Some kids love to read. Others don’t. Not all children take to reading with the same enthusiasm, but, by trying these 10 tips below, your child just might fall in love too.
1. Turn it on! Broaden your definition of reading beyond a book’s covers. While nothing replaces curling up with a good book, using an e-reader might just be the thing to entice your reluctant reader to get started. Let your child also explore what books are also available to download from your local library (for free!) or from an online booksellers.
2. Kick-start campaign. For many kids (heck, even most adults!), positive reinforcement goes a long way to encouraging new behaviors. To help motivate your child to read, try using a good, old-fashioned progress chart. You can find reading charts on line such as the ones at Kids Pointz, which can reward time spend reading or the number of pages or books read.
Kimber Brown, a program director for Teach for America, says that for every child, the incentive to read is different. “For anyone to be motivated to do anything, they have to believe two things: (1) They have to believe they can do it, and (2) they have to want to do it,” Gold stars are enough incentive for some kids to keep on reading, while other children may need a more concrete rewards like a trip to the zoo. Experts caution, however, against using TV time as a reward for reading. This undermines the value of reading by saying that TV is the real prize worth working towards. Ultimately, the biggest motivator for children is knowing that adults are there cheering on their successes—reminding them how far they’ve come and that they can do it!
3. What’s black and white and read all over? Reading is not just for books. Encourage your child to read everything—game directions, cereal packages, joke books, and even the closed captions on the TV. It’s all reading! Go online with your kids to help find age-appropriate information on subjects that interest them. Do you have a dancing diva in your house? A World War II airplane buff? To find online for reading material that both interests your child and is adapted to her reading level, try putting the word “kid” or “child” in your search string such as “dinosaurs, kids.” The goal is to get your child reading. Boys tend to be less interested in narrative stories, so hook your budding scientist, historian, or sports star with nonfiction related to their interests.
Look for magazines geared to kids as another nonbook reading resource. There are great magazines written for all ages such as Ladybug, Highlights for Children, Cricket, Appleseeds, Ranger Rick, Jack and Jill, American Girl, National Geographic Kids, Time for Kids, Sports Illustrated Jr., andmany others. Your local library may have issues to loan out. If not, magazine subscriptions make great gifts—hint, hint!
4. Book Nook: While snuggling up with a book on the couch is nice, it’s even nicer to snuggle up behind the couch! Entice you kids into reading by creating a special “only reading” nook. Have fun finding a spot in the house that’s just for reading and can’t be accessed by your kids unless they are reading. This won’t require a major household renovation, just some blankets draped over a table, or a bed pushed away from the wall to make room for reading. Accessorize your new reading nook with pillows, a flashlight, and a bowl of popcorn . . . and, of course, a basket of books!
5. Read Aloud: Find time to read to your child every day—and it doesn’t always have to be before bed. Books can be enjoyed while waiting in the carpool line, or while your child takes a bath—books can even be enjoyed (gasp!) smack in the middle of the day! Keep in mind that if kids are going to enjoy reading, then the experience needs to be enjoyable. So, as you read to your child, keep her engaged by asking questions about what she thinks might happen next or read a few words and let her finish the sentence. You can also create activities around the books your reading. Reading aloud to your child, especially if your child gets easily discouraged by her reading progress, is one way for your child to maintain enthusiasm for books and reading.
6. Take note: Look to engage your child in activities that require reading such as following a recipe, or tackling instructions for a kit-building project, or using a reference book to identify reptiles at the zoo. Ask relatives to write, or email letters to your child to motivate him to read. Write short notes to your child and tuck them into her lunchbox or leave them on her pillow. These notes could be loving sentiments, riddles, plans for the weekend, or even questions such as “What should we have for dinner?” Try to find any opportunity (the sneakier the better!) to engage your child in reading.
7. Check it out. Make going to the library a fun, family event. Help your child apply for a library card and look for books that are appropriate for your child’s reading level and interest. If you’re stumped on what to choose, ask the librarian to point you in the right direction. Don’t forget to explore what other reading and listening materials your library may have on offer such as audio books, magazines, graphic novels, and comics. See “How to Choose the Perfect Book for Your Child.” And an after-library ice cream or visit to the park (to read your book stash!) is an extra-special way to end Library Day.
8. A family affair. Your child will be more likely to value reading if he sees that you value reading as well. Make reading books, and discussing books and articles, part of your every day activities and interactions. (Let your child see you reading so that he can model your behavior.) Start a family reading night and, instead of watching TV, gather in the family room to read by the fire. Find a series or novel that you can all enjoy, such as The Chronicles of Narnia, and take turns reading chapters out loud.
9. Bookmark it! Make sure your child is familiar with the concept of a bookmark (better yet, have your child make one!) and that books don’t have to be finished all at one time. For your child, knowing that he can stop reading, and return at a later time, makes reading less stressful. Don’t try to convince your child to finish reading a book he’s not enjoying. There are too many wonderful books out there and there’s no need to force a child to read a book that’s not keeping his interest. Try to find another book that excites your reader.
10. All wrapped up. With the holiday season quickly a-jingling and a-jangling, there is no better gift to give (and get) than a book. By giving books as gifts, parents are also showing kids the importance of reading and highlighting the value of books. And anything that comes wrapped up is exciting! When you give your child a book, write a personal note in the cover so that she knows this book is hers and it was given to her with special thought.
All children learn to read at a different rate. The key to keeping your child on the reading track is constant encouragement and creating a positive reading environment.