As a parent of a young reader, you may be receiving mixed signals when it comes to your child’s interest in reading or their enjoyment of books. Maybe you feel they don’t read enough or they’re hesitant to read, but show interest when they find the book that’s “just right” for them. You’re not alone: In a recent Scholastic survey, almost half of parents polled said their children like to read, but don’t read enough — or don’t read at all. Raising a successful reader begins with simple steps, like modeling good reading habits for your child and creating a dialogue around books in your household. “Make reading a joyful and exciting part of daily life, from the time kids are very young, to help them build positive associations with books and reading,” recommends Lauren Tarshis, senior vice president at Scholastic, editor-in-chief and publisher of Scholastic Magazines, and author of the I Survived series published by Scholastic.
Here are three ways to help your child fall in love with reading.
- Provide Access to a Variety of Books. When children see that books are not just for bedtime, but for learning and exploring the world, they’ll start on a journey toward discovering their deep interests.“We can help kids connect reading to the learning of fascinating facts, to stories that will amaze them or make them laugh, to family discussions, and to learning journeys that start with or include books,” Tarshis says. For younger readers, try placing books from a variety of different genres at eye level on the family bookshelves, so they have easy access and can see at a glance the range of subjects it’s possible to read about. Older readers whose attention is captivated by visual media may be surprised to learn the worlds they explore on-screen can also be found in books, whether it’s gaming manuals or novels based on films. These book extensions of multimedia offer an alternative way to bring your child to the page.
- Let Kids Choose Their Own Books. More than 90 percent of kids enjoy the books they choose themselves. Start by asking your child about their current interests, and guide them toward books with these topics. For example, if they aren’t forming a connection with novels, but are interested in history or science, perhaps they want to try nonfiction or biographies.Some eyes may glaze over at the mention of “nonfiction,” but there are actually many kid-friendly options in this genre — far from the dry and dusty reference tomes some children (and adults) may equate the category with. Series like Who Would Win, I Survived, and Fly Guy Presents put the zaniness and fun of fiction into fact-based narration. Since children are more likely to continue reading a series if they enjoyed the first book, your child will discover a spectrum of topics under the same umbrella “universe” they’ve embraced — topics they might not have chosen to read about otherwise. “Taking cues from kids’ interests, and building from there, is key,” says Tarshis. “Give kids as much choice as possible when it comes to what they read.” And when your child does find a book they love, ask them about it. What did they like? Pay attention to the genre of the book. To find more books in that genre, you can explore The Scholastic Store.
- Create Fun Rituals Beyond Read-Aloud Time. There are several benefits of reading aloud with your child. However, more than 94 percent of parents save the read-aloud routine for bedtime, according to Scholastic’s Kids & Family Reading Report. Build book discovery into other parts of the day, and your child will have more opportunities to fall in love with reading.“Of course reading aloud is a great step, for parents and caregivers who can build this into the daily routine,” Tarshis says. “But there are other fun and meaningful rituals that parents and caregivers can build around reading, like trips to the library or bookstore, or having ‘reading parties’ where you and your child read in fun or expected spots — like under a blanket fort in a cozy corner.” You might consider a “morning book basket” to change up your read-aloud or shared reading routines. Inspired by a popular homeschool concept, a morning book basket is a container (it doesn’t have to be a basket) where children can find a variety of books and activities to rummage through before they begin their day. With this approach, you may discover your child prefers to read in the morning, or you may want to “bookend” the day with reading to show how much you value the habit. Either way, you’ll be encouraging self-discovery as well as cross-genre reading. The most important thing about creating a morning book basket practice is the time you carve out for you and your child to interact and discuss its contents. Make it a weekend ritual over pancakes! Lastly, if your child doesn’t take to reading right away, stick with it — and don’t feel guilty. Scholastic experts agree that while parents and teachers can do everything in their power to make sure a child has good reading role models and resources if they are struggling, it doesn’t guarantee those children will love reading right away — or be strong readers. “It’s so exciting when a child truly loves to read,” Tarshis says. “But this idea — instilling a love of reading — can also put a huge amount of pressure on parents.” The reality is, falling in love with reading can take time. Tarshis adds that her four children were good early readers, but “they didn’t love it.” “I blamed myself for not doing enough,” Tarshis says. However, in giving her youngest child a mix of guidance and the freedom to approach books at her own pace, Tarshis watched her daughter grow into an avid teenage reader. “By the time my fourth child came along, I took some pressure off myself — and didn’t put pressure on her,” she says. “I took her to the library and bookstore all I could, tried to help her find books she would love, and talked about the books I was loving. Now she’s in high school and a true reading fanatic.” Tarshis’ personal story is proof that connecting with books at any age can lead to a lifelong love of reading.