By Jen Bosen
We all know reading is important. Unfortunately, for many kids, reading feels more like a chore than anything else. So how do you fix that? How do you turn reading from something their teacher requires to something your child requests? I’ve got a few suggestions to help you teach your child to love reading.
- Start now.
It doesn’t matter whether they are a toddler, a grade-schooler, or a teenager, it’s never too soon—or too late!—for your child to discover the joy of a good book. You don’t need a massive home library or a fancy e-reader or pristine hardcover copies of the classics either. Just get a book and read it. Today.
- Make books available.
Without available reading material, teaching your child to love reading would be a challenge. But that doesn’t mean you need to have overflowing bookshelves at home. That’s what libraries are for. They’ve got all the overflowing bookshelves you could ask for, and best of all, they’re FREE! Find the branch closest to you, take your child to get their own library card, and max it out!
- Try audiobooks.
Personally, I prefer the printed word, but audiobooks definitely have their appeal. My kids love to listen to audiobooks in the car on long trips or while we run errands, and I know several families who play audiobooks for their kids while younger siblings are napping. Children can play or do chores or draw pictures or whatever else suits their fancy while they listen to someone (who isn’t you!) read to them. It’s a fantastic entertainment alternative to turning on the TV.
- Find books that interest them.
My husband has never considered himself much of a reader…until recently, when he discovered he really enjoys realistic science fiction novels like “The Martian.” My nephew spent several months devouring every book at his local library about tree frogs. Sometimes you just need to find the right genre, or even a weirdly specific topic within that genre, in order to pique your child’s interest. What are they curious about? What kinds of movies do they enjoy? Give your kid books that fall into similar categories and you both might be surprised at how quickly they find they actually do love to read!
- Read out loud together.
Most parents understand the importance of reading aloud to very small children, but we tend to stop doing so around first or second grade, once they can read to themselves. There is something to be said for continuing to read books out loud together, though.
First of all, you know for a fact that they are reading. Sometimes that’s a major accomplishment in itself!
Second, you know what they are reading, which means you can talk about it with them, which I’ll discuss in a minute.
Third, you will be more aware of any difficulties they may have with reading. Maybe they don’t know what certain words mean or how to pronounce them. Maybe they can read well but don’t always comprehend what they’ve just read. You can help them or you can bring your concerns up with their school teacher; either way, you’ll have a better idea of your child’s reading abilities.
Finally, reading aloud to your child and having them read to you can be a great way to bond. How often do you get a quiet time to sit and enjoy each other’s company?
- Talk about what you read.
Reading has never been about just holding books in your hands and looking at words on pages. It’s about allowing stories and people and places and ideas to change your vocabulary, your way of thinking, your life.
So ask questions about what your kid is reading to help boost their reading comprehension. Debate whether this book or that one was funnier. Discuss which actors you would cast as the main characters if you made a movie of the book. Have them share interesting facts they’ve learned from their latest nonfiction read. Make connections to real life situations. You can learn a lot about your child by talking about books together, and they can learn a lot about you.
- Let them see you reading.
And not just on your electronic device. While e-readers can be great, there’s a major downside to using them exclusively: other people can’t tell what you’re doing. You could be reading something, sending emails, checking Facebook, or playing a game, and your kids won’t know the difference. And you absolutely cannot expect your children to gain a love of reading if you don’t set an example for them.
Keep a book in your bag, in your car, on your nightstand, near the couch, or wherever else you might find yourself with a few spare minutes. Make time to read while your kids are home. Tell them about your favorite books. Read interesting passages aloud to them. However you choose to do it, make sure they know that people read, not just because a teacher says they have to, but because reading is enjoyable.
Check out www.iquriouskids.com to find a summer reading program, reading summer camp, reading workshop, or other reading programs for kids to connect them with a summer reading list or summer reading challenge.
Here are some summer reading programs for kids in the Houston area:
***Author Jen Bosen and her husband are the parents of three delightful beasts. She has a master’s degree in education, which she is currently using to teach her three-year-old not to pee on the floor. She writes about finding beauty in imperfection and humor in chaos on her blog, Real Life, On Purpose. www.jenbosen.com