How to Encourage Children to Love Books and Reading
My Lifelong Love of Reading
The library has been a favorite place of mine for as long as I can remember. I love the smell of books, the sound of rustling pages, and the hushed atmosphere. I have no doubt my love for reading from an early age was instrumental in giving me the passion and ability to write. I spent countless hours from childhood until today curled up with a good book.
From preschool and throughout my elementary school days, my favorite parts of the day were the teacher reading us stories, spending quiet time where we read to ourselves, and writing our own stories. I loved doing book reports. I wasn't too keen on the oral ones but loved to write them. Books have stirred my imagination. Whenever I read a book, there is a movie reel running in my head and I see the story taking place and the characters in my mind's eye.
I am sad that I see few children in libraries today. Kids are at home playing on their phones or video games. How much they miss. I would like to give some tips on how to encourage children to read.
The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go."— Dr. Seuss, "I Can read With My Eyes Shut!"
Read to Your Children
It all starts with reading to your children. This includes dads and moms.
- Read to your children as often as you can—nightly, hopefully.
- Start when they are babies, even in the womb.
- Read books they're interested in. Use discretion, of course.
- Don't speak boring and monotone.
- Treasure this time of intimacy with your children. They can tell when you're in a hurry, preoccupied, or only doing it out of duty.
- Have the child choose the book. It's no fun to have a story they don't like.
- Have them participate. Talk about the pictures, ask them questions, have them read a bit if they want to.
- Let grandparents or other relatives read to them if they so desire. It will further the idea that having storytime is an intimate connection and enjoyable for many people.
- Most importantly, make it fun. If they think storytime is boring or that you are not fully engaged, they don't stand much chance of wanting to read on their own.
- Children with learning and behavioral issues can be difficult. I had a grandson who was very hyperactive. When I read to him and his sister in their room, I let him wiggle and run around a bit because I noticed he was still listening. I would ask him questions like, "Thomas, what do you think Curious George is going to tell the man with the yellow hat?" He oftentimes answered, other times not, but at least we tried. Sometimes children just don't want to behave. That is a parenting issue and for another article. (More about this later.)
Take Them to the Library
Taking your children to the library can be a fun outing.
- Go when you are not hindered by time constraints. Let the children take their time choosing books.
- Be enthusiastic.
- Encourage them to read or look at a book while there.
- Read to them there if you like.
- Take the little ones to library storytimes.
- Teach them library manners.
- Get them their own library card.
- Encourage them to get involved in a library summer reading program. Our local libraries do this for adults as well. If you have fines, they'll waive them, although that shouldn't be the motive.
- Check out books for yourself.
- Don't just go to check out videos.
Model Your Enjoyment of Reading
Seeing parents read reinforces the idea that reading is enjoyable and important to you.
- If appropriate, talk to your children about what you're reading.
- Don't read books or magazines in front of your children that are obvious by the cover to be racy. Kind of like not watching R movies while they are nearby.
- Encourage the children to read when you're reading.
Encourage Them to Love Books Early
You can encourage children to love books even before they can read. Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers who cannot read yet can still tell you the story. It's actually quite fun.
- Read to your baby in the womb. Of course they don't understand words yet, but they can hear your voice and intimacy is being formed.
- Have the baby or toddler name the object in the photo. Animal books are lots of fun because they can make the animal sounds. If they are looking at everyday objects like cars, airplanes and such, they can make those noises, too.
- Start the first sentence and have the child tell you what happens next. It's amazing how much they remember from hearing the story so many times.
- Have them read or tell the story to a pet or a toy pet.
- Have older children read to the younger ones.
- Have them read to you. I had a granddaughter who wanted to read to me. I loved it.
- Set aside a special time for reading and looking at books.
Build Their Personal Library
It is really nice for children to have their own personal library and not just books checked out from the public library.
- Give your child one book for Christmas and birthdays in addition to other gifts.
- Encourage relatives to give books as gifts.
- Go to yard sales or thrift shops with kids so they can affordably buy their own books.
- Schools oftentimes have book sales.
- Sign your kids up for a book club.
- Get them subscriptions to children's magazines such as Highlights, National Geographic Kids, Ranger Rick, Zoobooks, and many others.
- If a child is only interested in comic-type books, at least they are reading and learning. Parents should make them age-appropriate.
Teach Them to Take Care of Books
Children need to understand the value of books. It's inevitable that a small child will color a book or tear or cut pages if not watched carefully. But from the very start, teach them how special books are by showing them how to take care of books. Books in a child's room can get messy—books all over the floor with nowhere to put them in an orderly way.
- Give them a child-sized bookshelf.
- Although children always balk at putting things away, do your best to get them to put the books away.
- Don't allow messy food and drink while with books.
- Try to make a sense of pride to take care of books.
- Model taking care of books.
Learning Disabilities and Special Needs Children
There are many challenges children may have that make reading difficult: attention-deficit with or without hyperactivity, dyslexia and various other learning or developmental issues. Here are some suggestions:
- Learn early warning signs of learning issues (see link below).
- Have the child evaluated by professionals.
- Find resources to help your child with any of the above issues.
- Talk with other parents who have children with the same challenges.
- Don't chastise or be forceful. It will only make things worse.
- Some children are not visual or auditory learners. An interactive program online or DVD might help. Ask professionals and other parents for recommendations.
- Create a quiet space free from distractions.
- A child may never learn to read because of a developmental condition or something else. The important thing is that the parents and professionals work together to help that child with their learning and other challenges. They need the support of friends and family, not judgement.
- Focus on other things the child is interested in.
- Learning Disabilities and Disorders - HelpGuide.org
Learn the common warning signs and how to get help.
The Technology Route
We live in a high-tech world. Computers, cellphones, and Kindle devices are more common than books now for adults and children. If books just aren't working, have your child read on a device if that is their preference. The important thing is they're reading.
The hindrance is video games, YouTube, and social media (for the older ones). This is something that should be dealt with early. Too many kids are given carte blanche with video games and are given cellphones at an early age. Personally, I don't think teens should have them, but that's for each parent to decide.
There are educational websites and programs online in which children can read and learn, and that goes for DVDs. Utilize Google to search for them, or ask educators and other parents. Many of these are interactive as well.
My Opinion on Our Technology-Obsessed Culture
Today's parents sit for hours on their phones, ignoring their kids, and worse, allow the children to do the same. Everywhere we go, people of all ages have their heads down and fingers scrolling or tapping. They go to the beach and text and do Facebook. They go out to a movie, to a restaurant, to anyplace for some sort of recreation, and they are on their phones.
The only exception is senior citizens. Every waiting room I go to where there is a senior present, there is no phone. They are reading, talking, or daydreaming. I have made a vow with myself not to use my phone while I am out unless it's for a reason. I want to look around, read a book, and not be addicted to a device with meaningless content.
People use their phones while doctors in an office or the ER are trying to examine and question them. It happens at the store while going through the check stand, at the bank counter, ordering something at a store or restaurant, while in church, at school, in a business meeting—literally everywhere. We set a terrible example for our impressionable children. Letting them while away the hours on their devices is depriving them of learning intimate connection with others, enjoying the outdoors and other activities, and it fosters disrespect to people.
Call me old-fashioned, but I think this is very unhealthy.
I hope with all my heart that children will never stop wanting to learn and that adults will be more willing to spend quality time with them. We as parents and educators have so many opportunities to encourage children to read and do other activities of learning and experiencing our world.
How do you feel about your children reading for leisure?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Lori Colbo