9 Ways to Raise a Reader

If you haven’t heard, Amazon recently released Kindle Kids, just in time for the holidays. Why the regular Kindle wasn’t good enough for kids, I haven’t a clue, but the online retailer touted Kindle Kids as “the first-ever dedicated reading experience built just for kids.”

Which made me laugh, because I had an entire shelf of “dedicated reading experiences built just for kids” as a child. Yes, I’m referring to books.

As Ron Charles put it in an excellent Washington Post piece about the new device, “Resistance is not futile. From the start, most children need and crave the tactile interaction that real books provide. … As they get older, we should be in no rush to lure them away from the talismanic aura of real books.”

Science backs up the notion that books are an integral part of our children’s development, as well as mental and emotional health. As Charles put it in the Post article: “A study published earlier this year in the journal Pediatrics found that parents had better interactions with their toddlers when they read print books together than when they read e-books together.”

Books boost their imagination, develop their empathy for others, allow them to explore emotions in a safe environment and teaches them about worlds and ideas outside of their physical experience. But it takes deliberate effort to raise those who love and cherish books.

Image by 2081671 from Pixabay



Here are nine ways to raise readers.

  1. Surround them with books. Every child’s room should have a bookshelf or bin for books. Fill them with age appropriate and fun books.
  2. Read to them. Kids of all ages love to have a parent read to them. Make this a part of your daily or weekly routine.
  3. Visit your local library. We take our kids to the library on a weekly basis, and allow them to spend time wandering the shelves to find new friends and reconnect with old favorites. We also got our kids their own library cards when they entered first grade.
  4. Emphasize books, not learning to read. We often push our young children to read before they’re ready and that can lead to frustration, tears and a dislike of books. Some kids are ready to decipher words at 4, others not until they turn 6 or even 7.
  5. Read books yourself. Let your kids see you reading and talking about books. If you value books, your kids will too.
  6. Talk about books you loved at their age. When our kids were little, my husband and I rediscovered our love for Little Golden Books. Even now, I enjoy reading to our preschool foster daughter “The Train to Timbuctoo,” “Pussy Willow” and “The Color Kittens” with their delightful word play and whimsical illustrations. With our older kids, we’ve discussed Nancy Drew, the Happy Hollisters and Trixie Belden, as some examples.
  7. Push back on reading logs for school. One thing that frustrated me was when my children’s elementary school teachers required reading logs because it turned reading into a chore. Be careful that this type of “homework” isn’t making your child hate reading.
  8. Encourage them to read for fun—but don’t fuss over-much about their reading material. If they want to read graphic novels, let them. But do keep in mind the age appropriateness of the material. Just because your second grader can read all the words in the Harry Potter series doesn’t mean he should. It’s okay to say, “You’re not old enough to read this yet.” If you have to say a hard no to a particular book or series, help her find an alternative (librarians are great resources!).
  9. Put away the electronics. I saved this one until last, but using electronic devices, from phones to video games to tablets to laptops, shortens a child’s, teen’s and adult’s attention span. Reading requires the ability to sustain attention on a printed page that isn’t spinning, flashing or moving at the speed of light.

Above all, remember that books can give your child a gift beyond the words—it opens his or her mind to possibilities, to worlds outside of ours and to dream of what may be. Giving your child the gift of a love of books is something he will treasure forever.

How do you encourage reading?

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