For the Love of Reading…From a Young Age

My son takes after me.

If he’s not doing school, building blocks, or tormenting his younger siblings – he’s reading. Obsessively! Almost anything I put in front of him, he will read.

My son reading on our way home from swim practice.

This was me as a child. I would sneak read whenever possible – under my schoolwork, under the covers with a flashlight in bed, the car…I would get lost in the world the story created for me. A world where my problems didn’t exist and I could invisibly live the lives of the characters that resided in the world created for me.

I’m amazed how few children I meet have this love for reading. We could blame a myriad of things: too much tv, too many video games, too hard-to-read books, too easy-to-read books…the list goes on. But where does the love for reading ultimately start?

Like most issues regarding children, we can trace the love for reading back to one thing – the parents.

Parents have SO much influence when it comes to the development of their children. We control the environment our children are brought up in. How we approach the subject of reading and incorporate it into our family life plays a large role in how our children will view the joy (or task!) of reading.

Is reading a joyous experience that we introduce to our little ones early on? Or do we treat it like a burden, another job to do?

When Is There Time?

I will be the first to admit that these days, with 5 children under 8 demanding constant attention all day, reading a book before bed is the last thing my husband and I want to do. We have easily been remiss in reading to our youngest children the way we did with the older two. I am vowing to do better! We can now see the “fruits of our reading” come to fruition in our eldest child as he is a newly 8 year old and pours over books like they were movies.

So how can we teach our children to love reading? I’ve found the following actions have helped our children love reading!

1) Read to your child EVERY day.

It’s easy to read to our toddlers when they are little. Toddlers usually want to curl up at night and soak in mommy and daddy’s attention. It’s imperative that parents continue to read aloud to their child as they get older – especially after they can read on their own! And don’t think it HAS to be at night before bed. Bedtime can be chaotic, especially if you have multiple children. Maybe a story over breakfast would fit into your schedule better. Whatever time of day it is, take those invaluable 10 minutes to invest in your child’s literary growth.

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2) Let your child pick the books to read sometimes.

This gives them the “choice” and allows you to see what books they tend to gravitate towards. For example, my 3 year old picks out the longer, more detailed stories which I would NOT have pegged him for. I’ve been able to learn a bit more about each of my children when they pick out our reading materials (although if I have to read “Steam Train, Dream Train” one more time, I’m going to lose it!!). Likewise, my 8 year old reads a great variety of books. Most recently, he’s nose-deep in my Harry Potter books!

He is halfway through the Harry Potter series.

3) Parents: Read yourself!

Children are the most observant creatures. It never fails to amaze me how I see my behavior reflected back to me by my children – good AND bad! We are the heroes in their eyes and they look to us for guidance on how to act. If we watch tv all day, they will want to watch tv all day. If we are reading a book, what do you think will happen? Exactly. They will want to read, to be like mommy and daddy. It will be a natural activity for them to start doing because WE do it. We need to show our children that books are more valuable than phones. We need to teach them that it’s better to utilize our time with literature rather than a screen.

My children will ask me what I’m reading when I get the chance to sit down with my book. This gives me a chance to verbally summarize for them a story, which is a great skill for reading comprehension.

4) Select stories that are rich in context.

Have you ever noticed how some of the books geared towards children (like the read aloud books) don’t have a story line that flows logically? The stories are simple and basic. They don’t draw the child in with an exciting plot line that captivates and enhances their imagination. More in-depth stories allow children to be exposed to new vocabulary and more complex grammar structure. Don’t think your child won’t be able to comprehend the story if it’s not along the lines of “See Spot Run”! Variety is so important when it comes to what we are reading to our children!

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5) Create “me time” for the family.

It seems after-dinner time can be extremely hectic for families, especially when you have little ones. It’s that down time between eating and bedtime when my kids start to get riled up. A way to diffuse the after-dinner crazies is by having “quiet time” as a family in the living room. The kids can choose a quiet activity to do while Mom and Dad read their books. No phone, no work, just some time spent winding down. While my littlest ones might find some toys to occupy them, my older 3 grab their own books and sit next to us on the couch.

6) Finally, have your child read ALOUD!

No, they aren’t going to want to do this! But reading aloud is a invaluable skill that many children do not have. It doesn’t need to be a large amount of text – give them books a level or two below their reading level so it’s fun and easy for them. If your child has younger siblings, have him/her read aloud to them. The act of reading aloud is a lost skill in our youth. It is very different than silently reading to oneself and is a good way for parents to recognize if their child struggles phonetically.

This is how I found out my son wasn’t taught phonics in kindergarten/1st grade. He could recognize all his sight words but when it came to “sounding out” more complex words, he didn’t have his phonics foundations in place. Five months of homeschooling and focusing on phonics in our language arts program has helped him immensely!

Parents, I know it’s incredibly hard most days to slow down and find your “quiet time”. The chaos of raising kids can tempt you to throw on that TV show “just for a minute” so you can take a break and breathe for 5 minutes. And sometimes, that may be exactly what you need to for your sanity. But we’ve seen the true benefits of approaching those moments with a different mindset – making quiet time with books on the couch. Our kids grab handfuls of books and spend sometime quietly flipping through them (I’ve even used books as a way to help my toddler stay in bed during naptime!).

How have you been able to incorporate reading into your busy, chaotic lives? Share with us!

6 thoughts on “For the Love of Reading…From a Young Age”

  1. These are truly such great tips. I completely agree that finding time to read has certainly not been a priority in my own life but it’s such an huge part of a child’s life. I’m a reading partners volunteer and it’s quite alarming the amount of children who do not read at home and struggle to read at all. I’m going to start suggesting family quiet time.

  2. As a reading tutor, I agree. =) I really like having my older child read to my younger one who doesn’t read yet. It gives her good practice reading aloud without feeling the embarrassment or pressure of reading out loud to an adult. When I was a kid I practiced reading out loud to my dogs to help improve my fluency.

  3. This post brings back so many happy memories of me begging to read just a little more under the covers with countless books. My son has more books than anything else and we have to read at least 5 books before bedtime. We read to him across genres and a bit in other languages. Great post advocating for the importance of reading prioritization.

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