4 Simple Tips to Get Your Child to Read All the Time Without You Ask

Nov 10, 2016

We were driving home from school, and—next thing I know—my daughter Chelyn is exclaiming “Yay! I’m so excited! I haven’t been in so long! I can’t wait to go there!” and jumping up and down (as best she could while in her seatbelt).
…I had just announced that we were going to the library. Chelyn LOVES reading, and she LOVES going to the library. How did this happen?

In my work with parents, there’s a common question: “How do I help my child love reading?” I can see why parents are curious; research has proven that kids who read out-perform their non-reader friends.

I have put a lot of thought into reading, books, and our home set-up, and I want to share all my secrets. You’ll be glad to know, it’s quite simple – when I consult with parents about their home set-up, they are delighted to learn how easy it can be to create a reader-friendly set-up and routine.

1. HOW? – Getting in a Library Routine
Kids love routines, so here is ours. We’re lucky that our country provides free access to books – make sure your child has a library card of their own as soon as they are old enough (Chelyn got her library card when she turned two year old in a gift box). We go to the library twice a month, and every time this is what happens:

– We arrive at the library, carry in our “library bag,” and return the books from our last visit
– We go to the children’s section – sometimes Emily (age 3) chooses to play with the puzzles
– Emily chooses 5 books-when she was younger, she was allow to choose 3 books
– I choose 5 books…great opportunity for counting and adding
– …meanwhile Chelyn (age 8) selects however many she wants – she can manage on her own.
– Emily and I read 2 books
– Then we count how many books we are taking home – great opportunity for adding and counting
– We check out our books and head home

2. WHICH BOOKS? – How to select appealing books
Your kids will like what you like—plain and simple. Have you ever noticed that? If you are excited to read a book to your child because you love the book, your child loves listening to it. Variety is key—when Emily was a baby, I didn’t limit the selection to board books; in the rotation, I included fiction, non-fiction, illustrated, real-life photos, people, animals, objects, and everything in between. I notice that Emily prefers beautiful illustrations over cartoon illustrations: beautiful books win every time—see our recommendation below.

3. WHERE? – Where reading happens in our home
Everywhere. For Emily, we have about 25 books in rotation—a mix of books we own and library books. We have a handful (4-6 books) in 4 locations in our house: living room, playroom, bedroom, and car – and one in the hallway. Even if you own hundreds of books, keep only a few in active rotation for young children – store the rest in the closet or on a high shelf: rotation keeps interest. Also, 2 things to keep in mind:

-Show the cover: it’s very important HOW the books are displayed. Make sure that the cover can be seen (not just the spine). We have a great ledge in our playroom so the cover of each book can be seen.
-Independence: Emily can reach the books on her own—she can chose, take out, and put away the book spontaneously on her own.

4. WHEN? – When reading happens in our home
All the time. Whenever they choose. We don’t enforce a specific “reading time” or “you have to read 3 books”—assigned/forced reading is just no fun. Books are always available in multiple parts of the house, so it’s natural and spontaneous—the girls read when they choose to read. Granted, laying a foundation for the care of books is a must: from an early age, we practiced how to carry a book and how to turn the page. One of the first “rules” or “limits” we had for our girls was “Books do not go in your mouth”; if Emily put a book in her mouth, we gave a friendly reminder, packed away the books, and came back to reading at a later time.

As I’m wrapping up this post, I would like to share with you one of our favorite books as a family—and I’m eager to hear about your favorites! Both of my girls REALLY enjoyed “A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams” by Jen Bryant. It’s absolutely beautiful – both the words and the illustrations – and full of vocabulary and rhyming that children love!

-Share your favorite books directly in the comment section below.

-If you have friends with young children, share this post. It could give them some actionable ideas to help their children to love reading!

Thank you so much for reading, sharing and being here. Your presence and voice matter more than you know!

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