People who know the joy of reading often want to pass along that love to their children. However as parents know, it can be difficult to find the right methods to encourage your children to read.
Summer and school-year reading programs love to provide incentives to reward kids who read. But should incentives be necessary if reading should be its own reward?
Here’s the problem. Kids find plenty of ways to be distracted and put energy into less constructive activities ranging from texting to video games to music and television. All that stimulation can make reading a book seem boring. The challenge in how to give kids a love of reading is to find ways to help reading compete with other things kids love to do.
It’s worth the effort to encourage a child to read: frequent reading is a known factor in mental and emotional development and can maintain academic skills between school years. Kids can lose up to 60 percent of their academic skills during a two-month vacation. Parents can contribute to their child’s love of reading by employing some simple methods to get kids engaged and keep them interested in reading all year long, which we will get to shortly.
Why encourage kids to read? Reading challenges children to conceptualize characters and ideas in their minds. Reading can also teach them creativity and the ability to develop narratives of their own. Reading remains a fundamental skill in a quickly changing world, where digital information and the Internet now deliver thoughts and words at lightning speed.
What follows is a list of helpful and creative practices to encourage your children in early reading and to maintain a love of reading as they grow to maturity.
Read to them every day or night
Reading together every day heightens the importance of reading in several ways. It associates reading with feelings of security and unity, and makes reading a priority every day. Knowing that you’ll get time with your parents is a powerful incentive to many children. Shared time with your child gives you a chance to affirm enthusiasm for reading as you discuss or laugh about what you are reading together.
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Let them read along or take parts
By the time a child is old enough to follow a story, they begin to want to participate or even act out parts while reading. Even before they can read, children like to repeat familiar lines or associate great stories with the pictures on the page. That builds an early love of books.
Let them “own” particular characters
Children enjoy acting out parts and can build strong identification with characters in a story. The classic Winnie-the-Pooh stories are popular precisely because the characters are so distinct. Books allow children to explore character traits they can use to explore their own budding identity.
Reward them for reading
There is nothing wrong with rewarding your child for reading and completing a good book. Many summer library programs and some schools provide incentives to encourage reading in children. So should you. Make a trip to the library an opportunity to stop by an ice cream shop on the way home, and pull out the books your child is about to read and discuss why they are interested in reading them. When it comes to reading with your older children, they will often have required reading for assignments. Sometimes it helps encourage your child if you get another copy of the same book it at the same time. For example, if a teenager is assigned to read Catcher in the Rye in high school, you can both read it and discuss the issues it raises. That experience is its own reward.
Encourage them to read what they enjoy
Sometimes kids grab stuff to read that does not seem that constructive or in line with the so-called “reading classics.” But so what? Even comic book collections like Calvin & Hobbes communicate complex relationships and poignant themes, while still being fun for children. There are many online resources to help find reading materials suited for your child.
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