Monday, March 22, 2010

Helping Children Love to Read

My oldest son is addicted to reading. I started reading to him in the womb and he won't let me stop. He's eleven and we always have a book that we're reading together. He also reads several novels on his own each week.
My second son - different story. He likes it when I read to him, but the only books he's read on his own are the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series (not my favorites). Is it because he's a math mind like his father that he hasn't latched onto books or because he's only seven or did I do something different with him than my oldest?
My youngest also loves stories. He knows the one way to stop Mom from cleaning or writing is to say, "Read me a story."
Here's a list of ideas to help you and your children read more. Hopefully if I employ all of them with my middle guy and youngest we can turn them into readers like their older brother.
  1. Read Aloud - Start reading aloud when they are infants and don't quit. When they're teenagers and no longer want you reading to them, maybe you could read the same novels and discuss them. The best time for us has always been bedtime. We have our family scripture study and then my husband and I each take a younger boy and read to them until they fall asleep, then I read to our oldest for at least half an hour. I have no idea how we're going to work it out with a fourth child. My sister-in-law rotates with younger children and older children so at least a couple of nights a week they get mom or dad reading to them. Any suggestions from those who have large families?
  2. Make the library and bookstore special treats. We started walking to the library every week when my oldest was a baby and still make our weekly excursion. I love that place. We also make the bookstore into a reward. The boys earn books for extra chores or good deeds and on special days and holidays they get a book as a present or get to pick out their choice of book.
  3. Have books everywhere. The only room in our house that isn't loaded with books is the kitchen and that's only because we try not to ruin our books and because we need to actually talk to our oldest once in a while without his eyes glued to a book. I often walk into a room and find my boys laughing over a favorite book.
  4. Find attractive books. I found this tip on Gomestic and thought it was interesting. I love so many different kinds of books I'd never stopped to think about the attractiveness of a book influencing my desire to read it. Though I know from a marketing perspective it does make a difference. Here's what this article said, "Books are available in many forms nowadays and various kinds of materials. Singing books or read aloud books where you can hear the book talk or making noise when certain button in the book is pushed, and also picture books are usually attractive for preschoolers. Older children will usually love pop-up books or lift-the-flap books. You can even introduce books to babies. Books for babies is rather different, it has no word in it, just pictures in cheerful color and usually made of plastic, fabric or board paper."
  5. Be a good example. My husband isn't a reader, but I remind him often to have the boys see him reading the newspaper or his scriptures or pretending to read one of my books (the romance is a bit hard on the tough guy). If your children see you finding joy from reading, they will usually want to explore that themselves.
  6. Read age-appropriate books. I think this is one of the mistakes I made with my second son. My oldest and I were having so much fun with chapter books that I would read my middle son's books quickly and then settle down to read for hours with my oldest. My middle guy would usually stay with us during story time, but I'm not sure he got much out of it. If you can, try to set aside a time to read to each child on their level. It's also okay to read a bit above their level, but plan on explaining words or situations they don't understand. When we read The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas it took us months, but my son still enjoyed it. We also enjoy reading below their level sometimes. Every one of my boys still laughs at Junie B. Jones and Berenstain Bears will never stop being a favorite.
  7. Read what they want (most of the time) - I try to let my boys pick out their own books, but I also pick out one I want to read to them. They have to give my book forty pages. If they hate it, we quit. And sometimes I have to grit my teeth through their books, but that's part of being a mom.
  8. Keep it fun - I always ask the librarian or bookstore employee for humorous kids' books. We also come back to some of our favorite funny series over and over again. The Fudge Series by Judy Blume and Chickens in the Headlights by Matthew Buckley make us laugh no matter how many times we read them. I would love to hear about your favorite children's series, funny or not.
Please don't think because I shared this list that I think myself an expert on the subject. Every child is different and every family is different. But reading is such an essential part of development and success I hope each of us can find the best way to instill a love of reading in each of our children. Please share what works for you and your family.


  1. Great post! I try to read to my 3 year old ever day, but I need to do it for longer. My husband doesn't like to read (okay, he hates it), but he knows how important it is. If he's the one putting them to bed, he knows he has to read a story first. I don't think my daughter would let him get away without reading it.

  2. Great suggestions. I agree with them all! :O)

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  4. Isn't it great when the children force us to do good things? I love that my boys are helping my husband love to read as well.

  5. Your younger son sounds just like mine. It's torture trying to get him to read. I have a math mind, but I love to read and I'm a writer. His father, on the other hand, is a math mind and the only thing he reads is the sports page of the newspaper. My other two children love to read. I guess it just all depends on the kid, like so many other things.

  6. I think it's good, Susan, to recognize that we all do have our own strengths. My guy that doesn't really enjoy reading is at the top of his class in math. I always want to mold them like me!

  7. Cami, what a great thing to think about! I seem to have totally overlooked the importance my kids give to their nighttime story routine. They really do love it, and despite me thinking that they use it as "stalling time", I think they must really understand its importance even more than smartypants mom! Thanks for reminding me to make it more special!

  8. I know what you mean Jen about stalling! I try to savor that time, but sometimes my head is spinning with all the things I still need to get done.

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