Monday, July 18, 2016

5 ways to encourage your child to read

Mom2MomEd blog: 5 ways to encourage your child to read
Summer is halfway over and for many children the countdown to the coming school year is already underway.

If you haven’t already, it might be a good time to boost your children’s reading skills. But...

Helping your children with reading doesn’t have to be a huge production with daily lesson plans, quizzes and tests, or reading logs. It can be so much more relaxed and enjoyable—even a bonding experience for your family.

Here are FIVE tips to help you encourage your children to read this summer.

ONE: Don’t force them to actually read or to know how to read (yet)
Unless you suspect a learning disorder such as dyslexia, there’s no real need to spend your summer time and energy on reading lessons and ensuring that your child can actually read {{and we'll topic this in future posts}}. There's plenty of time for that. 

Even kids who aren’t reading yet can still benefit from books. 

Pull out or bring home picture books. Bring home comic books. Leave the comics from the newspaper on the kitchen table at your child’s spot every morning. Find reading material with really cool or interesting covers.

What’s key here is to start developing an interest. Pre-readers might make up their own stories to go along with picture books. If your child is particularly young, they might even babble as they “read” the book.

Let them babble, make up words, or just look at the pictures.

My hope is that you will get your children simply interested in looking at and holding books and reading material.

TWO: Get real books
Kindles and other reading devices are great, but get your kids some real books—you know with paper and spines and all of that goodness. 

Let them hold tangible books in their hands. 
Let them smell the pages. 
Let them run their fingers across the cover. 
Let them have the tactile pleasure of feeling the weight of different books in their hands and their laps.

Our kids live in such technology saturated environments that sometimes scaling back and going old school is a great idea. Slow things down. Turn off distractions. Minimize beeps and dings and notifications.

Encourage your child to sit or stand or even walk with a book in hand. Every time you leave the house, have them grab a bag and put some of their non-electronic essentials in the bag and ask them to include a book. Maybe you’ll find them pulling that book out during a car ride or while waiting at a doctor’s appointment.

Simply get them used to having reading material at hand.

THREE: Know your child’s interests
If you don’t know your child’s interests, it will be hard to find books to interest them, especially if they aren’t naturally inclined towards reading.

My own son has always had an avid interest in all things military, zombies, or robots. He also loved (and still loves) turtles and penguins. If I brought home a book on any of these topics, he invariably would find his way through the book from cover to cover.

As a tutor, I also have found this to be one of the most important ways to get slow readers or kids who don’t enjoy reading to develop an interest in books. I had a six year old student who loved Spiderman but didn’t like to read. At the end of our sessions, he got to read a book about Spiderman. While he still didn’t love reading by the end of our many months together, he did progress significantly in his reading skills because Spiderman books were a great motivator for him.

Another boy I tutored really enjoyed silly stories about kids his own age and he really liked books with pictures, despite being in fifth grade. The solution? 

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series. 

Would it have been my first choice or his parents or teachers first choices? Nope. But, they are books and they were a way to get him interested in reading. He loved those books and I was able to eventually transition him from those books to other books about boys very much like him. He ended up reading quite a lot by the end of our time together.

If you aren’t sure what topics might interest your child, start paying attention to what they talk about, what they want to watch on television, the types of games they gravitate towards, and so on. Keep a list of those topics at hand so you can reference it when you are at a bookstore, the library, or anywhere else books might be available.

FOUR: Leave books in easy to access, frequently visited places
Leave books in the bathroom, on the kitchen table, on the couch, in their beds, and anywhere else your children will spend time on a regular basis. Think about it—how much time does your child spend in the bathroom? Probably a lot! Leave a pile of books that are appropriate for your child’s age, reading level, or interests next to the toilet, on the bathroom counter, on the back of the toilet tank, or anywhere easy to reach for your child.

Chances are, as long as you don’t allow your child to take electronics into the bathroom, at some point they’ll start picking up the books without any additional intervention on your behalf.

I even suggest keeping books in the car and leaving the electronics at home or packed up in a bag. Unless your child is prone to motion sickness, let them read in the car! And, when you head into the grocery store or to do other errands, let them bring their book with them (just keep track of the book so you and your child don’t misplace it!).

I even get my teenager to read with this method—I periodically come across books at the library that I think he might enjoy and I leave them on the back of the toilet. He almost always ends up reading them.

FIVE: Hold a family read-a-palooza
My son actually came up with this idea ten years ago, when he was seven years old. There are many variations, but the concept is that read-a-palooza is when the entire family gets together with stacks of books and just reads together. 

My favorite way to do read-a-palooza was to pile a whole bunch of blankets and pillows on the floor, grab water bottles and snacks, and pile up some books for each of us. We’d mostly read silently next to each other, but sometimes we’d also take turns reading out loud. It was simply a nice and relaxing way to spend time together and to enjoy a good book (or two or three).

Another read-a-palooza method that we particularly enjoyed was to enjoy one book together over dinner or dessert. We’d take turns reading aloud as we ate and we’d also talk about what we were reading as we went along. Sometimes we’d finish a book over the course of a few nights, and other times it might take us a week or two. 

One of the added benefits to reading over a meal is that it got us to slow down and relax as we ate—how often do you or your children seem to race through a meal? It also got my son to periodically eat things he might not eat otherwise. If I slipped a piece of broccoli or other vegetable he didn’t particularly enjoy on his plate, he almost always ate it if he was engrossed in our reading material—he stopped paying attention to his dislike of the food in question because he was so absorbed in the story. No more complaints about not wanting to eat those veggies!

Snap a picture of your kids reading and share it on social media with the tag #mom2momed! We want to see what your kids are enjoying—don’t want to show a pic of your kids? 
Just snap a pic of the book they are digging into!

And, let us know in the comments any tips or tricks that have helped you get your kids to read or let us know what struggles you are having with kids who don’t want to read no matter what you do.

For a brief, daily reading exercise that also will spark interesting dinnertime conversation, consider our Conversation Starter Card set. Your children can practice reading aloud by reading the prompts from the cards before you discuss the topic. 

Get your set of 24 Conversation Starter Cards HERE in our Etsy shop.
And, read some tips on how to use these cards HERE.
24 Conversation Starter Cards


  1. Take a field trip to your public library and sign your child up for a library card, if they still exist!  If they don't, get the equivalent.  My Mom took me, I took my kids (now college-age). 

    When I taught preschool, I wrapped a box, covered it with clear contact paper and filled it with the limit (20? 25?) of picture books for my class. It saved my personal budget and was always a "treat" because there was so much variety. It was a great way for the kids to have access to "reading" and to learn how to enjoy/take care of books! Had my own kids and the book box idea continued at home -- the only difference was that the boys helped me fill it every other week!

    <3  (Hi, McKenzie!)

    Cindy K.

    1. Great tips, Cindy! Thanks for commenting and sharing. I also love the idea of checking out picture books for your class so you can basically have a revolving library in the classroom (and save money as a teacher). My mom is a retired kindergarten teacher and always was buying books for her classroom.

      I'll make sure McKenzie sees your comment too!

      ~ Malea