Few things are more frustrating for parents than trying to encourage their children to read when they show little interest. Watching a movie or playing a video game is often a much more appealing form of entertainment. Educators and parents alike know that children with good reading habits often do better in school and as adults. But in a world full of digital media at their fingertips, what can we as parents do to develop our kids into willing readers?
As a person who loves to read, I always imagined that my daughter would automatically love books and reading as much as I do. I envisioned us curled up on the couch together, wrapped up in fuzzy afghans, engrossed in our own books just like I did with my mom. But that didn’t happen. My daughter doesn’t mind a good story, but getting her to take the time to sit through more than half a page was a constant battle. She would read whatever she had to for school, but reading for fun, as she would say, just isn’t her thing.
Though sometimes I feel discouraged in my crusade for a willing, even excited, reader, I refuse to throw in the towel. It’s all worth it, though, for the few times I hear, “just one more page, Mom.”
Try these 10 helpful tips to encourage your child to read for fun:
- Choose a book in which the topic or story particularly interests your child, even if it seems silly or mind-numbing to you. If they have a favorite TV show, perhaps a comic or novel based on the show would grab their interest.
- Choose a book to read together. This could be a chapter book or just a story. Read to them or take turns reading with them. Give a shot at making voices for the characters and don’t be afraid to really read with expression. Even when you feel silly, if your child enjoys the experience, they are more likely to be happy repeating it.
- Listen to an audio-book. Encourage your child to follow along in their own copy with the narrator, or even just put the book on while they are doing chores or during quiet time. There are many websites you can download audio-books from, but I suggest checking out your local library. Many libraries have a good collection of books on CD, or even free downloadable audio-books on their websites.
- Let your kids see YOU read. This is one of the most crucial points I can stress. Children learn by example, and if you don’t have time to crack open a book, why should they?
- Determine a set amount of time for reading each day. Start with an amount of time you know will work for your child; 5 minutes every day or 10 minutes every other day. Start with something short and adjust to what works best for your child. Eventually, a 20 minute reading time will fly by.
- Take regular trips to your local library. Encourage your kids to talk to the librarians and tell them about what they want to read. The librarian may know just where to direct you to find something that will grab their interest. You can also browse the library online and reserve a book. Just as exciting as getting a package in the mail, picking up that book they have been anticipating is not only a good excuse to go to the library, but it can make the trip something to really look forward to.
- Have a movie night! Wait, a movie? You’re trying to get them to read not watch more TV. But hear me out. Schedule a movie night based on the book they're reading. Once they finish the book, watching the movie together is a fun way to wrap up their experience. Make a night of it, popcorn and all. And when the movie is over (if they can wait that long), talk about the differences between the book and the movie, and which version was more enjoyable.
- Read more than one book at a time. It’s okay to let them read one book as schoolwork, another during their quiet reading time, and another as a family read-aloud or audio-book. More stories are just more fuel for the imagination and will spark their interest in finishing each story.
- Offer a long term incentive. Many schools participate in the Book It! program, which offers prizes for a certain amount of books read. This is a great way to encourage a bit of extra reading. Book It! has a program for homeschooling families as well.
An alternative option is to have a reading log to keep track of each book they have completed. When the log is full, or when your child reaches a certain number of books read, they earn a prize. Offer different options such as going out for pizza, to the arcade, skating, or bowling; as long as they feel it is worth the time they have invested in it, a bit of bribery motivation goes a long way.
- Encourage your child to read to someone who cannot. This could be a younger sibling, an elderly person, or even a calm family pet. Some children just need someone who will listen to them without commenting when they mispronounce a word or talk over them if they stutter. This is a great way to build their confidence in reading.
It goes without saying, of course, that along with these suggestions, we as parents need to make sure to praise our kid’s accomplishments. If your son can only sit still for five minutes to read, let him know you appreciate his efforts. We don’t have to rain candy and presents on our kids for every little thing, but when a goal, even a small one, is achieved, make sure to acknowledge it.
We all want our children to be well-developed readers who grow to be well-read adults. Whether your goal is to curl up on the couch together with your books, or just the knowledge that their mind is growing as strong as their body, I know with a bit of diligence you will reach your goal.
What are some tricks that you have used to encourage reading in your home?