How to Help Your Child Read More
Lead by Example
What better way to show our kids that something is important than by doing it ourselves? Despite my love of reading books on my Kindle, I will often take a paperback book or two out of the library so I can get snuggled on the couch and read. This is as much for my children to see me reading as it is for me to enjoy a good book. And lets be honest, my kids are still young so I’m not really able to lounge on the couch for long before I have to break up a fight or help the kids with something or other, but the fact that I’ve got a book open in front of me is something they can learn from.
Now that my son is starting to enjoy reading more on his own, I will often find him snuggled on the couch reading his own book. When he finally got the fourth Harry Potter book, he was super excited and got settled on the couch to start reading.
Make Daily Reading a Routine
We have been using reading as part of our bedtime routine since my children were infants. The book length and type may have evolved over the years, but we always try to get in just 10-15 minutes of snuggle time and reading as a family. This has changed slightly as the kids have gotten older, but unless we are out late for an activity or have some other reason that we get home unusually late, you can count on us reading a book before bedtime. By creating that routine of reading daily, it's been easier for my now-literate kids to transition to them reading books on their own before bed. Some nights we read to my son, and some nights he reads on his own—either way, he’s logging reading time so we’re happy. We’ve even had him get so caught up in a book, that he’s stayed up too late reading and overslept the next morning! Any book lovers will agree, this happens to us all from time to time.
How Much Time Do You Read With Your Kids Each Day?
Did You Know?
"Children who are read to at least three times a week by a family member are almost twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading compared to children who are read to less than 3 times a week."
Denton, Kristen and Gerry West, Children’s Reading and Mathematics Achievement in Kindergarten and First Grade (PDF file), U.S. Department of Education, NCES, Washington, DC, 2002.
Small Stories, Read Often
When kids are reading, but still new to reading on their own, I have found it to be less daunting for them to read shorter books or short stories so they don’t get overwhelmed. Giving a 7 year old a chapter book, although they may enjoy the story, they may see the size of the book and give up before they’ve even opened the book.
There are lots of beginning reader books out there and some are even numbered by level to help you gauge length, a number of words per page, and other variables. I usually like to grab a handful of books from the library, varying in length and complexity. That way if my 7 year old wants to read on his own, he can, but if he’d prefer that we read a longer story together as a family, we can do that too.
Beginning Reader Books
Reinforce the fun
Reading may seem like a chore, especially if children are assigned reading homework every night, so try and make it fun. My son showed an interest in Harry Potter so we started reading the books as a family and after we finished the first book, we had a movie night watching the first movie. Despite the long chapters and length of the books overall, the Harry Potter series has been good for him because it’s gotten us to read even more each night, and he looks forward to finishing the book so we can watch the movie. We, of course, make fun snacks for the movie night and make a fun time of it. Make sure to tailor your fun to your child. Do they enjoy comics, or maybe joke books? There are of course some fun rhyming stories for younger children as well.
Use Your Resources; the Library is Free!
Books can get pricey if you only buy them during the book fairs at school. So, what better place to get lots of books for free than at the library! Being a military family, we move quite often, but one of the first places we go when we are settling into our new home is the library. The library has not only a great selection of books for your reader, but they have literary activities like story time for the littles, in addition to fun age appropriate things like lego club, craft club, and other learning resources.
There are endless possibilities at the library and once you show your kids that they can learn just about anything at the library, they’ll be hooked on reading. If you have a child who just can’t put down the electronics, have them use the Kindle app to read some books that way. I have really enjoyed using a free app called Overdrive on my phone. It works in conjunction with your library card at your local library and you can download and borrow books electronically.
Keep Reading in the Summer to Prevent the Summer Slide
In the summer, we all know it’s hard to keep kids learning when we’re out of town on vacation or would rather be by the beach playing in the sand than doing math problems or reading homework. But, keeping up with reading over the summer is a great way to prevent that summer learning slide that often happens. Bring your favorite paperback with you to the beach and even if you can't get kids to read at the beach, there's still bedtime you can get in some snuggle time and read a book or two.
Try to give your kids one or two days of intentionally having no electronics available to them, and provide them instead with a basket of books. You may scoff at my suggestion, but after the first painful day of complaining, your kids may actually get into it if they do not have other sources of entertainment readily available. If your teen would rather be playing Minecraft or Fortnight, then take out some books on those subjects from the library and they may just start reading those instead.
When to Start Reading With Your Kids
It’s never too early or late to start reading with your kids. You can read to your baby out loud while you are pregnant, or even read to your new infant baby. What you read doesn't matter, just keep on reading. Grab your favorite magazine and read that out loud. As your children get older, you can, of course, read books more suited for their ages but when they’re super little, just the fact that you’re reading to them is helpful.
You Can Do It!
By leading by example, reading short books often, reading out loud to your kids, and creating the habit of daily reading, your child will be well on their way to reading more and maybe even having some fun along the way!