As parents, we know that throughout their lives, our children will benefit in so many ways from well-developed reading skills. That’s why we start teaching them when they are little, sitting and reading to our kids, pointing out words and pictures. And young children typically experience joy when first learning to read. But as they get older, many kids stop being readers.
As an elementary school teacher, I would often hear from parents that getting their child to pick up a book was a huge challenge. My first question was always: “Do you read?” Unfortunately, more often than not, the reply was “no.” As parents, we all know that each minute of the day is precious, and that the to-do list is endless. And we also know that children mimic what the adults in their life do. So, if you knew that it would help your child become a reader, would you make time to read? For most of us, the answer of course is “yes.” And the reality is that if the parent is reading, the child often will as well.
Ways to Encourage Independent Reading:
- Incorporate a half-hour of reading time into the bedtime routine. Set up a designated space and time when you are both reading. When you’re reading, you’re modeling the enjoyment and value of this behavior for your child. Remember to keep distractions to a minimum. You’ll quickly find that reading time becomes something you both look forward to.
- Take your child to the library. If you do not have a library membership, look into getting one; oftentimes they are quite inexpensive or even free. Make going to the library a weekly adventure. The library provides access to a large selection of material with various mediums and topics. Allow your child to select what they would like to read, and make sure you are browsing the collection as well. Take advantage of any programs the library has for younger children, as it allows them to interact with their peers and makes going to the library fun.
- Use periodic rewards to keep kids interested. Build a chart using construction paper that can be posted in a visible spot. Let your child put a sticker, or color a square, each time they complete a book. (EDITOR’S NOTE: You can download our free behavior charts by clicking here!) You can use various forms of rewards, depending on the age of your child. Some suggestions are a special snack, a movie night, a little extra time at the playground, or maybe a friend over to play.
- Have kids keep a reading journal. In the journal, put a column for the date, the title and the amount of time spent reading. At the end of each page, total the amount; you’ll both be amazed by the number of hours and books! Children often would come to school to tell me they had read 10 hours this month, or finished 20 books. It was a great accomplishment for them.
- Let kids read a variety of formats and materials. One myth that surrounds reading is that it must be a certain type of material to be considered reading. I totally disagree with this! Does it really matter if your child reads a catalogue, a magazine, or a novel? I don’t think it does. All formats can encourage them to read. There is nothing that dictates that reading material must be the same for everyone (at home, that is!). Encourage sampling a variety of formats, including magazines and audio books.
Reading skills infiltrate every part of life. Encourage your children at a young age to be readers, and it will serve them their entire life.