A Mom’s Tips for Instilling a Love of Reading
By Aruna Bewtra
Getting a child to enjoy reading can be a delicate balance: If a parent pushes too hard, reading becomes a chore; if parents don’t push hard enough, the habit – and the love – may never be instilled. Here are some tips, compiled from my own experience as a book-lover and parent of a book-lover. Hopefully, following some of these tips will help you cultivate your very own bookworm.
Start reading aloud when they are young.
Set aside time (or multiple times) each day that is specifically “reading time.” Bedtime is a good place to start, but reading at other points in the day shows children that reading is part of everyday life. If you have some downtime before a class, after a nap, in a waiting room, or before leaving for work, take that time to read stories for kids together. Reading aloud can also help instill other behaviours; I have a friend with three girls who reads aloud to them during lunch in order to keep them seated at the table.
Don’t stop as they get older.
Once your child is learning to read, don’t stop reading aloud. Separate practice from reading aloud together. Reading aloud allows you to keep sharing stories with your child and expose them to longer, more complex, and more interesting books, which will incentivize advanced reading. If books are part of playtime and remain fun, children will be more motivated to practice and learn. As your child becomes a more confident reader, you can mix practice with pleasure by reading alternate pages.
I’ve heard many parents complain that their children only read “silly” stories for kids, such as Rainbow Magic Fairies or Geronimo Stilton. Children often read these books because they are easier to follow, the characters are familiar, and the plot lines are entirely predictable. There is nothing wrong with that—in fact, these are great practice books! Also, for a child who is just learning to read, it’s a good idea to have her read anything and everything: the grocery list at the store, or simple cooking instructions. Not only is it good practice, it allows children to see how useful reading is in everyday life.
Join a library.
As your child begins to read, you may get frustrated buying books, only to have them rejected as boring. Joining a lending library is a great way to combat that problem. Each week take out ten stories for kids, and ask the child to finish at least three; this gives him the autonomy to pick and choose his own books and is easier on your wallet. (And if a book becomes a real favorite, you can always buy a copy later.)
Create some rewards and give lots of praise.
Consider creating a system where, if your child finishes ten smaller books or two bigger books, she gets a reward—perhaps lunch at her favorite fast food restaurant, or a trip to the ice cream shop. Be sure you praise her for reading (even if you think the books are silly). Comment aloud to friends and family, “She’s such a good reader. She finished three books yesterday!” Kids internalize those comments.
Consider limiting TV and tablet time.
Much of our free time gets eaten away by the television and tablets. If you limit the TV and iPad time (to, for example, one show and 15 minutes of iPad per day), you may find that suddenly there is much more time for reading.
For recommendations on age-appropriate books, check out The Swaddle’s book reviews!