Very few things are as magical as getting to watch your child discover the joy of books. As a parent, you already know that reading or being read to will start them on a journey to explore fantastical worlds, and set on a wonderful path to future success.
The only problem is that reading is not something we are innately born loving. With the distractions of screens, toys, and friends, books can seem like more of a chore than a fun pastime.
Luckily, there are a few simple tricks you can use to help even the most book-averse child start to see the joys of reading.
1. Read as Often as You Can
Whether you are sitting at home or at the park, have a book handy and offer story time as a boredom-busting activity or way to chill out and have some cuddle time. The more books are integrated into the daily routine, the more natural and welcoming they will seem to your child. But the fun doesn’t stop there. If possible, read for yourself as well. Let your little one ‘catch’ you enjoying a good book. Young children, no matter how hard they may deny it, look up to their parents and subconsciously try to emulate them. If your home is a place where reading is a beloved pastime, your odds of raising a book lover go way up!
2. Don’t Worry About Adult vs. Children’s Books
Not every child likes children’s books. Some don’t have the patience to look at pictures, don’t respond to simple stories, or have interests that are too sophisticated to be covered in a few colorful pages. This is not to say that you need to read Joyce or Melville at bedtime (unless requested!) but reading your child a chapter or two of a book you love will make them feel mature and encourage literary curiosity. This also opens up a whole new section of the library for voracious readers. Say your dino-obsessed kiddo has gobbled up all the ‘age appropriate’ dinosaur books at the library. Why not ask if they would like you to try to read them a chapter from a grown-up book of the subject? The worst that can happen is that they get bored and you find something else to read. The best that can happen is they love it!
3. Make Space For Reading
Is there anywhere in your home where your child can curl up with a good book? If the answer is no, make a literary nook all their own! Don’t worry - this does not require renovations! A comfy pillow next to the book shelf, or a cozy chair by the window, can make reading a fun, independent activity. Whatever part of the house you choose should be a little sanctuary, a magic place that they are praised for frequenting.
4. Start a Private Book Club
Older children may need a little encouragement to read on their own. Unfortunately, sometimes parental encouragement comes off as nagging. Bypass the need for reminders by separately reading the same book as your child. Book clubs can meet once a week or once a day. They can be a formal sit-down with tea and cocoa, or a conversation over the breakfast table. The important thing is having a check-in time with you. This gives your reluctant reader clear, easily attainable goals and a helping hand if they are struggling with the book. Also, having a shared book is a nice, simple way to bond with a child who might be looking for more independence.
Source: Olia Danilevich
5. Encourage Literary Play
Kids love to play, and that’s OK! Encourage their love of stories by encouraging imaginative play within stories. This can start off small, why not ask your child what they think a character's voice sounds like, or having them read back and forth with you while you both try funny voices? Or maybe you have just read a particularly exciting scene and your little one is bouncing off the walls - why not offer to act it out with them? That simple gesture could encourage a whole new game your child has never thought of before! Besides just being a lot of fun, playing out the stories in books encourages them to read more, either to find other fun scenarios to play out or to see what happens to a beloved character they enjoy. Imaginative play has been linked to stronger writing and verbal skills later in life, so by letting your child be Dog Man today, you could be setting them on the path to a brighter future. Fair warning though: you may have to play the bad guy. Don’t worry, that’s usually the best part!
6. Reward Reading
If you give your little one a cookie every time they read a book, they will probably read a lot of books, but also their doctors, dentists, and the Tooth Fairy might prefer a different method! So, how can you reward reading without seeming like you are bribing them? With more books and things related to books! If your child finishes a book, take them to the bookstore or get a library card. If you have siblings, encourage the big to read to the little and reward them with Book Worm points that they can redeem for new books of their own! If your little one asks for stories about knights and dragons constantly, create a dragon reading list! If they want to tell you about something they just read, reward them with your undivided attention and thoughtful questions. These small, unspoken rewards create a permanent link in their brain between finishing a book and feeling good. Eventually just the feeling of finishing a book will be its own reward!