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5 Top ways to get children to read

1 – Read frequently to your children

Mom reading to child

Studies have shown that children who love reading often have that love for reading continually nurtured by their parents and other family members. The earlier you start with that book loving nurturing, the better. So, a good first step creating book-loving interest is to have a wide variety of picture books in the house when your children are newborn and toddlers. Even more important is read to them from those books on a regular basis from newborn to toddler to as old as they let you keep reading to them. Reading stories at bedtime is a great tradition that not only helps children to settle down for the night, but it helps foster a love for books and reading.

Even when children are past bedtime story age, it doesn't mean it's too late to begin reading to them. Reading aloud to your children can become a family activity on weekday evenings, a Saturday afternoon or to help pass the time when going on a long road trip. When my two oldest children were in grade school we read the Harry Potter series together. Even though we were all anxious to get to the end of the books, we made a rule that none of us could read ahead. That time reading together became a special time for us that strengthened our relationship.

2 – Find books that appeal to child's unique tastes

child reading

Every child's tastes are different. Too often adults, and even kids' peers, try to push their own reading interests onto them. The classics might push some children to boredom while other loves them. The same can be said of mysteries, fantasty, sci-fi, non-fiction, alternative history, graphic novels, sports stories, and more.

Every child is unique. As result, different children have different likes and disklikes. Many times children don't consider themselves readers simply because the world's supposed view of what reading is doesn't mesh with their own.
Give children choices in their reading. Don't force your own interests or likes on them. Instead, help them discover the books or other reading material that will appeal to their unique tastes.

Check out these resources for book ideas for children.

3 – Let Children See You Reading

Person reading

The way that children feel that others think about reading's importance affects their own reading attitudes. If children rarely see their parents or role models read, they gain the perception that reading is not important. It promotes an attitude of Why should I read, you never do? The opposite is true as well, the more children see their parents or role models read, the more important it becomes in their minds.
This can be especially true for boys in father-son relationships. Whether it's from cultural or social influences, research has shown that many boy non-readers view books as feminine or uncool. That same research shows that as boys see their father's reading (or other significant male role models, such as grandfathers, uncles, brothers, and teachers), they more than likely will overcome this perception.

No matter the child, children need positive role models that will inspire them to read. When they constantly see you enjoying a variety of good books, it sends the message that Reading is fun! Reading is cool! Reading is important! Reading is just what I need!

Want kids to be readers? First, be a reader yourself. Here are a few resources that talk about the idea of modeling reading to children:

4 – Continually Nurture a Love for Reading

Child reading in bed with flashlight

Many of the attitudes that children form about reading come from their relationships with others. One of the most impactful relationships on children's reading attitudes is the one they have with their parents. Studies have shown that children who love reading often have that love for reading continually nurtured by their parents and other family members.

So, how do you nurture that love for reading? One is to simply make it fun. Have family reading times. Ask your children what they're reading? Tell them about what you are currently reading (This means you actually have to read yourself). Have a family read-a-thon. Take children on frequent trips to the library. Go to storytimes at the library, local bookstores or book fairs. Let children create their own books. Read to your children. Give books as gifts.

Encouraging positive reading-related interactions with children's peers is important too, such as informal book conversations with friends or book clubs. Of course, librarians can play a vital role in nurturing the love of reading in children. My booktalk interview with Cathy Potter on Cultivating a Strong Reading Community at Schools has a few insights in this area.

5 – Accept that Everything is Reading

Child reading comic

One of the most powerful ways to get children to read is for parents, teachers, librarians, caregivers and others concerned with helping children become readers isto simply accept the idea that everything is reading, and then encourage that reading in children.

For parents, this requires making a wide selection of books available and accessible to children, including classics, adventures, mysteries, biographies, fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, sports books, humor, non-fiction, encyclopedias, graphic novels, and comics. But the idea of Everything is Reading is not limited to just traditional books or ebooks. It includes newspapers, magazines, websites, do-it-yourself manuals, even the back of cereal boxes and more.

The idea is to encourage reading of any type. That encouragement and acceptance can help kids to keep reading and might eventually lead them to gain interest in reading a wider variety of other types of reading material. The more a child reads, the more the child develops their reading ability and the better chance they have to succeed in school and life in general. To get them to read, be okay with what they re already reading or want to read.

For more on the concept that Everything is Reading , read my interview with elementary school librarian and SLJ 100 Scope Notes blogger, Travis Jonker.

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Copyright 2001-2023 by Ken Baker

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