I am most definitely what you’d call a bookworm. I love to read. By the time I was in grade one I had perfected the art of reading and walking at the same time. (Pro tip: this relies on a leisurely pace, quick scans of the ground in front of you, and good peripheral vision!)
Was I kind of a nerd? Um, yeah. Did I get teased for being smart or for reading a lot? Sometimes. But reading was and still is pretty much my favourite thing to do anytime. Books were an escape for me when times were tough, and I’ve been grateful for the gift of reading my entire life.
So now, when my daughter doesn’t respond to my calls to come to the dinner table, when she doesn’t even bat an eye because she’s completely engrossed in Junie B. Jones’ latest adventure, I don’t get upset. I just smile inside and give her a little shake to get her attention. There were many times I would wake up out of my book to realize I’d completely missed a meal. I understand her.
Unfortunately, I know that’s not the case for every child. I know lots of kids see reading as an awful, boring chore, and that makes me sad. I feel like those kids are missing out on some of the most magical times in their childhood.
If you’re struggling with a reluctant reader right now, or if you just want to foster the love of reading in your child, here are 10 tips to help you raise an enthusiastic reader.
Start early. It’s never too early to read to your child! Infants enjoy the sound of your voice and love the focused one-on-one attention. Early exposure to books and reading creates an environment that naturally encourages reading.
Let them see you read. Role modeling is the most powerful tool we’ve got to shape our kids. If you want your kids to read and value reading, then they need to see that you do too.
Read every day. Make reading together a daily activity, whether it’s at bedtime, before nap, after school, whenever works for your family. Even after the kids can read to themselves, keep reading aloud for as long as you can. I’ve been known to ask hubby for a bedtime story at times, especially when I’m sick. Being read to feels warm and cozy and cared for, even as an adult!
Give and receive books as gifts. Books aren’t boring, they’re the most exciting adventure your child will ever go on. No matter how good Hollywood special effects get, they will never be as fantastic as a good imagination. Give your child books that interest them and involve them in selecting books as gifts for friends and family members. Browse for books together, or go treasure hunting together at a second hand bookstore.
Make books easily accessible. Every child’s bedroom should have a bookshelf, fully stocked with old favourites and a few new books. Keep books close to hand in your home’s common areas too. I put a comfy chair near the bookshelf in our living room so there’s always a spot to curl up with a good book.
Point out environmental print. Look for opportunities to point out all the environmental print around us – EXIT and STOP signs, street signs, billboards, restaurant signs, etc. The first word my daughter ever read was “stop”, because of the stop sign at the end of our street.
Get your child his or her own library card. Make a trip to the library a weekly or biweekly standing date. Attend story times, go to library sales (an awesome way to score books for a quarter), browse the stacks, and borrow lots of books.
Introduce your child to books about their favourite topics. Your child loves dinosaurs? Tons of books about those. Into Star Wars or My Little Pony? Your options are pretty much endless. Hey, it may not be Treasure Island, but whatever gets your kids reading is worthwhile.
Talk about books. When you’ve read a book or a chapter together, talk about what you’ve read. This helps them understand and appreciate whatever they’ve read in a deeper and richer way.
Teach the joy of storytelling. Encourage your kids to make up their own stories. Younger children will love to see their stories written down for them, and older kids can make their own storybooks and illustrate them. I like to pick up a stack of cheap spiralbound notebooks at back to school sales, and even printer paper stapled together will do in a pinch.
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