How to teach your kids to fall in love with reading

Oct 23, 2020

Let me open this by saying that I love to read – and that I always have. 

I used to go to the library every other day as a child, and all the local librarians knew my taste and what I had already read. 

Today I am the mother of two girls (soon to be 8 and 10), and I can still vividly remember how excited I felt whenever I thought about reading to them, and reading with them, while they were still a part of me. 
When my eldest daughter showed zero interest in reading – she also preferred lullabies and music to stories at bedtime – I kept waiting for something to click and for her to start wanting to read as much as I used to. It never happened.

It took me probably more than an entire year to figure out how to deal with what I felt was my personal failure. I felt like I had failed my daughter who did not appreciate books like I had. 
Faced with this unwelcome situation, I have developed a set of tactics and tips that can help you help your child fall in love with reading, at least a little bit – and I do hope they help.

(And, just in case you were wondering, my younger loves to read – all I have to do now is figure out the right time to introduce her to Harry Potter.)

Read to them often 

First, try to turn reading into an everyday activity. You don’t have to read to your kids just when they are going to bed or winding down – reading should be a part of their day, and a pleasant part at that. 
You can snuggle down with your child after a meal, after school, after homework, after watching TV, and just read. You can each read your own book (if they are old enough), or you can both enjoy the same age-appropriate read. 

This helps establish reading as “normal” and welcome – and builds positive associations with the activity. 

Let them choose 

Letting your child choose the book you will be reading is usually your best bet – however, in order to know what they want to read, they first need to know what they like.

Introduce all kinds of different books to them: adventures, fairy tales, books about animals, books about inanimate objects – and see what they like most. Once you learn a bit more about their general taste, you can start making suggestions in that direction. You can also ask your local librarian for help whenever you need it.

Visit the library 

Being a member of the local library and going there regularly is a great way to introduce books. Even while they are very young and definitely can’t read for themselves, visit the library just to visit the books, and read to them while there. You can also attend story times if your library has them, but be prepared for the fact that your child might not be ready to sit down and listen.
Make sure this visit is an adventure – hype it up, make it a treat, and get your child excited about it.

Help them even when they can read themselves 

This is what was actually holding my daughter back, and I didn’t realize it was the issue (hence the feelings of guilt). 

When kids are still early readers, they can read and understand what they are reading, but the books they can comfortably handle are usually not that interesting. They want to get their teeth into something way more interesting and imaginative, but these kinds of books demand more work, and they give up easily.

What we as parents can do at this stage is keep reading with them. This is where reading together truly comes in. Let your child read half a page, then take on two and a half pages yourself. Alternating this way will keep them interested and entertained, and they will still keep working on their skills. 

Don’t push them to read

Another very important tip: don’t actually push your kids to read. If they don’t feel like it, they won’t be any more inclined to pick up a book just because you keep telling them to. 

In fact, if you keep pushing books at them, they might start to see them as more of a chore and less as an enjoyment, which is why you should only ever aim to encourage them, and not to force them into it.
After all – some people don’t like to read. I know it’s a very strange thought to all of us who love it and have at least 7 (if not more) books on our bedside table ready to be delved into. But that just is the truth, and if your child is one of those people, you don’t need to make them feel bad about it or turn their lack of interest in reading into a dislike of reading. 

Listen to audiobooks

While we would all certainly prefer our children to read actual words on actual paper (as opposed to reading a digital book), why not try listening to audiobooks together, or as a part of their bedtime ritual? 
There is a camp that believes that listening to audiobooks at night will mean your child will get into the habit of listening to something in order to be able to fall asleep and may have trouble sleeping without the something (to be perfectly honest, this is me, I still listen to Agatha Christie every single night in bed).

There is also a camp that believes audiobooks before bed are great – so the choice is up to you.

Don’t write audiobooks off just because there is no reading involved. They can help your child fall in love with stories and language, and inspire them to read on their own.

I would of course suggest Stephen Fry’s Harry Potter and Rachel McAdams’ Anne of Green Gables. 

Try comic books

Another great way to fall in love with stories is to read comic books – again, not as much actual reading, but don’t knock ‘em ‘till you’ve tried ‘em.

My sister’s son loves comic books – he is now a bit older, but I remember he used to collect Dog Man comics, and he was also into Li’l Gotham at some point. When they get older, there is of course Marvel and DC, as well as my childhood Alan Ford – but you can literally find a comic book for any age.

Help them with schoolwork 

Finally, let me touch upon another aspect of reading – schoolwork.

If your child is not a fan of reading, chances are that they are also going to have some trouble with their comprehension homework. This is where your help might be very useful, as you want to encourage their reading skills, but still not make them feel overly pressured.

Maybe you can do some of their comprehension homework together, or you can read your own book while they do the work? Maybe you turn it into a fun game where you act out the voices and come up with your own versions of the stories?

What I find also works well is introducing other (some would say extra) comprehension work. We were introduced to these workbooks by our teacher, and I would whip them out over the weekends, as what I would pretend was a fun pastime and not extra schoolwork. And it worked – my daughter loved doing them. 

Be a bit creative and figure out a routine that works for your child – they may never love reading as much as you do or as much as you would like them to, and that’s perfectly all right!

Do tell me what you and your kids are reading at the moment – we love recommendations!

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