I believe a passion for reading is one of the most powerful things we can teach our children. Having a passion for reading creates opportunities for our kids that we couldn’t even imagine! Think about all the ways that our kids will be able to entertain themselves, educate themselves, research, invent, create, bring justice, and fight injustices….all from a love of reading!
Reading has positively impacted the person I am, because (and I hate to sound cliche here), it’s given me a whole new perspective on life. Being able to see through a new lens in life during situations we can’t even fathom or imagine is what literally cultivates compassion and empathy in mankind. I was brought to tears when I read Under a Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941-1968 during college. At that time, I was going to bars all the time, procrastinating on my homework, and reading about this girl who survived a Nazi concentration camp. I was forced to reflect on how incredibly privileged I was and still am. At a young age, To Kill a Mockingbird embedded in me a serious awareness of the racial injustices in the South. As an adult, exploring different types of books and genres, I happed upon a book called The Well-Tempered Clavicle by Piers Anthony at a book barn used for a whopping fifty sense. This book introduced me to a new world of fantasy and humorous plots, neither of which were my “style” before then.
Books have changed my life, and it began when I was a child. My mother supported my love for reading when I was younger. Times were incredibly tough and we were very poor, but I can say with confidence and appreciation that my mother never missed an opportunity to buy me a new book. She got me started on the Janette Oak series and showed patience while I walked around saying out-of-date things like, “on the morrow” and declaring that I would only get married in Spanish lace. Throughout the years, she subscribed me to several monthly book clubs that would send me a new book a month, along with other goodies like ocean conservation cards. Thanks to the book subscription, I became an avid “save the whales” advocate at an incredibly early age.
Children are very impressionable and largely uninfluenced yet by how uncompassionate the world can be. In order to cultivate compassion, empathy, understanding, respect, love, awareness, a passion for learning, and a new hobby, we need to focus on how we are actively partaking in encouraging reading in our children.
Don’t Fret If You Don’t Yet Love Reading, Either.
I want to focus on the part where I said “actively partaking” in encouraging reading. What I mean is that we, as adults, play a large role in how our children spend their time. I’m not just speaking about small children, either. I’m speaking about children of all ages. If a child didn’t have an adult to consistently encourage reading time when they were younger, this child needs more encouragement now; and, yes, this includes high schoolers. It’s easier for us as parents to encourage something we feel joy or pleasure about it. If you’re actively cultivating a love for reading in your children and you don’t yet have that love for reading, no doubt you certainly will after playing a major role in your child’s reading development.
If you love books, or don’t yet love books, there are many ways to cultivate a love for them in a child. Here are ten ways you can begin teaching your kids to love books!
1). Increase the Number of Books in Your Home
Taken from the Literacy Project Foundation, “The number of books in the home correlates significantly with higher reading scores for children” (1) When I was a child, I remember flipping through Funk & Wagnel encyclopedias for no other reason other than they were just there. No doubt most children will begin to flip through the pages of an interesting-looking book if presented the opportunity!
2.) Increase the Time you Spend Reading to Your Kids
“Children who are read to at least three times a week by a family member are almost twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading compared to children who are read to less than 3 times a week.” (2) It took a few months after our daughter was born because of how tired we always were, but we eventually got into a nightly reading routine. Rather than push it, we began with a very simple book that she loved immediately and read it every single night. She fell in love with more than just the book, she fell in love with reading! Now our toddler flips through the pages of books on and off all day long, taking play breaks to stimulate her imagination. We also catch her babbling to herself and pointing to the pictures as she reads.
It’s no mystery this love for books only began because we showed her how amazing books are!
3.) Partake in Shared Reading More
When I was a teacher and tutor, I realized that shared reading was a very powerful tool. It offered the child the opportunity to read out loud for a period of time, and then to take a break and only listen while someone else reads. This reading break allowed the child to let down his walls, take the pressure off, follow along in the book while still getting a picture of what’s happening. An easy way for you to incorporate this, spend about five minutes each reading out loud while the other follows along. Of course, the more participants, the better! Get the whole family involved.
4.) Surprise Your Kids with Sporadic Gifts of Books
As I mentioned above, one of my favorite things about loving to read while growing up was my mother supporting that by surprising me with books randomly. Everyone loves surprises or gifts! Show your child that not only do you support their growing love for reading, but that you’re going to encourage it further. Whenever you go to the store, or a thrift store, or are perusing online and happen to think on it, get a book for your child and see what happens!
5.) Enroll Your Kids in Book Subscriptions
I personally have subscribed to a few monthly book clubs and have completely fallen in love. Nothing is more exciting than opening that box to see what’s inside!
For kids, however, I highly recommend Literati.com (No affiliates here! I’m just telling you my favorite). Your kids receive five books, posters, stickers, and more in their subscription boxes! And they’re all age-appropriate.
6.) Visit the Library More
What better place to further cultivate a love for books than the best place on earth – the library? Not only can you read and check out books there, but there are so many events that happen at your local library, in-person or virtually! Some libraries offer guest readers for reading circles who are nurses, doctors, policemen, firefighters, and even puppets! LIbraries are also improving the experience by offering events like art contests, science fares, and more.
7.) Become a Dolly Parton Fan
Well, do that anyway. But for this article, you’ll need to become a Dolly Parton fan because of the amazing things she does for the literacy world. I first found out about her program Imagination Library when I was a foster mother. Each child who came into my care could be enrolled in her Imagination Library program where they would receive one free book a month until the age of five. This program isn’t reserved just to foster children, either! Go to the site and check the availability for your area to see if you can begin receiving free monthly books.
8.) Play Audio Books
Need the ease of reading on-the-go? Audio books are your solution. I personally love audio books while I’m getting ready, gardening, and doing mundane household tasks. I guarantee your child will, too!
9.) Have Discussions as You Read
Discussing what you read is a wonderful way to solidify the details of the book and to consider different possibilities. Real life isn’t black and white, and neither are books. Sometimes we need to discuss things and bounce ideas off of others before we can truly grasp what’s happening. Children are the exact same way! Offer your child the opportunity to absorb what she read through the power of discussion.
10.) Let Your Child See You Reading
That’s right! Taking some you-time to get in your own personal reading is actually more powerful of a tool than you might have initially thought! As the adult, you set the example, so let your child see how much you enjoy reading in your own time, and chances are that your joy is going to encourage that in the younger generation.
Above all, no matter how you start, it’s important that you just jump right in. Any of these ten tips can begin today, so have fun with it and happy reading!