Seven Tips to Help Children Enjoy Reading
Would you like to help your children enjoy reading? Is raising readers important to you? It should be!
There’s not enough space to list the benefits of reading with/to children even while in-utero, but there’s a lot of research to back up the talk. Reading to children is important for their neurological development. It builds empathy, strengthens their ability to listen and improves their vocabulary.
Most importantly though, it creates a strong bond between parents and children and as children grow, books can be a great launch point for having otherwise uncomfortable conversations.
So, what can you do if you’d like to help your children enjoy reading? Number one below is the most important step - and the other six are incredibly helpful too.
1. Read aloud to children of all ages
Yes, all ages. For little babies, they will likely be more interested in eating or smacking the books but the rhythm of a parent’s voice and the time spent just cuddling is the thing of real value. Also, touch and feel books, books with flaps like The Very Hungry Caterpillar are great at holding the interest of kids under one.
Read aloud time need not be lengthy. Ten minutes or even less of regular read-aloud time beats nothing at all. Reading to toddlers and preschoolers improves the power of their imagination, their ability to listen and their vocabulary. It also opens them to the power of stories and this is what makes a person become a reader -- discovering that portal to a world outside of theirs.
Every child loves stories and no child, especially between ages 3-7, can resist it when you open a picture book and just start reading. By the third page, I guarantee you they will be right there with you, transfixed.
If you’d like to know more about reading aloud with your children, I highly recommend Sarah’s Mackenzie’s book, The Read-Aloud Family. She shares among many things, why reading is important, how she manages to find time to read-aloud with six kids and how to find books your kids will love.
2. Keep books around your house
Just as kids have become screen addicts because of regular exposure, doing the same thing with books works. Always have a book handy for a spontaneous ten minutes of story time just before you fold laundry. You don’t have to have an alarm clock for a certain time of day to read aloud.
3. Model reading
Kids want to be like mummy and daddy, so they will get curious about books if they see you reading. Parents are busy and so reading may never be a full-day luxury event, but instead, snatches of time here and there. It also helps to replace TV time with reading time now and again, if reading is a real priority.
4. Don’t be afraid of re-reading
Many parents complain about re-reading books with their children, but really, if your kids want you to re-read books, you’re doing amazing, sweetie! I know it can be difficult (trust me, I know The Three Billy Goats Gruff by heart now, because my friend’s kids LOVE it) but knowing that I’m making them fall in love with books and reading is worth it for me. Also, if you have kids older than one, don’t be afraid to go big with your voice acting -- kids are delighted when you make voices!
5. Make reading time bonding time first
Especially for people with older kids, it’s tempting to make reading time a time to practice reading for school or learn “moral lessons”. Don’t fall into that trap. Kids already have to study so much in/for school. Let your children just enjoy stories and pretty pictures. Let them ask as many questions as they want during story time. Stories are to be enjoyed, first.
6. Let kids choose
Who likes to read only what they’re told to read? No one. Kids, especially as they get older will be forced to read many boring literature texts for school. They’ll appreciate knowing that with mum and dad, they can pick anything they’d like to read. Let them read and re-read as they desire. They’re feeding their love of books.
7. Picture books are for everyone!
Not just babies and kids older than seven, but even for you too, mamas. Many parents rush their kids into chapter books (books with chapters) too early when all the children still want are picture books. Allow everyone in your home to read picture books. Many picture books like The Pink Umbrella, for example, are actually better understood by kids ages 6-9.
If you’re a parent to a newborn or infant, don’t fret too much about your baby’s seeming lack of (appropriate) response to reading. Just keep bonding through stories and you’ll see what happens when they hit age one or two. Keep reading, re-reading and cuddling your babies!
What challenges do you have with raising readers? Reluctant readers? Book recommendations for children of various ages? I’d love to help! As an avid reader and lover of children’s literature, recommending books to kids is my favorite thing!