1. Model reading- Whether you read on your phone, tablet, or in print let your kids know you are reading a book. Let them see you get excited about it. Let them hear you say how good it is or what you’ve learned about it. Let them see you prioritize and love reading.
2. Read to your children- Long before our children could speak, we read to them. We read to them before bed and before naps and just for fun when they’d bring us a book. There were nights it was rushed and admittedly it’s been harder the more kids we’ve had and when our schedules have been busier, but we’ve put an honest effort into reading to our children. In the summers I’ll often read to everyone, even my older kids, when they are all home and we don’t have as many homework and sports commitments. Read, read, read to them.
3. Have books easily accessible- Put books where kids can get them. If they are out of sight, they might end up out of mind. We’ve had this problem with our current house. The picture books aren’t in plain sight and it’s made us less likely to think of reading as an option when the kids are restless. To help combat this we carried all the books to the living room and made a game out of reading them all, even the ones that weren’t our favorites.
4. Make going to the library or bookstore special- Attend story times if available or their summer reading programs. Let them look through lots of books before they decide what to bring home. Make it a fun outing not a chore to get done.
5. Put your kids to bed early- Set bedtime early enough that you can give your kids the option to read before they fall to sleep. Once kids are old enough to read or even look at books responsibly give them the option to read for an hour before lights out. My four oldest (the others are too little) are all excellent readers, way above grade level and I credit the fact that they go to their rooms at 7:30 but lights aren’t out until 8:30. There are zero electronics or other things available. They know they can read or sleep. They all read! And because this is how it’s always been, they’ve never complained about it.
6. Be creative- If you have a resistant reader don’t be afraid to offer different books, start a kid book club, or make a sticker chart. Most of my kids have become readers without much extra effort on my part but with one son we had to relax and let him read picture books when I thought he should be reading chapter books. He’s an art guy and loved the pictures so it worked and he ultimately became a reader. That same kid we wanted to give a little extra encouragement to, so we decided for every five books that I picked out that he read we’d let him have a late night with mom and dad (that’s the prize of all prizes around here!) It’s not the same solution for every kid — meet them where they’re at!
7. Go to the experts- All my kids learned to read early. For some I worked through a book called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. For others I just snuggled up and read Bob books until it started clicking. Some kids need to go back to phonics if they’re struggling. Other kids just need lots of practice reading out loud. There are lots of books written by professionals you can reference.
8. Get help- If you have a child that really hates reading there might be something deeper going on. Dyslexia and other learning problems can be huge hurdles for some kids. Luckily, there are experts out there that know how to help. The early you get help the less negative stigma towards reading they’ll develop.
9. Have fun- Putting too much pressure on a blossoming reader can scare them off. Make it fun, keep it fun.
10. Never stop- Don’t let your new reader stop just because they’ve gotten efficient. Reading can be a lifelong quest for knowledge and pleasure. Help your child continue to find time to read no matter how busy their life gets or whatever hobbies they get into. Teach them to prioritize reading and you’re giving them a gift that they can enjoy forever.
What strategies have worked for your young readers?
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