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By Amanda Thielen
While working in education, kid after kid told me they hated reading. It sucked. They said it felt forced upon them, or it wasn’t interesting. These experiences made me think twice about how to introduce books to my daughter and help her discover the magic of reading.
Through a bit of research and some creative thinking, my husband and I came up with a handful of strategies that has our toddler begging us for one more story. I’ve learned that kid lingo for one more actually means never-ending. When story time rolls around I usually don’t mind her asking for one more book. Reading together leads to unimaginable bonding and builds her love of reading.
It’s not going to happen overnight but it is possible to get your kids reading for fun!
Tip #1: Start Young
Maybe it was the pregnancy hormones, but I started reading to my daughter Em as soon as I found out I was pregnant. While they haven’t gone so far as to prove any benefits of reading to your unborn child, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading to your child from infancy (2014). Because we started early, reading became comforting and normal to our daughter, which sparked her love of reading. Don’t let anyone tell you your kid is too young to enjoy books. Even babies benefit from and enjoy being read to. They don’t have to know the words before being given some room to explore. Pick sturdy board books for little ones, because odds are, like everything else, the books will end up in their mouth. With their touch-and-feel pages, sensory books are a great place to start! I’ve found that these books don’t lose their wow factor as kids grow older and usually have simple text, which makes them great for later on when your child is beginning to read on their own.
Tip #2: Put it in your own words
Take a moment to thank your high school English teacher. Especially when reading to kids, stories are not limited to words written on the paper. Try re-phrasing hard sentences that young kids may not understand. Even better, add more to the story or make it a little bit different every time. Some books, such as The Little Critter Series include something for your child to find on each page. Em loves the challenge and feeling of mastery after finding each hidden character in the series.
Tip #3: Variety
While I always knew that I would read my daughter the work of Shel Silverstein, I had pictured introducing Where the Sidewalk Ends when she was somewhere around twelve, not two. Most of the ideas are over her head, but she enjoys the rhythm, rhymes, and silly illustrations. Reading a variety of books will prevent your kid from losing interest. In our house, we don’t stop the reading at books. We have started pointing out to Em that words are all around us and taking the time to occasionally read the back of a cereal box, a billboard, and everywhere else that writing exists. While I started doing this as a way to promote her early literacy skills, it has surprisingly gotten her excited about reading.
Tip #4: Pick a routine reading time and stick to it
Most kids like routines, especially when they include activities that they enjoy. Sticking to a daily reading time for even ten minutes a day will help you turn it into a lifelong interest for your child. Setting aside this time will help your kid establish a sense of normalcy and even comfort in reading. My husband and I chose to start reading to Em every night before bed, which has certainly helped coax her to bed. Reading is a great way to bond with your child, and if you are willing to put in the small effort of setting aside ten minutes a day it could have a drastic effect on your kid’s outlook on learning to read.
Tip #5: Don’t Force it
From the time they are young, kids can easily tell the difference between when we make them do something and when we ask them if they want to. Sometimes it helps to give your kid the choice to say no. It will reinforce the idea that they are reading because they want to and not because mom or dad is making them. I’ve used the asking versus telling strategy for helping Em appreciate many activities, so keep in mind that it’s not exclusive to reading the next time you want your kid to put their dirty clothes in the hamper or help wash the dishes. As a parent, there’s inevitably going to be many times that you’ll have to make your kid do something, so take this opportunity to let them be the one who has a chance to say no for a change. Why turn reading into a power struggle if it doesn’t have to be?
Tip #6: Keep Books in Every Room of The House
And I mean every room. By storing books in every room, even the bathroom—Em’s new favorite place to read—you will give your kids consistent access to reading. Try storing books in easy to reach places, like the lower levels of a bookcase so that your child can look at them without your help. Feel like you don’t have enough books for your kid? Check out your local thrift store or this next tip-
Tip # 7: Don’t Underestimate The Power of The Library
If you haven’t already, take your kid to the library and get them a library card. I don’t care if they are two months, two years, or in their teens. The library is one of the greatest places to instill a love of reading in your child. Beyond an infinite supply of kid’s books to choose from, many libraries offer various activities for little ones. This can be a great way not only to help your kid appreciate reading, but also for them to socialize with others their age and maybe meet some new friends of your own.
Libraries sometimes offer reading activities and contests for kid—a great way to start your child’s community awareness and participation. Sometimes they have guest authors or activities that are usually free and great way to get your kids (and you) out of the house. Plus, giving your kid a library card is a great way to start teaching them about responsibility.
Tip #8: Let Them Catch You Reading
If you want your kid to like reading show them that you think reading is fun too. Get out your favorite book the next time they are playing independently and let them catch you reading for fun. Em consistently sees both my husband and I reading for pleasure. Even when she was first born and I was nursing, I always had a book in my hand. She most recently saw me reading my graduate level textbook and begged me to share. When they’re little, more than anything, our kids want to be just like us, right? If they see you doing it, odds are they are going to want to try it out too.
Have a strategy of your own to share that got your kid reading? Feel free to add to the discussion below and share what worked for you!
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Featured image by Ben White via Unsplash.com