Kids who enjoy reading are likely to turn into adults who regularly read for pleasure. Regular reading also improves literacy and stands children in good stead for high school and college, where they’ll do plenty of it as they study.
So, how do you get kids to pick up a book when modern technology is such a distraction? Children aren’t born voracious readers, but you can help instill excellent reading habits from an early age. Try these seven ways to encourage kids to read more.
1. Keep books at a child-friendly height
Kids are less likely to pick up a book if it’s hard to get to. Your child’s books should be somewhere it’s easy for her to reach them. Although kid-sized bookcases are great, there’s also an argument for keeping at least some of your child’s books out and about. Place a couple of books on the corner of the coffee table, or keep a basket containing a few of your kid’s favorite stories with her toys—she’s more likely to pick one of them up and start reading than if they’re hidden away on a shelf.
2. Read wherever you go
Children who aren’t fluent readers are more likely to become frustrated when reading, and therefore less likely to choose to read for pleasure when they could be doing other activities. One easy way to encourage reading fluency is to remember that reading isn’t limited to books. Read with your child wherever you are. You might ask him to read the menu to you when you’re eating out, turn reading road signs into a game while you’re driving, or encourage him to read the cereal box at the breakfast table. Words are everywhere—use that to your advantage.
3. Let kids pick their own books
You might want your child to read the tale about a talking horse you saw recommended online, but if it’s not relevant to her interests, she’s less likely to engage and want to read it. Instead, let her pick out her own books at the bookstore or library, even if they may seem unappealing to you. When your kid finds a book that makes her laugh or is filled with page-turning peril, she won’t want to put it down.
4. Create a reading nook
If your child has a cozy and comfortable place to curl up with a book, it turns reading time into a more magical experience. Although you can go all-out if you want, it doesn’t need to be a Pinterest-worthy space. Just a corner with a special chair, pillows and blankets, a basket of books, and maybe some string lights for decoration turns reading time into a main event.
5. Read together
As your child gets older and doesn’t need you to read to him anymore, it’s easy to fall out of the habit of reading together, but nobody’s too old for a spot of shared reading. Instead of reading to your child before bed, ask him to read you a chapter or two. If bedtime isn’t convenient, it can be any time of day you choose. So that it’s more of a special shared experience, pick a book that you only read together, rather than having your child read you a little bit of whatever he’s reading at the time. You can take some time at the end of your reading session to discuss what you’ve just read, but keep it fun and lighthearted.
6. Start a reading challenge
If you’re a parent to the kind of child who’ll only get dressed if you bet her she can’t do it by the time you count to 30, or only picks up her toys when you turn it into a contest to beat her previous best, she’ll probably respond enthusiastically to a reading challenge. You can either think up a system of rewards for regular reading, or start a challenge to read a certain amount of books in a set time. If she’s determined to win the challenge, she’ll turn daily reading into a habit.
7. Model regular reading
Why should your child value reading if you don’t seem to value it yourself? Children model behavior they perceive in their day-to-day life, so if your kid catches you reading regularly, he’s more likely to do the same. If you usually read after your child goes to bed, that’s not doing anything to set an example. Make an effort to read at times when your kid is present. You could even implement a family reading hour, where everyone sits down together to read independently.