As an educator and mother, developing a love of reading in students and my children has always been important to me. I have seen the incredible impact reading can make on children, but I’ve also seen kiddos develop a negative relationship with books. My goal is to keep the love of reading alive in my children. Over the years both Israel and Joelle have become voracious readers. Most days they will choose reading over every other activity. They read in the house, in the car, on vacation, and everywhere in between. So, I wanted to share 10 tips on cultivating a love of reading in children. You should also know that I asked thousands of teachers for their input as well. The tips you will read in this post are classroom tested, teacher approved, and get the stamp of approval from me as as a mom!
Support Reader’s Choice
Our very first tip is support reader’s choice. As adults we often force our interests and favorites onto the children around us. BUT they might enjoy something completely different from you, and that’s okay! Giving students a CHOICE allows them to take ownership as a reader. Let them read when they want, where they want, and what they want as often as possible. Extra piece of advice: Kids LOVE Graphic Novels. Parents often discourage graphic novels because they have a lot of pictures and look like comics. However, our most reluctant readers often respond well to graphic novels AND they are so fun to read!
Take Away the Pressure
Now that we’ve allowed children to choose what they are reading, let’s take away the pressure of reading. Here were some major DON’TS from teachers that were repeated over and over again:
- Don’t set a required amount of time to read. This says to children, “I HAVE to read for 10 minutes,” rather than, “I GET to read a really good book!”
- Never make reading a punishment. Reading should be enjoyable, fun, and something children WANT to do. When we use reading as a punishment, we are saying that reading is an unenjoyable activity.
- Don’t force reading. If they aren’t into it at the moment, give them space to walk away.
Introduce a Variety of Genres
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard Joelle say, “I don’t like nonfiction or poetry.” After hearing it over and over again, I finally made the decision to expose her to interesting books in both of those genres. I realized that she was associating all poetry with assignments she had to complete in class. They would read a poem, have to annotate it, and answer questions about the poem (which is totally understandable!). Is she going to be totally invested in all genres of reading? Absolutely not! But it is a goal of mine to expose my children to different genres so that they can find the books that will most interest them.
Enjoy Reading Together
I know this next one seems obvious, but enjoy reading together. Read with your children. Read with your students. And just enjoy that time together. Also, continue reading TO your students/children even if they know how to read themselves. Joelle is going to be a 7th grader, and we still take the time to read together as a family. When children see your excitement for reading, it becomes contagious!
Take Books Everywhere You Go
As a mom, this is probably my number one tip. Take books everywhere you go. I tell my kids that every time they get in the car they should have water and a book. This keeps them hydrated and reading, ha! It takes time to develop this habit, but it really pays off in the long run. After all, you can never be bored if you have a good book to read!
Learn About Their Interests
Teachers repeated over and over again how crucial it is to learn about the interests of their students. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune buying books that peak the interest of every reader in your house or classroom. When you are checking out books from the library, placing a book order, or guiding kiddos as they select books, if you know their interests you can maximize your time and money! Children will be drawn to what they already love, so if you can incorporate that into book selection it’s a win-win!
Choose Reading Over Tech Time
I know this one isn’t going to be everyone’s favorite, but it’s so important! Choose reading over tech time. That also means we must limit tech time. With as much as my kids love to read, if I give them a choice, they will choose TV, games, apps, etc. every single time. Here are some ways we have put this into practice as parents:
- Always have a book in the car. This means they don’t automatically turn on the TVs in the car. Our rule of thumb: no TV in the car unless the drive is longer than 30 minutes. Anything less than that they can read or entertain themselves in a different way!
- We keep the TV off for the majority of the day. We don’t have the TV on as background noise because if it’s on, my kids are glued to it. This encourages our children to choose other activities to do throughout the day, including reading!
- No tech while going into restaurants, stores, or while visiting with family/friends. However, books are always welcome. If we are trying to have a conversation or be engaged with one another, we do have to put the books down of course.
- We avoid saying “I’m bored!” in our house. Being bored isn’t going to get a TV turned on, an iPad in your hands, or a video game going. It’s going to get you a long list of chores, ha!
Think Beyond the Level
This next tip is CRUCIAL. We must think beyond the reading level of children. Teachers wanted to really reinforce this one. We must never tell a child that a book is too hard or too easy for them to read. We can guide students in selecting books that are just right for them, but reading of any kind should never be discouraged. Along with that, it’s important to let children read books their way at least once without correcting them. Of course we want to provide support when needed and offer reading strategies, BUT there is a time and a place for that. We try to put students into a box when it comes to reading, but that ultimately limits them as a reader.
Support Their Love of Books
Now, this next tip is probably my favorite thing about having children that love to read! Visit book stores, browse through local library selections, hit up garage sales, pull up read-alouds on Youtube, make online selections together. I tell my kids all the time that I’ll buy a book over a toy any day. They can buy toys with their money, and I’ll gladly spend my money adding to their book collection. If I want them to love reading, I have to show that I value it. They’ve recently gotten into trading books with friends which is also fun. In the classroom this may look a little different. Teachers recommended the following things:
- Designate a place for students to display their their favorites.
- Provide a time for students to share their favorite books with each other.
- Change out books monthly to keep readers interested.
Keep it Fun!
My best piece of advice?! Keep it fun! We all love a little fun, right?! Use different voices, choose books that are exciting, and provide opportunities to read just for the sake of reading! There doesn’t always have to be an activity that accompanies a book or a set of questions to answer after reading. Get excited about a book you are about to read. Build up the anticipation. Most importantly, just enjoy that time you have together!
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