With all the information out there on the advantages of reading, parents have been pummeled with the importance of scheduling reading time. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics suggests that reading a picture book a day to a child could give them the advantage of hearing over 1.4 million words more than children who are not read to. However, encouraging your children to love books in a digital age can be difficult. Here are a few suggestions to encourage that love, and hopefully, a lifelong reading habit.
- Read out loud: Though this may seem obvious, in today’s hectic environment, it is harder that it seems. Work to carve out reading time on a consistent basis. Though a family reading time would be the ideal, today’s busy lives make that difficult. However, a parent can snatch reading time at the doctor’s office, while waiting for older children at sports practice, or while a baby naps. Times when a quiet sit down is in everyone’s best interest.
- Also, read snippets of interesting or funny passages out loud from your own books to older children—this encourages a child’s natural curiosity and they may reach for a book when bored
- Don’t judge: Though it would be wonderful to see your second grader reading The Count of Monte Cristo in her down time, resist the urge to snatch that manga book and replace it with an Illustrated Classic. Children are as diverse as books and must be allowed to explore the reading that best fits them without adult interference.
- Let the child chose the book, even if it is the millionth book on dinosaurs or the latest joke book on flatulence. We want books to fascinate and transport the child. We want them to love the books they read.
- Make books available: Whether it be weekly trips to the library or browsing the book section of the local thrift shop, get those books into kids’ hands. Place books by the bedside, on the coffee table, and in the car. If you have a digital reader, let the child browse the kid’s section of Amazon and stock the reader with books they will enjoy. Instead of a video game at the doctor’s office, get in some of that reading time.
- Schedule book dates: Schedule down time with books by going to an independent book store with a coffee shop and reading silently together. Attend library events showcasing genres your kid’s have an interest in. Attend book signings of local children’s authors (a simple search in your area will turn up a number of these) or invite an author to speak to your scout troop, homeschool group, or club.
- Write a review together: Encourage your child to think about the book they just read by writing a review together. Explore the positive and negative reactions inspired in a book, which character did you child liked best and why. Did he or she empathize with the villain or the protagonist? Why? Verbally reaching out to the author gives the child a sense that her opinion matters—and the author will appreciate the review.
- Set an example: Actions speak louder than words. If a parent does not pick up a book during a moment of downtime, a child is less likely to. If a parent flips on the TV to relax, that is what a child will do. Take time out of your own busy schedule to indulge your love of reading and the children will follow.
- Talk books: Beyond the reading time, talk about the books you read. For a younger child, this can be as simple as “Remember that book we read last night?” when looking at something that may trigger the recognition. For a child reading on their own, it could be asking about what they are reading. It may make no sense. It may be filled with vampires, and ghouls, and things you wish you could unhear, but showing interest in what they find interesting encourages the back and forth conversation that tends to decrease as children hit their teens. Having books as a common ground is a great way to keep the lines of communication open.
Encouraging your children to love books may seem like an uphill battle, but implementing at least a few of these steps may ease the journey. The payoffs at the end, besides giving them a leg up in school and a greater vocabulary—such as introducing your children to worlds beyond their imagining—is worth the struggle.