With the prevalence of screens and after-school activities and homework, it can be hard to get kids to find time to read, much less enjoy it. But there are so many benefits to reading that it is important to find ways to encourage your kids to read — and even love it. Through reading, kids can develop the ability to think for themselves as books force us to fill in the gaps that screens often fill in for us.
In this very busy world we live in, reading can offer a break from all the craziness. It offers an escape from video games, social media and whatever else may be distracting kids. For younger kids, reading can build language skills, and books with life lessons can help parents reinforce values being taught at home. I love when I hear reading is part of a family’s routine, either alone or as a group. It’s never too late to start.
Here are a few tips I give families about encouraging kids to read and enjoy it.
Start young: An important tip in getting kids to enjoy reading is to start young! No age is too early to start reading. Parents reading to their infants not only builds their language skills, but offers another way to bond. Reading with your children builds warm and happy associations with books, increasing the likelihood that kids will find reading enjoyable in the future. Bedtime stories are great, but that doesn’t have to be the only time to read. Start the day with a book or find time before naptime. As older kids are learning to read, have them build their reading skills by reading to younger siblings, grandparents or you.
Later start: Some people get a later start to reading. If you or your kids fall into this category, surround yourself with things that interest you and then set a goal. Start small with your goal and gradually build on it. Start by reading 5-10 minutes a day or one chapter a day, something small and attainable.
Check out the library: Libraries offer books for all ages and across a wide spectrum of subjects and interests without the burden of having to buy books. Libraries aren’t just about books either. Many offer story time for little kids where kids can see their peers enjoying books. For older kids and adults, many libraries offer book clubs or suggested reading. If your library allows it, have your child get their own library card. It may inspire to them to be a repeat customer.
Show them what it’s all about: When parents take an interest in reading, kids will be more likely to pick up books themselves. Parents, you can pick up a book when you go to the library for story time.
Talk it out: Whether you’re reading a bedtime story or your independent reader is venturing off on their own, ask questions. Bring the book to life through questions. With younger kids, you can ask who is their favorite character and why? Or what do you think will happen next? Have them imagine a new ending. With older kids who may be reading independently, ask what they liked or didn’t like about the book? What’s the book about? Who are the characters? What have you learned?
Read what they read: With so many book series lately appealing to younger and older readers alike, try reading what your kids are reading. Bonus, it will give you something to talk about, especially with older kids who become really good at the “fly by” conversation (i.e. “Hi mom. Bye mom.”).
Just read something: For some people, books don’t get it done, but there are so many opportunities for reading all around us. Does your child like to cook or try new foods? Find a cookbook and let your child read through it for interesting recipes and try a few. Magazines are great, too. They come in a wide spectrum of interests and can offer shorter articles on interesting subjects. I heard of one kiddo who loved cars so much his grandparents got him a subscription to a car magazine that he would read as soon as it arrived in the mail.
Planes, trains and automobiles: When you’re headed out the door, whether it’s for a long road trip, air travel or a quick trip around town, encourage reading materials to pass the time rather than a screen.
Set the stage: Create a comfortable spot at home for reading. It may include pillows or a fuzzy blanket and proper lighting.
Book club: Lots of parents have book clubs that are part book reading and part socialization. With proper care for COVID-19 protocols, kids can do the same. Let kids direct a bit, but parents can provide snacks and supervision. Looking forward to scheduled get-togethers can inspire reading.
Encouraging reading and having it become an enjoyable activity has lifelong benefits. For kids, reading boosts school performance, increases vocabulary, raises self-esteem, builds good communication skills, and strengthens the brain…all things that help us as we get older.
Your child’s pediatrician has tips and tricks for all ages and stages of life. If you have any questions, talk to us! We are here for all your questions.