9 Ways to Inspire Your Children to Read

9 Ways to Inspire Your Children to Read

Experts offer the best tips on getting your children to love books.

By Laurie Sue Brockway

Not every child will fall madly in love with reading. Some are better at math, science, or sports. But even those with other primary skills will have to learn to read, so it is important to instill enjoyment of reading early in life. We asked experts and moms for their best tips on helping children do just that.

1. Create a special connection. When you sit an infant or toddler in your lap to read, it begins a positive emotional connection. “The psychological connection between the parent and child is through the book,” says Wanda Draper, PhD, child development specialist and author of Your Child Is Smarter Than You Think. “The book becomes a connecting object.”

2. Watch for cues. Children give hints when they are ready. “Learning to read begins when the child wants to connect words with pictures and with ideas,” says Draper. “For example, the child points to a word on a cereal box or on a sign on the highway and says: ‘What’s that say?’ Responding to the child each time lets the child know that words have meaning.” One day, a 3- or 4-year-old might just reach for a book and ask you to read it. “This is the signal for the parent to invest time reading with the child,” she says.

3. Put your nose in a book. Children need to see parents reading, says Stacy Haynes, EdD, a counseling psychologist with Little Hands Family Services in New Jersey. “I read at bedtime and have been since my children were infants,” she says. “When we go to the library, I check out books, too. When they have their 20 minutes a day of school-required reading, I will sit with my book right alongside the two of them and read with them.”

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4. Read to them out loud. Hearing you read is a great way kids connect with words, says John Mayer, PhD, a clinical psychologist. “The soothing sound of the voice reading to them lays down a memory track that will greatly stimulate the urge to read,” he says.

5. Surround them with books. Bring kids to places where literature lives and make a place for books in your home. “It's great to go to a library or one of the few remaining bookstores to peruse titles,” says Cara Day, an educational and behavioral therapist. “Alternatively, parents can search the Internet for books for children by age. Pass them around between friends so you don't break the bank, or add them to your personal library. Make this library a central part of your home so your child will see what it means to you.”

6. Make it a family activity. Author Dan Nygaard says reading is an essential part of family time in his house. “Before our children began school we read children’s classics around the dinner table,” he says. “While one parent cleared the dishes, helped by older children, the other read aloud [from] a children’s book for 15 to 30 minutes.” They graduated to more grown-up reads and continued the tradition in the form of audio books in the car while on vacation.

7. Feed their interests. Identify topics your child likes. “We must offer them high-interest books,” says Alane Adams, a children’s book author. “The reading experience must be an engaging one, and one not always burdened with book reports and quizzes.”


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8. Let kids choose their own favorites. Ask a librarian to steer you to the right shelves, but let kids make their own selections. “Within whatever boundaries you feel are appropriate, kids should be allowed to choose whatever they would like to read,” says librarian Natalie Binder. “This is important at any age, but even more important once your child is old enough to read young adult books -- around 13 or 14 years old. If a younger child chooses a book that seems too difficult, give it a chance -- the child will set her own pace. If not, you can ask a librarian to suggest a similar book that's easier to read.”

9. Make it a whimsical experience. Adams says parents can create an atmosphere of engagement by encouraging children to take a journey. “Take the time to talk to them about the book,” she says. “Find imaginative ways to help your kids bring the characters to life. Don't create an environment where reading is forced, but rather, an environment where reading is fun, books are fun, and the reading experience is a positive one.”

So, what if, after trying all these strategies, your child still wants nothing to do with books? “Some kids just don't enjoy reading,” says Max Wachtel , PhD, a psychologist and author of The One Rule For Boys. “It is not always related to a learning disability -- they might not like it for a lot of different reasons. In that case, you should respect your child, while letting him or her know it is still an important activity, and they need to practice. But, if they don't like it, forcing the issue will only make it worse.”

How do you encourage your kids to read?

Laurie Sue Brockway is a journalist and author who has written extensively on love, marriage, parenting, well-being, and emotional health. Her work has appeared in hundreds of print and online publications, including Everyday Health and The Huffington Post.

Image ©iStock.com/RidoFranz

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