kid reading

7 tips for creating a love of reading in young kids

I’ve always been a bookworm. I think reading is good for the brain, the imagination, and the soul. The possibility that I could raise a kid that doesn’t like to read is bizarre. But, there’s always that chance, so I purposely try to encourage Eleanor to love reading.

Here are my seven tips for creating a love of reading in your kids.

1. Read a lot.

At a minimum we read for 20 minutes daily. That’s about a dozen board books, or 5-8 picture books. Sometimes we read four times that many books; but I can guarantee that even on the busiest days we find those minutes before bed.

2. Read variety.

We read everything from Sandra Boynton to Caldecott winners to The Poop Book. And, I experiment with new authors. Sometimes I check things out from the library, and they’re total failures, but I keep trying.

I keep a running list of books-to-read, based on blog and friend recommendations. Then a few days in advance, I go online and reserve them. That way when we’re at the library for story time, all I have to do is swing by the hold shelf, instead of trying to ferret out good books while holding a wiggly 2-year-old.

3. Read about subjects and characters they love.

Eleanor’s favorite book character is Maisy. We have at least a dozen Maisy books, and she never gets tired of them. Have a toddler who loves trucks? Find a cute construction lift-the-flap book, or a classic like Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel. An elementary kid who loves Harry Potter? Try the Percy Jackson series, The Dark is Rising sequence, or the Green Knowe books.

4. Reinforce with experiences.

One afternoon we drove through a crazy monsoon storm. Before bed that night we were reading Amy Loves the Rain, and I pointed out that Amy and her mom were driving through the rain; just like we did. Now, whenever it rains, Eleanor quotes lines from that book!

Or, I recently got a blanket, and stretched it from my bed to a chair. Then I grabbed Eleanor, a snack, and a handful of books, and crawled into the “book tent” with her. I expected it to hold her attention for maybe 15 minutes. But she kept having me re-read the books over and over for 45 minutes. I’d bet that older kids would also love to read in a tent, if provided with snacks and a flashlight!

5. Reinforce with products.

I found a set of classic stories like Harold and the Purple Crayon on DVD. We watch the videos, and then read the books, to help bring the story to life. We own a Maisy puzzle, and at the dollar store I bought a couple of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse books. Does your kid love Clifford? Buy them a stuffed one! Big fan of Curious George? Let them eat from a George plate.

I also recently found Brown Bear, Brown Bear on audio book on the library – and Eleanor LOVES getting to turn the page every time the little chime sounds. Our library has lots of beautiful audio books for preschoolers – like Over in the Meadow or The Snowy Day. For older kids, or as a whole-family listen, I highly recommend The Chronicles of Narnia or the Little House on the Prairie books (I loved listening to them this spring)!

Seeing their favorite character “in the flesh” (so to speak), hearing a story read on tv or on audio, or flipping through a book with characters from their favorite show will help your kids cross-reference and bring things to life.

6. Reinforce with your example.

Want your kids to think reading is fun? Demonstrate it! If you always pull out your phone when you get a spare moment, and save your reading for bedtime, your kids never see you read. While they’re coloring, sit and read next to them. Or if you have kids old enough to read alone, institute a family reading time – where everyone sits by each other and reads their own book, even if it’s just for ten minutes!

7. Don’t be afraid of failure/destruction.

A few months ago, I tried to read Eleanor some Dr. Seuss. She threw the book across the room. But now her attention span is longer, and she loves his books.

When she was a baby, I used to prop her up with books around her. Sure, she chewed a few of them to pieces, but now fairly consistently in the mornings, I find her contentedly reading piles of books in bed (which makes me grin like a dork every time).

Just keep trying! In the short run they may fuss, or make a mess or two, but in the long run the constant exposure to books should make an impression.

There are my seven tips for creating a love of reading in your kids. Do you have any other tips I’ve missed? Any funny stories about your own little bookworms?

top photo source
Jessica H

Jessica Howard lives in Tucson, Arizona with her husband Noel and daughter Eleanor. Her goal is to read 150 books this year - and she’s on track! She blogs about all things book-related at Quirky Bookworm.

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  1. great suggestions! i set goals for my new reader – when she was 5, we made a book challenge where if she read 100 books aloud to me then she got to go to the disney store and pick out any stuffed animal she wanted- she ended up reading me about 5 books/day- some of them very long! – and was so proud of herself when she finished. i blogged about it here:

    • We always read books to our children before bedtime. But routinely my son always wanted to stay up later & would always ask or plead, “can I read just one more book mom, please?” So, I would pretend I was bending the rules as I answered from the other room, and act like he was getting the best of me. I would briefly pause and then say, “oh, all right, but just one more”. He would be delighted and easily read about 2 or 3 more children’s books, and then be plenty relaxed and ready for a great night of sleep with an ever growing imagination tucked away in his head to sleep and dream about. Worked like a charm! I highly recommend it for children of all ages. (the interesting thing was he had some learning disabilities that first affected his ability to read…this quickly disappeared after he gained his own confidence and built his own desire to read “just one more book Mom, Please?”

  2. great suggestions! when my daughter turned 5, we set goals for her reading where if she read 100 books aloud to me, she got to pick out any stuffed animal from the Disney store that she wanted. i blogged about it here:

  3. My tip – keep up with the bed-time stories long after your kids can read to themselves. I’m still reading to my kids – 14, 12 and 9 – at bedtime and they all get involved in the stories, even though the 14 year old is simultaneously fiddling with his phone at the same time. He doesn’t like me starting without him! I choose old favourites of mine that they might not pick to read to themselves. At the moment it is Flambards.

  4. Great tips, Jessica. I agree with all of these since have used them successfully with my own daughter as well. The only other thing I would add is reinforce with activities. For instance, when we read Gingerbread Man, we made gingerbread cookies. Similarly, every time she reads Goldilocks and the Three Bears, she has to follow it up with a bowl of porridge:-)

    • Ooh, I hadn’t thought of that – since we’re still reading mostly short picture books. But I recently bought a version of the Gingerbread Man (he’s a Gingerbread Cowboy who runs away through the desert) and we’ll definitely have to make cookies!

  5. Have time together in the library. I even took my older kids with me to the book fair. Sometimes it tooks time till they find the right book for them, but I’m sure they’ll find one.

  6. Great tips! Reading is a wonderful activity that covers quality time and supports development. I love reading to my 7.5 month old and my Eleanor enjoys it too. My husband and I, who are both bookworms have been reading to her since she was born. We found a 4 board-book series “Enjoying God’s Promises” that already seems to be her favourite. I have a few hand me down board books that are already chewed on for her to ‘play’ with and I keep the rest of her books for our special time together. I’m looking forward to introducing Enid Blyton to her one day soon. It’s such a fun time to introduce language and I’m looking forward to it leading to some healthy debates and discussions as she gets older.

  7. We love books on CD for road trips or lazy afternoon entertainment.

  8. Jessica, I love all your tips! #7 was definitely the hardest to embrace, but I finally got there. It seems to be working so far…my 4 kids (age 9 on down) love reading so far, but we haven’t been too surprised. They’re taking right after their bookworm parents!

  9. Even in all of my using days, I managed to read to all four of my kids, because that’s something my mom did for me growing up. I’ve always been a reader. I have four beautiful kids and one is a total bookworm, two will read when they HAVE to, and one with dyslexia, so her relationship with books has been changed as she grew.

    I think we should do all of these things, but be careful not to punish ourselves if they don’t all grow up bookworms. My daughter does books on tape and my other two CAN read, but they would rather be outside. The fourth boy reads too much. Yes I said it. Reads too much. I have to say “put that book down and go outside!” Or “your friend is bored, be done reading today.”

    Everyone is different right? I know I did the reading part right. But some people just aren’t natural readers. And that’s okay too. Love your ideas!!

    • Well, I’m pretty sure I was one of those kids who “read too much” — my parents had to have an “only 5 hours of reading a day!” limit for me. 🙂
      Eleanor is much more likely to want to read a little, then go climb a tree or ride her bike or something.

  10. Great tips. We read a minimum of 10 books a day plus our chapter read aloud. I also agree that anytime you can include an experience or activity from the book it really makes it come alive. Of course, this is for slightly older kids–I’m not sure how old your daughter is.
    I can say, that we have been successful in our home and it all starts with the parents.

  11. Great tips Jessica! I kept nodding throughout the entire article. We just started reading chapter books to our kids (3 and 4 1/2) and it is dramatically improved story time. We are all enthralled with the Boxcar Children and look forward to reading together throughout the day. We are also in the process of making a fun reading area to take reading to the next level. I think we are going for the teepee look. 🙂 Happy reading!

    • I love all those ideas, esp. the rain gutter bookshelves – cute, easy, functional, cheap, WIN! Right now, though, what works for me is a simple book basket that I can move to whatever cozy nook my daughter would prefer AND where the toddler can’t reach. Most of the day the best spot is right on the kitchen table. If baby is sleeping, it could be near the couch. It can also move with her to quiet time.

      Has anyone used anything like a Reading tree to encourage independent reading? I was thinking of doing something like glow in the dark star stickers on black poster board, one for each book, keep a “star log”…

  12. We love reading, and my favorite scene is my oldest son, who is 6 reading books to his sister 4 1/2 and brother 15mos. We really love reading stories in all sorts of situations…drs offices, in the car (though I get car sick so this is just the kids reading), at grandparent’s houses, in the grocery cart, etc. We also like reading different mediums like: magazines with picture descriptions, reference books, cook books, etc. It gets the kids to understand you can learn so much about so may things from so many sources.
    Great post…my favorite tip was to reinforce story content in real life. Thanks for the post!

  13. Connie Abbott says:

    I love your article; great tips! Now I have faced a different hurdle: In spite of prodding and encouraging him every which way, he didn’t like to read. He gets the mechanics of it but would completely balk after a couple of paragraphs, and he hated doing any type of school work. I took him to the eye doctor, and he got some mildly corrective glasses for astigmatism but was said to have fairly normal vision. No change in his reading as a result. Then I heard about another eye doctor whose clinic has done eye therapy for a number of my friends’ kids with great success. They diagnosed him with inability to focus, eyes not tracking together, and eyes not tracking movement. He’s been going weekly for a few months and he sees some change that he can’t describe but I think the improvement accelerates with each visit. It’s not covered by our insurance and it isn’t cheap but so worth it. I think it will be a few more months before he reads spontaneously, but it feels so good to have some hope again! I tell him I’d cut off my right leg to see him read (and then how much weight I’d lose)…he says, “Yeah, and you’re standing on the scale, and, Aaah!” (falling over)…
    It’s amazing all the different symptoms of poor vision that they list that people might interpret as laziness or personal mannerisms. I think these things need better publicity, because I know so many who’ve been through this same ordeal. Don’t assume if your child has been diagnosed by an ordinary eye doctor as having great vision and reading is still not a passion, that you have the whole story. Seek better help!

  14. Love this post – especially since I love books. With my eldest it was more of a struggle – my younger one laps them up.
    One thing to add, reinforce with routine. My children have such strong associations of snuggling at bedtime with reading. When they were young it was a regular part of their day. I’m going to have to think again about reading out loud to them. Even though they are 12 and 15 it’s a great idea. We read articles out loud from Nat’l Geog but reading books out loud at this age is a whole new venture!

  15. Wow! If I sit down with a book, then that means that mom has nothing to do. Unfortunately, my kids don’t see me read often because that means it is leisure time because that is when my bookworms choose to read. 🙂

  16. Love this post! My daughter is two and I read to her all the time. She also likes to take all of her books and “read” them to herself. It is so cute! I am glad she has a love for books, because I am a self-professed bookworm too 🙂

  17. Such a great article! We are book lovers in our house. We leave books in my five-year-old daughter’s bed. And I have caught her staying up 2 hours past her bedtime just looking through her book pages. I am addicted to Pinterest for inspiration on reading corners. Here are a few I found:

  18. Thank you for the 20 minutes a day reminder! That is huge and can make such a difference in not only teaching your child to love reading, but to feel confident as a reader too. As a former first grade teacher, I was always surprised how many families didn’t read with their children each night. I would get monthly reading calendars turned into me that had “too busy to read tonight” written on some of the days. Really?! We’ve been reading to our daughter everyday since she was about a month old and we love the snuggly time together flipping through her board books!

  19. Love this article! I have been reading longer Seuss (The Lorax and the like) books to my son since he got home from the hospital. Now he is 4 1/2 and we are half way through the Magic Tree House series. I cannot beleive how many times I say “look that is what Jack and Annie…” when we are out. Pete the Cat also has free audio books at which help reinforce a love for the cool cat!

  20. My kids are all grown now, but we had a family reading time every night. We would read a chapter from the Bible, a story from something like The Moral Compass, and then read our current chapter book. We read all of the Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. We read Dickens and Marco Polo. We read books by Gene Stratton Porter like “Laddie” and “The Girl of the Limberlost.” Some they liked, some they didn’t. Sometimes they’d fall asleep (and sometimes we’d keep reading, even if Papa fell asleep!) But they are all adults who love to read.

    • I love The Girl of the Limberlost!
      My mom read to me when I was younger, but there are pretty big gaps between some of us, so by the time littler babies came along, I just read by myself. I like the idea of reading to older kids though!

  21. These are really great tips! I love reading and want to instill a love for reading in my son but I found myself only reading to him before nap time and bed time. I still read to him at those times but also started reading to him at random points throughout the day and he really seems to enjoy it so much more. I realized by only reading to him at naptime and bedtime I was instilling that reading was something done to fall asleep to. I really like the tent experience idea!

    • Seriously, it’s at least a biweekly thing now – she LOVES it. And, that particular blue blanket has become “the book tent blanket”. Sometimes she’ll pull out the blanket and say “Let’s make a tent!”
      I bet your son will totally love it.

  22. In our home, after I’ve read books to the girls, we’ve said our prayers and climbed into bed, I have begun a family reading time. Although my girls are too young to “read” (3 and 1), each of us grabs a book, from Mommy on down, we climb into the same bed, and read until the girls are asleep. It gives me down time to read, helps the girls to calm down, and creates a space where we can enjoy the magic of our books.

  23. Such a great guest post, Jessica! Loved seeing your smiling face in this space. =) I pile books around Clara too! She’s mostly just chewing them, though. Tee hee.

    • Thanks Aimee!
      Yeah, I think Eleanor was at least 10 or 11 months before she genuinely started trying to turn pages, instead of literally devouring the books. And even then, she’d lose interest after a few pages and just start chewing!

  24. So far our children all love books, too, which warms my bookworm heart! They’ve all taken books to bed instead of stuffed animals. We had a daily 15 minute reading time last school year and even the toddler was a part of that if he was awake. The non-readers had a pile of books they looked through and enjoyed. When the time was up everyone chose a book from their pile and we read them out loud. That turned out to be a great way to get through library books each week.

  25. I found what really works with my school age kids is to get out books on CD from the library and play them on car trips. Often they won’t touch the same titles I choose in book form, but once they have listened to a title by that author (of their mom’s choosing) they will ask for more!

  26. Lauren Nicole says:

    Make going to the library a habit. I purposely challenged myself to take my two-year-old to the library 10 times in 6 months so that it would become part of our routine. She is 4 now and she loves going to the library! She still mostly plays with the puzzles/games when we are at the library, but she loves helping scan the books that I’ve selected for us to take home and then she starts looking at them right away in the car.

  27. Fantastic tips! I love the one about teaching by example and reading while your kids are around. It’s hard with a toddler, especially when they are overly interested in your Kindle, but as my little gets older, it’s a great thing to remember.

  28. Wonderful suggestions – and I can’t think of a better person to dole out advice on this topic! 😉

  29. I’m a school librarian, and I love that you’ve begun instilling the love of reading in your daughter! As you mentioned, one of the best ways to get your child to love reading is to love reading yourself. Keep up the good work!

  30. This is a great post, Jessica! We’ve started a new routine where we read “quietly” for 15 minutes. I’m working up to an hour because the not too distant future looms ahead of me – a day where no one naps.

  31. Slightly different perspective here… When my younger sisters were in their early teens, they did not like to read. One was good at it but didn’t enjoy it. I started reading Harry Potter aloud to them and even threw in voices every now and then. They were so captivated by the story. I made a deal with them that I’d read five chapters if they each read one then three for every one then one for one. Eventually, we had to play catchup because they’d read ahead on their own. We rolled over laughing together at all the funny parts and sat up intently at all the exciting scenes. It was great. After that they read similar fantasy books then branched out to reading everything they could get their hands on. It’s great to see that love of reading grow in them.

  32. It’s great to see you here, Jessica! Great tips! One that I’d add to your library advice: we also request books so there’s sometimes a nice surprise waiting for us at checkout, but my little guy is 3 now, so I also let him choose some books for himself. I usually set a number of books he can get, then he uses some decision making to get down to that many books. We love the library!

  33. Hang out at the library! The library is cool! Plus there are always book-related activities going on there that will encourage kids to go further with every book they read. I also find that just by having lots of books around, available everywhere, our girls will pick them up more often. So, books in the bathroom, books in each vehicle, whatever. Books are everywhere! And they love to read, so I figure it is working for us : )

  34. I purposely try to encourage Eleanor to love reading.

  35. My children are 11,10,8 and 6. From an early stage I was very deliberate about fostering a culture of reading in our family. Some things I have done that I haven’t noticed mentioned here; I created some routines that deliberately added value to books and reading. Misbehave during the day or at dinnertime?? No reading time for you!! This automatically creates a ‘reading is good’ mindset in kids heads, because they associate bad feelings with a lack of reading – and good feelings with getting to read.
    I also have a sticker chart as a reward system. When the child has filled their sticker chart – a new book!! I have a little stash of books set aside for this, all appropriate to each child’s level. Because they are already naturally excited to be getting a prize/gift, this can work in my favour when I am trying to introduce them to a new author/genre that they may not naturally choose.
    One other strategy I have found myself using – now that my kids are older, I go to the library without them and choose various titles for them. I started doing this because I was frustrated at the way they would choose books just based on the characters that had been marketed to them (ie superheroes, star wars etc) and ignoring good quality literature that I suspected they would love. I was also frustrated at the way they would sit in the library reading and by the time they get home they’d be all ‘read out’! Now they sometimes get home from school and exclaim “Yay, Mum’s been to the library!!” And they all get stuck into whatever ive chosen for them because they have no choice! That’s gold to me. It doesn’t work every time; sometimes I choose something that they have no interest in, but, hey, library books are free!!

  36. I’d bet that older kids would also love to read in a tent, if provided with snacks and a flashlight!

  37. You nailed these tips right on. I would have to add two things. My mantra is if you hook a reader on a series, then you hook him/her to reading for life. Also, I used to take my kids to meet the author whenever authors were speaking or doing book signings. This is a sure fire way to hook a reader. When my girls were 4 and 5 I took them to see John Archambault author of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and they couldn’t believe that they were really there getting to meet him in person. Till this day 4 years later they can remember what he said to them about reading and writing.

  38. Or flipping through a book with characters from their favorite show will help your kids cross-reference and bring things to life.

  39. Here’s the thing: I used to love reading to my kids when little. But at 9 and 11, they are hooked on electronics. I gave my daughter a science magazine to read, and she read the ads!!! this is what I am fighting with. As a single parent, it is exhausting to do the hw, dishes, laundry etc., and still have energy to read. Plus there is the huge problem of running out of books. I am not made of money and go to the bookstore to buy new books. So I sent a note to teachers, asking them to send books home. He brought home two huge ones. Nothing makes my heart melt than when I see them reading. It’s a struggle.

  40. Interesting thing about whipping out the phone – I do it a lot, to check facebook or my e-mail. And as for reading, I do read a lot in front of her, but mostly it’s on my Nook, so to her it’s just another electronic device and not a real book (I figure). She wakes up every morning and the first thing she does is ask to play with my phone (Apps- why or why did I introduce them to her?!) Same when she gets home from school. It is so, so bad! I just bought John Healy’s book Endangered Minds, I’m so concerned technology is taking over her brain! I guess the solution is to start reading more hard copies in her presence?
    PS: I read on your blog that you returned your Kindle. Does this mean ALL your books are physical, hard copies? If so, how do you make space? Does book weight (especially hard covers) bother you? I’m not a re-reader (except for Jane Eyre) so it doesn’t bother me to not have a physical copy of a book once I finish it. It does sadden me that I can’t lend books out as often, but I bought my mom a Nook too, and now we share books whenever there’s a “Lend-Me” option. Interested to hear your thoughts.

  41. I love your tips – especially the one about the reading books about their favorite characters! My kids are always looking for books at the library about their favorite characters. 🙂

    I actually just wrote a post about this same topic recently, sharing 6 tips for instilling a love of reading in your children:

  42. Totally awesome, thanks! I think the main message is: make books an enjoyable experience (even if in the beginning it’s the pleasure of chewing on them :)). Our son is 2 year old, I totally relate to you experience.

    One other thing we do is to pick up colorful complementary magazines. It’s a joy for a toddler to browse, they inspire excellent talking topics (which is what reading is mostly about at this age), and there is not much concern if they get damaged sometimes.

  43. This is a great post! Raising kids who love to read and grow up to be adults who love to read is definitely a goal of mine. I instituted a family reading time this summer as a way to build a little more routine in our day and help my boys wind down before naptime. We all sit for about 30 minutes looking at our own books, then I read a few out loud to them before they go nap. It is now one of my favorite times during the day. I wasn’t sure how it would work (they are 4 and 2, and we have a baby chewing on books on the floor) but it has been great. They love books and the invitation to slow down and read is one they enjoy.

    I have also been surprised at how they are able to listen to chapter books. At first, I thought we would just give it a try and see how much they understood, but I was still unsure if they were ready. They have done surprisingly well and it’s opened up a lot more variety to us. So far we’ve read White Fang, The Jungle Book, and The One In the Middle Is a Green Kangaroo.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas. I think I will try and work in more concrete activities to go with what we are reading.

  44. Tim Pierce says:

    Hi folks — I submitted a comment about this a week ago but I know things have probably been crazy with the holidays! The photograph at the top of is a picture I took. It’s published under a Creative Commons license, so you’re completely welcome to use it, it just requires crediting me for the image. Can you please add image credit to Tim Pierce, with a link to the original at Thanks! 🙂

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