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?