While some children are interested in books from a young age, others need more convincing to sit down and read. What can you do to help your kids find their love of literature?
The Right Mindset
First, it’s important to frame reading as a hobby rather than a chore. Telling your child to read for the next 15 minutes when all they want is to play video will lessen their concentration and increase their resentment towards books. By showing your kids that they’re lucky to have time to read, you’ll help them establish the pastime as a fun activity rather than homework.
Reading, for me, is an escape. It’s like watching a movie in your mind, moving ahead on your own time, and using your imagination to bring the words to life. It’s both a challenge and a sort of relaxation. Reading lets you travel and discover other cultures and people. Teach your children this and they will someday realize how lucky they are to have so many books and the ability to read them.
The Right Books
Not all kids have the same interests. While one kid may read exclusively about dinosaurs, another might prefer fantasy, and another still may secretly enjoy reading manuals. Ask your kids about their interests and find books that work for them. Choose reading material together to ensure your young readers will be inspired.
And remember, reading is reading—whether that’s a comic book, graphic novel, picture book, chapter book, or newspaper. The integral literacy skills your child should be developing through reading can come from various sources. It’s important to accept all reading as progress.
If your child is having a hard time focusing or refuses to even try reading, they may have a learning disability such as dyslexia. It’s your responsibility as a caretaker to get them the support they need! With practice, those with learning disabilities can read and write as well or better than those without.
Even so, finding motivation to read when the letters just don’t make sense isn’t easy. It can even seem like a lost cause! Make sure you support your young readers in any way they need—a good start is asking them what they think would help. Take turns reading pages so they get a break? Find books with a dyslexia-friendly font? Read graphic novels because the text is broken up and easier to isolate? Everyone is different, and a specialist can help your family establish the best practices for your situation.
Sometimes, for a little extra incentive, you can try making reading into a game (gamifying!). Let’s say your eight-year-old wants a new skateboard. When she finishes 30 books, you’ll buy it for her. While this may work for some kids, others may skim through the books to reach the objective faster. In this case, you can try a goal without a reward. For example, agree that you and your son will read 30 picture books in a month together. There is no prize other than the satisfaction of knowing you met your objective.
A third option is to make the incentive smaller. If your child reads you a book before bedtime, they can stay up reading until the book is done. The promise of a later bedtime may be enticing enough for your child to fill the extra time with a book. Whatever works for your family, so long as the kids end up reading!
Finally, kids tend to mirror their caretakers. If you’re always on your phone or watching TV, your child will likely do the same. If you also take the time to read every now and then, your young readers will follow your lead. You can read different books in silence next to each other and even tell each other about each book when you’re done! Coming from a lifelong bookworm, your kids will cherish this time with you and the skills you’re helping them develop when they look back years later.
Two book recommendations to get you started:
Recess in the Dark by Kalli Dakos (left)
Our Farm in the City by Kalli Dakos (right)