both equally, so I’m happy with that. So how do you find good books to read? Ask your friends or your local librarian for suggestions. You can also check out online book lists like this list from Read Aloud Revivial.
Let them see you read.
There is no greater way to encourage reading than to model it yourself. Let your kids find you with a book in your hand often! When they see you enjoying a story, they will be interested in what you’re doing. For me, not only is it helpful for raising my kids as readers, it’s also a great excuse to sit down with a book! And one thing I’ll mention as a personal preference: I love e-readers, and even reading books on my phone, because it’s convenient and easy; but right now, I find it’s important for my kids to see me holding an actual book more often than my phone.
Keep it simple.
Don’t stress over this. Reading should be fun! And if you make it “not fun” for your kids or for yourself, that’s not going to help anyone. If your kids aren’t interested in reading yet, just start with something small. Keep a small basket of books out and make it a goal to read one every day this week. Or just decide to read a book to them every night before bed. Whatever one thing you can start with, do that! It can grow from there. And if you’re already reading a lot, challenge yourself to do something new! Take a trip to the library or pick a book that’s outside of your norm.
Raising readers is challenging and fun, and the more you invest in their reading (and yours!) now, the more they will grow as readers.
Share your ideas for developing young readers in the comments below!