How Can I Foster a Love of Reading in my Children?

How Can I Foster a Love of Reading in my Children?

By Katie Lee

We know that learning how to read is important for a child’s success in middle and high school, college, and even life. But did you know that when we engage in habitual, consistent reading we gain improved comprehension, writing style, vocabulary, spelling, grammar—even increased empathy? Reading is a wonderful way to gain an understanding of the complex English language, and studies have shown that time spent reading is a better and more efficient way to learn about nuanced definitions, sentence structures, and grammatical properties.

A boy smiles while reading a book while laying on the floor of a library.

Helping your child to develop a love of reading is a wonderful way to get them on the path to better writing, a diverse vocabulary, and increased empathy—but it’s not always easy. I share five tips below to help you and your child get started.

Read to your kids

This may seem obvious, but it’s an important first step in fostering a love of reading. I find that all children, no matter their age, love to listen to stories. In addition, listening to a story being read out loud promotes fluent reading and teaches children to emphasize certain words, follow punctuation, and even change our voices to match characters.

Depending on your child’s age, you might offer to read the book together by alternating words or pages. Get them involved in the book—ask them what’s happening, or what they think will happen next. 

Find books that interest them

I’ve heard it said that if a child doesn’t like to read, chances are he or she hasn’t found the right book. What is your child interested in—animals? Outer space? Music? Humor? Sports? Chances are there’s a book out there that aligns with their interests. Go to your school or local library together to pick out books, and when you get home, ask them which book to start with. If they don’t like the book, stop reading it and pick out another. Having ownership in what they are reading empowers them, adds confidence, rewards their interests, and promotes a positive attitude towards reading.

Model reading in your home

It’s important for your children to see you reading—and enjoying it—in your free time. Make it a goal to spend 20 minutes a night to read as a family. Set aside your phone and turn off the TV. Make your child aware that reading is an enjoyable way to spend free time. It’s not something you have to do, it’s something you get to do! 

Talk to your family about the book you’re reading, or the book you can’t wait to read next. Are you part of a book club? Talk about it with your kids, show them that reading can be a great way to build friendships, have fun, and be exposed to books you might not pick out on your own.

Make reading fun and special

Parents often tell me that it’s a battle to get their kids to read at night. If that’s the case, perhaps your child is struggling to learn how to read and if they’re struggling, they’re probably working extra hard at school. By the time they get home, they’re likely feeling exhausted and maybe even a bit frustrated. I get it! Learning to read is hard work, but reading doesn’t have to be a chore. It’s a great time to cuddle with your child and have some quality one-on-one time. Read to them, and get them involved by asking them what they like or dislike about the book, or what they think will happen next.

Get creative with where and how you read, perhaps by setting up a picnic and reading outside, or pitching a blanket tent inside and reading with flashlights. Children can dress up as their favorite characters, or build scenes from the book using blocks, paper, and crayons. Read to family pets or stuffed animals, or set up a virtual meeting and have your child read to a family member remotely. Above all, keep it fun and light.  

Incorporate reading in other ways

Ask your child to help you write down the grocery list, or read a recipe while helping you bake or cook in the kitchen. My older son loves to read graphic novels, and he was inspired to create his own. Another idea is to subscribe to age-appropriate magazines, which kids love because they come in the mail and often have colorful photos, games, and fun articles. 

Make connections between the book and real life

As you’re reading a book, find ways to make parallels between the book and real life. “I remember feeling like this when…” or “Doesn’t this seem like something grandpa would do/say?” Not only does this build engagement with the book, it helps children identify particular actions, emotions, and feelings with vocabulary.

We know the many benefits of helping your child develop a love of reading but many students struggle with reading, for a variety of reasons. The good news is that there are things parents and caregivers can do to frame reading in a more positive light and hopefully, over time, help their child develop a love for reading. 

About Katie Lee:

Katie Lee is a 1st grade teacher at University School of Milwaukee, and had been teaching at the elementary level since 2013. She also serves as the Language Arts department chair for the Lower School. She has a degree in interior design and enjoys Wisconsin summers and sports. 

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