How To Raise a Child Who Loves to Read!
Some of the greatest quality time you will ever spend with your little one is the time you take out of your day or before their bedtime to read to them. These are moments of safety and solitude, cuddles and closeness, and a chance to laugh and bond over their favorite books!
For most of us, there usually comes a point in our lives where we begin to dislike reading books, likely around high school when we’re assigned to read books as homework. Books that at that stage in our young lives may feel ancient, hard to read and even harder to relate to (although, we have since changed our minds as adults and now recognize them as the beloved classics they are). So, how do we make sure that our children have a love of reading for the rest of their lives? The key is in encouraging our children to form a habit and deep love of reading from the start, and you as their parents play the most significant role!
Reasons Reading is Good For Your Child’s Health
In case you need to be convinced as to why your child should be an avid reader, here are just a handful of reasons that reading is good for your child’s (and your!) health:
1. Reading reduces stress.
Reading for just 6 minutes can lower your heart rate, decrease muscle tension, and reduce stress levels! If your child is feeling stressed about anything, from school to soccer tryouts, curling up with a good book for a few minutes each day can significantly help their mental health and improve their mood.
2. Reading promotes critical thinking and increases brain activity.
Your brain is a muscle, and just like any other muscle, it needs to be worked out regularly to become big and strong. Unlike passively watching television, reading books stimulates the brain and naturally encourages critical thinking (any mystery genre fans out there?). Your child can learn new vocabulary, discover cultures across the globe, exercise their problem solving skills when faced with a mystery, find empathy for the characters, and gain knowledge they wouldn’t have otherwise had if it weren’t for books.
3. Reading helps kids feel less alone.
If your child is going through something that is making them feel alone (i.e. bullying, a disability, divorce, etc.) there is always a character in a book to help them to see that they are never really alone and they are not the first person to experience the problem they are struggling with. Your child can find comfort in relating to characters in books, and learn how to have the confidence to handle and talk about the issues they are experiencing in real life.
4. Reading increases sleep quality.
As a parent, you know that technology before bed, especially in bed, can be a very slippery slope with kids. Any screens, loud or sudden noises and bright lights can be stimulating to the brain, which makes it nearly impossible for already active young kids to fall asleep. On the other hand, reading a book before bed can increase sleep quality, quieting the mind and relaxing the muscles. Reading can help your child get better sleep, but maybe stay away from action or mystery novels at bedtime!
How to Help Your Child Love Reading
Some kids aren’t as naturally crazy about reading as others, but it can become a love when it is nurtured by respected adults, such as parents or teachers. Here are some easy and effective ways that you can nurture a love of reading in your children:
1. Read aloud from books you both enjoy.
The easiest (and almost fool-proof) way to help your kids discover a love of reading is to read to them- all the time! Read to them before you leave for work in the morning, create a special story time with music if you stay at home, pick up a book instead of the television remote when they get home from school, read to them during their bath time, or of course as they’re winding down before bedtime. The more you read to them aloud, the better they’ll become familiar with language, pronunciation, grammar, what letters and words look like, and learn to enjoy your time reading together. You can help them develop a positive association with reading from enjoying so much quality time telling stories and laughing with you!
2. Find reading programs to incentivize reading habits.
A lot of local libraries have summer reading programs where kids can earn prizes for each interval of books they read. Having a reward program for reading incentivizes kids to read consistently, creating a good habit that is exciting for them because they can earn prizes. You can find similar programs through your local library, their school, or even make one yourself! Some parents even pay their pre-teens and teens to read self-improvement books instead of paying them for chores. This encourages them to work on themselves and actively become a better person through reading.
3. Make frequent visits to the library a big deal with their very own library card.
Going to the library with your kids can be a lot of fun for both of you! Stay up to date on kids’ events your library is having so they can make good memories and want to go to the library often. Help them learn how to navigate the library so they can find their favorite books in confidence, get to know the librarians in the kids’ section, and make them feel even more special by signing them up for their very own library card! All of these things can help them to develop positive associations with books and reading.
4. Keep books everywhere.
Priming is a psychological term and technique that basically means that when you see or hear something, you respond by doing something you associate with it. Simply put, if there are books all around your home, lying out in the open or inhabiting the shelves, your child will be more likely to pick one up and read often. The more they’re exposed to books in daily life, the more they’ll see the books, think about them, and ultimately read them. This goes for your actions, too! If your child sees you watching the television day in and day out, that’s what they’ll want to do. If they see you reading regularly, that’s what they’ll want to do, too!
5. Be a reading role model.
Monkey see, monkey do. Our children are like little mirrors of ourselves; they observe our actions (good or bad) and mirror them back to us. So, if you want your child to love reading, you should be reading, too! One of the easiest ways to incorporate reading into a busy schedule is right before bed, but if you can find a time to read around your children, even for just five minutes each day, they’re more likely to mimic your reading habits. If you’ve lost a love of reading in adulthood, being a role model to little ones is the perfect excuse to rediscover it! You can join a book club with friends, read your favorite magazines, or read an autobiography about someone you admire in your field or hobbies.
6. Teach them about their favorite authors.
What is your child’s favorite book? Is it written by Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, or Judy Blume? Can you even recall the authors of your child’s favorite books? Helping your child learn about the authors of the books you read over and over can help them create an even deeper connection to their books, and seeing videos of the authors talking about their creative process and inspiration can help them understand all of the work that goes into creating a book. Who knows, these authors might even inspire your child to write their own books, too!
7. Incorporate reading into their daily routine.
If you make reading a part of your child’s daily routine, whether it be at breakfast, right after school, or at bedtime, your child will grow up with a natural habit of reading. You can also incentivize them with a reward for finishing a book and telling you about it to encourage critical thinking and active reading.
8. Subscribe to their favorite magazines.
Reading doesn’t always have to mean a series of thick and complex books! Let your child explore different magazines to find what brings joy to reading for them. There are magazines on any topic, and you can fit them anywhere to encourage frequent reading like in the car, in your purse, or in their backpack.
9. Make reading a family activity by exploring local bookstores together.
Creating a family ritual of going to the bookstore together to pick out new books can be an exciting adventure for your kids, all while supporting local bookstores! Take time to browse new kid’s books with them, explore different genres, and even pick up a treat if you feel like it. Bookstores can feel magical, so share that magical feeling with your kids!