One of the greatest gifts we can convey to our children is the love of reading. When my children were very young, I used to promise them, “Once you learn how to read, you can learn anything.
Once you learn how to read, you’ll never have to be bored again.”
Along the way, through reading and experience, I picked up a few more ideas about raising children to love reading.
1. First, of course, is to read aloud to them. Read books over and over. Talk about the pictures and what’s going to happen next. Let them “read” the parts they’ve memorized aloud to you.
2. Silly sound games prepare your children for reading by helping them with phonemic awareness, the ability to distinguish different sounds in words. For example, while cleaning the fish bowl, you can think of rhymes for fish, even nonsense ones: bish, dish, lish, wish, kish. Or you can spend a morning talking in Pig Latin (“Ere’s-hay ome-say uice-jay!”) or replace the start of each word with a W sound. Clapping out syllables as you say them can also help.
3. Letting children read in bed is a great way to make reading a privilege. What child wants to go straight to sleep on a summer evening? Reluctantly agree to let them read. “Oh, all right, but just one more chapter. Then I want you to turn out your light.” Long before my youngest son could read, he wanted to look at picture books in his crib before settling down to sleep. Sometimes there were so many books in the crib I wondered how he found room to sleep, but he grew up an early and avid reader.
4. If reading is a great effort for your child, short reading experiences may be a good place to start. Notes in a child’s lunch, written riddles, and treasure hunts are all ways to motivate reading.
5. If your reader likes stories but is unwilling to read independently, shared reading can work. Take turns reading each other pages from an easy reader. Another trick, with a slightly older child, is to read a book aloud to the middle of an exciting part, and then get called away for some other chore. The book is there, the child is aching to know what happens next . . . she may just pick the book up and keep reading.
6. Choose books together at the library. Try to help your child get a good sense of his own taste in books. Tempt him to stretch a little with books you think he’d enjoy, but let him check out plenty of silly books, easy books, or books he’s read before. I don’t know how many times my son read Shag, the Last of the Plains Buffalo. His sisters teased him, but he grew up a reader.
There are plenty of other tricks for raising kids who love reading. I’d love to hear other ideas, and I may add some more of my own soon.