As a teacher and a homeschooler, I often get asked how to get children interested in reading. In a generation full of toddlers who are basically born knowing how to manipulate touch screens, it is very hard to compete with technology for a child’s interest. Attention spans are lessening and learning disabilities are on the rise. A lot of kids have to be dragged, kicking and screaming into educational experiences, the hardest of which seems to be reading. So, what IS the secret? How DO we get unwilling kids to enjoy reading?
Here are 7 ideas that will hopefully help!
Start them young!
One of the greatest ways to get children to achieve a love of reading is to start them early. There is a direct correlation between the amount a parent reads to a child and how early and efficiently a child develops vocabulary, reading, and writing skills. I read to my children every day, starting from when they are babies. Board books with simple pictures and words help babies learn how to recognize basic objects and verbalize them. You can always tell a young reader by the more sophisticated words he or she uses. My toddler chooses three books every night before bedtime and he loves to read the same familiar stories over and over. This is how kids learn best. When they recognize the stories, they start “reading” along with you. In addition, a psychology research lab at the University of Florida found that the more you name specific characters and objects in stories, the better and faster they learn about the world around them and the longer their attention is held (details about this study?). There are so many good series out there with memorable characters, so crack open the Pete the Cat and Piggie and Elephant books!
Place books all over the home.
We also have books in almost every room in the home; living room, playroom and bedrooms. All easy to access and on their level. I also often place books in random places. It is human nature that the more a person feels nagged to do something, the less he or she wants to do it. If the books don’t feel forced, a child is more likely to pick it up on his own volition, purely out of curiosity. I am always amused when I see my kids reading books they think I don’t know about.
In this same vein, make frequent trips to the library where children can choose the books that appeal to them.
Many times, when books are given as assignments, this can turn a child off to reading in general, as the assigned books may not necessarily have been ones that he would choose for himself at that point in his life. This may cause him to feel like ALL books are as unappetizing as the assigned reading. I have found that many people don’t appreciate classic literature until it is no longer mandatory to read. By allowing our children to have the reign over their own choices, we give them the room to discover the joys and wonder of books without pressure.
Pay close attention to subjects that your children are passionate about.
My kids all have very different hobbies, so I am always on the lookout for books that compliment their interests. One of my children is a major sports fan. Any books that have football trivia or baseball stats are sure to be a hit. Another one of my children has been creating a super hero comic book with his cartooning teacher for the last couple of years. For him, I try to find books with drawing tips or art projects.
Get on board with the newest form of kids literature, the graphic novel.
I know a lot of people who could have benefited from these when I was a kid. The graphic novel takes the stories that we know and love and turns them into comic format. This style of book is especially popular with my cartooning son. He has a hard time reading long chapter books, but give it to him in manga format and he’s game. You can find old classics like Nancy Drew and Boxcar Children in graphic novel form or even educational books. A favorite in my house is Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, which is really United States history in disguise. My kids read these over and over, even the one who doesn’t usually like dry history. They have science and math books in this format, as well. Some really popular
Order monthly books with your children’s input.
We choose books from Scholastic Book Box every month. (I consider it part of the homeschooling tuition!) My husband has been known to exclaim, “More books?! We have no space for the ones we already have!” The kids are always excited when they come home and see the Book Box sitting on the doorstep. It’s so fun for them to receive the package delivery and they always rip open the box to see which books I have surprised them with this month. As an avid reader myself, I schepp nachas every time I hear the enthusiastic, “The Book Box is here!!”. The more exciting you make reading, the more excited your children will be too.
And of course, the absolute best way to encourage a child to read is to read yourself.
Like anything else, when we set a good example for our children, they will follow in our footsteps. My children hardly ever see me without a book in hand, and they are always interested to know what my book is about. They know they can ask me for opinions on books they will like, because I have most likely read them myself (well, at least the more classic ones!). They see that I love to read, so they also love to read. My kids also know that I do extensive research on all the books I get them. I also make sure to check reviews and kids’ media safety websites to be sure the books I am getting are appropriate for them, and they have learned to trust my opinion. My go to research place is Common Sense Media but I also look on amazon, and sometimes scholastic has reviews on the website itself.
In my opinion, reading is the number one learning tool. If I had nothing but books to homeschool my children with, I know my kids would still learn everything there is to know! There is so much information out there and books are a very accessible way to gain knowledge. So hop in the car, and scoot over to the library! See you there!