Getting Your Kids to Love Books: Tips for parents and caregivers
As a parent who raised two avid readers and also had a number of child literacy experiences here at Anythink, I would like to share my ideas to get kids to love reading. I am lucky enough to talk to caregivers of all ages every day, and I have seen many behaviors that help our children get excited about books. I am leaving Anythink for a new adventure and wanted to pass along the wisdom that I have gained in my time here. Thanks to all the customers, young and old, who have made this a wonderful community.
1. Start young. Start reading aloud to babies and very young children as soon as you can. It's great bonding time for baby and any caregiver. Make it interesting by changing your voice or adding movement to the story. Get creative.
2. Be a reader yourself. I can't over emphasize this point. You aim to be a role model for your child in many ways, so add "reader" to the list. Children who see thir parents reading on a regular basis are much more likely to want to read themselves. Set that good example by letting them see you read. One of my favorite things is to have family reading time, during which we each get a book and cuddle up on the couch and quietly read together.
3. Make books a part of your life. Take regular trips to your local Anythink, explore other branches and make a trip to the big downtown library a couple of times a year. Visit book stores on occasion. Make sure there are books in your home all the time. Children who are surrounded by books feel that they are a normal part of life and easily learn to incorperate reading into their own daily habits.
4. Read aloud. Read to your children at all stages of their childhood, not just when they are little. Start with simple colorful books and work your way up to longer stories with more words. When the child is ready, start a chapter book together. This allows children to get excited about stories that are too hard for them to read by themselves and helps to increase their comprehension. It's also good quality time you are spending with your child, and that counts for almost as much as reading the book in their eyes.
5. Cater to their interests. Not all kids are excited about the same things. If your little boy loves football, find both non-fiction and fiction stories about football. There's a book out there for everyone -- you just have to find it. Kids will sucessfully self-direct learning in this way. I know kids who have read every book we have at Anythink about dinosaurs and, once they are done, move on to a new subject and start the learing all over again.
6. Balance the challenging books with the easy ones. We hear all the time that we need to challenge our kid's to push them to improve, but if the only books your kids are reading are a little difficult, they'll lose interest quickly. Reading is supposed to be fun, and allowing our children to sometimes read books that might be a little too easy for them is OK. Let them choose books they are excited about regardless of the reading level, at least some of the time.
7. Don't restrict access to books. This one can be difficult. Don't tell them what they can and can't read (within reason, of course). Steer them to the right area at Anythink or the bookstore to make sure they are picking out appropriate books, but do your best to never tell them they can't read something. Don't take reading away as a punishment, and don't tell them they can't check out too many books. Set a limit on how many they can get before you get to the library. If the expectations are clear in advance, it feels more like a privledge than a restriction.
8. Make reading a reward. We all reward our children sometimes, often for good behavior or completing chores and tasks. Offer to buy them a book instead of taking them out for ice cream or tell them they can have an extra half hour at bedtime to stay up and read. Reading really is just as good as ice cream, and we should treat it as such. Kids then see it as something special and fun.
9. Allow them to use electronics to read. Kids love electronic devices! Have story time on the computer with TumbleBooks, or learn how to download ebooks. Encourage reading instead of saying, "No more video games."
Reading is fun, so have fun with it. Let your children see through your behavior and the world around us what a great part of life books can really be!