Saturday, February 19, 2011

Creating Life Long Readers

For some kids, reading is worse than doing chores or homework. And asking them to get out a book becomes a daily fight, a battle of the wills. 'Do I have to?' they whine. 'But I already read a book today!' Or my all-time favorite, 'But I've already met my AR goal, why do I have to read another one?'

For me-a writer and a teacher-it pains me to hear such things. Reading has been a hobby/obsession of mine since I learned how to blend letters into words, and I've got the library fines and borrowed/kept books to prove it. The library was like a second home to me. Stories have always fascinated me. Tales have always thrilled me. And I just love to READ! I simply CAN NOT imagine NOT wanting to read. So when I hear kids whining about reading, it's like telling me that you don't want to breathe, or drink, or eat. Simply put, it's unnatural.

So it got me wondering, what happened to these kids early on that made them so disinterested in reading? And how can we-the writers, parents, and teachers-encourage our children to become lifelong readers?

Below is a list of things that we can do to create an interest/spark in young readers. Feel free to add your own tips in the comments.

1. Read a book to your child every day. To me, this is a given. If you want your child to be a reader, then you should read to them daily. And not just for the sake of becoming a good reader, it's also a really great way to reconnect with our kids at the end of a busy day. A lot of snuggling and a bit of reading, can mean a WHOLE lot to your child. So just do it:)

2. Take your child to the library for books, readings, performances, author visits, etc. Your local library is a mecca of all things entertainment nowadays. Gone are the days of just books and quiet zones. Today's libraries are bustling with activities and awesomeness. So enjoy it! After all, your tax dollars helped paid for it. And sometimes hearing a book read and acted out by a pro can go a long way in the eyes of a child. So it's win-win for both parent and child.

3. Buy books as presents. Sure. Your kid wants the new wii game more than he/she wants to read a book. But in the end, what's going to provide your child with the necessary skills in life, reading or playing wii? Well, unless you said that your child is going to be a video game developer/creator, books are the way to go. Sure, they might whine a bit. But in the end, they'll read their books and be happy. And most of the time, we as parents, can afford to buy a little bit of both. So that's the way to go.

4. Read in front of your child. Every single time I get out a book, my sons try to get behind me and make out some of the words in my book. And often times, they'll run to their own bookshelves and grab some of their books for me to read aloud. While this annoys me sometimes because I'm totally reading my own book, I put my book down. Because at that moment, my kids are excited about reading. And even though I may be in the juiciest part of a new novel and dying to finish it, my kids are more important. So it's worth it! Not to mention, that one minute of being a role model might ALMOST make-up for the bad example that I set when I tripped and accidentally said a 'bad word'. Their words, not mine.

5. Turn off the t.v and dedicate some time to reading.
Saying that I LOVE television may just be the understatement of the century. In fact, I probably watch a little more than I should, if I'm being totally honest. But every night, we have the t.v off during certain hours. And honestly, my kids don't even miss it. They're just happy about reading the newest book from the library or cuddling with mommy. And twenty or thirty minutes a day is plenty of time to read a few books with your children. It doesn't even have to be every single day.

6. Find books that are right on their reading and interest levels, and then check them out with a frequency. If you're checking out books for your child that are of absolutely no interest to them or are too difficult for them to read, then you're setting your child up to hate reading. And reading will become a form of torture. So think about what your child likes when checking out books. Involve him/her in the checking out process. Let them look around the shelves themselves. If you do this, your child will be picking something that they are more likely to read. If you don't, your child may never even crack the cover open. Well, unless you force them, that is. And then, that kind of defeats the purpose of trying so hard to get them to WANT to read.

7. Enjoy reading. Have reading themed parties. Go to Reading Festivals. This is super fun for kids and moms. For Halloween, throw a book themed Halloween Bash. At the beginning of the school year, throw a Harry Potter themed back to school party. A friend of a friend did that last year, and it looked AWESOME. When my boys are old enough, we're totally doing that. The kids wore Hogwarts uniform/costumes, learned how to make potions and cast spells, watched the movies, and ate Hogwarts themed desserts. It was a huge success!

8. Create a reading zone. Set up a comfy chair and book shelf somewhere in your child's room. Use the space often. Make the space fun. With a few fun decorations, reading can become something that your kids will relish, not something that they loathe.

Do you know of any tried and tested reading tips? I'd love to hear them.


  1. I read more and more in front of them, I agree that embeds a sense that reading is important and not a chore. Having said that, they are quite temperamental with reading apart from school reading they have to do.

  2. I just tweeted this amazing list! My favorite is the library. My boys each have their own library cards, and love checking out stacks of books. I let them read whatever they want to read because hey, it's reading. If my ten year olds want to read picture books? Fine by me.

  3. Catherine,
    Totally agree! Every kid needs a break from school related reading. In fact, I do too. LOL:)

    Yay! Thanks for the retweet! I'm so glad that someone other than my mom and the members of my crit group read the blog. Yay!