What do Rory Gilmore, Belle, and Matilda Wormwood have in common? One look at that list and you probably guessed it: they’re bookworms. We love it when our favorite characters show just how exhilarating reading can be. Don’t you wish you could find a way to ignite that same spark in your child?
Our Atlanta private school teachers have found that many parents today feel especially discouraged when it comes to stimulating healthy and lasting reading habits in their children, especially when technology seems to hinder more than it helps. Let’s face it: most kids these days, if asked, would probably rather settle in for an episode of their favorite show than with a good book.
What’s a parent to do?
These 12 tips are an excellent way to help children develop good reading habits and, in turn, inspire them to be lovers of reading.
1. Aim for at least one read-aloud a day.
Making reading a part of your daily routine at home is the first step in building healthy reading habits. Begin by setting aside time each day to read to your child, whether after school or before bed. Modeling not only the act of reading itself but tone of voice, character voices, and engaging dynamics helps your child understand how to interpret the emotion behind the words on the page.
2. Become regulars at your local library.
Don’t you wish your library had those sliding ladders so that you could sing your way down the rows, favorite book in hand in that signature Beauty and the Beast fashion? So do we. But even without sliding ladders, libraries can still be fun for your children! If there’s one place that is sure to get your kids excited about books, it’s your local library. Here the possibilities are endless. And unlike Belle’s rather limited selection, they’ll never run out of new books to read.
Libraries are also a great place to participate in public storytimes, book-related craft days, and other activities that are sure to inspire your young readers.
3. Let them peruse and choose.
Whether you’re at the library, the bookstore, or the bookshelf at home, it’s important to give your child the freedom to pick out a book sometimes. Sure, you might have read about a thousand books about tractors, but allowing your child to choose books based on their interests is another way to keep that spark alive.
4. Read without technology.
While there are definitely some tremendous tech-based resources out there for reading development, it is crucial to help your child appreciate reading the good old-fashioned way. Try to use technology as an occasional filler and last resort rather than a regular part of their reading habits.
In a recent New York Times article, Dr. Tiffany Munzer of Mott Children’s Hospital notes, “there’s research that suggests that a lot of what you find in the most popular apps have all these visually salient features which distracts from the core content and makes it harder for kids to glean the content, harder for parents to have really rich dialogue.”
An international study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that students who read more paper books scored considerably higher on a reading retention test than students who rarely read physical books. Essentially, reading on paper rather than on a screen improves comprehension and retention.
5. Set an example.
As with most good habits, one of the best ways to nurture a love of reading in your child is to lead by example. Let them see you completely engrossed in a good book. Share something you found exciting about the book you’re reading. Let your passion be contagious and they’re sure to catch the book bug!
6. Create a cozy reading space.
Maybe you have a Pinterest board of picture-perfect reading spaces just waiting to inspire your own DIY nook, or maybe you do most of your reading in bed (until you doze off and drop the book on your face). Either way, creating a cozy, designated space for reading can be a fun way to inspire younger readers. Set aside a corner, fill it with pillows, and make a rule that it’s only for reading. Children will jump at the opportunity to use this exclusive space (and chances are, you will, too). It doesn’t need to be Pinterest-worthy, just make it inviting.
7. Read on repeat.
We all have that one book that we could quote with our eyes closed because our children begged for it to be read over and over again. As children become more familiar with a book, they can begin to follow along with the words on the page. They’ll also begin to look for things they might have missed when reading it previously, which is a great way to build their reading observation skills.
8. Read as you go.
Sure, when we think of reading, it’s natural for books to go hand-in-hand, but daily life is full of other opportunities to hone this skill as well. Try having your child read road and traffic signs on the way to school or help you read the recipe out of a cookbook while you’re making dinner. Helping children become accustomed to reading as part of everyday life will hone their abilities to comprehend the world around them.
9. Write notes.
Our Georgia private school teachers love seeing the joy on a child’s face when they find a surprise note from mom in their lunchbox. Writing short letters to your child is not only a great way to remind them that you’re thinking of them, but it’s also another creative way to sharpen those reading skills. Children with more exposure to various handwriting styles learn better reading comprehension. Plus, it’ll make their day.
10. Grow your own library.
Is there such a thing as owning too many books? We don’t think so. Let your child build their own in-home library full of their favorite books. Looking for a birthday gift? Get a book. Trying to find a non-junky souvenir for your child to bring home from vacation? Let her pick out a book about that place. Children tend to develop better reading habits when they have access to a wide array of books in the home, so this is one thing worth collecting.
11. Set reading goals.
Maybe you’ve found that the “1000 books in a year” challenge started out great in January, lost a bit of steam in February, and fell completely off the radar by March. You’re not alone. While a reading goal is a great incentive to keep your children reading, it’s sometimes best to start with smaller, more manageable goals. Try setting a weekly reading goal instead. Or, offer an incentive when they’ve read a certain number of pages. When children can feel the accomplishment of meeting a goal, they’re more likely to continue and increase their efforts.
12. Do your research.
One of the best things you can do to help your child grow as a reader is to educate yourself on how children learn to read. Talk to their teacher about ways that you can further their learning at home. Listen to a podcast from a professional in the field. Knowing which techniques do and do not work is crucial to helping your little readers thrive.
Healthy reading habits are a gift that will keep on giving for the rest of your child’s life. She may or may not be the next Rory Gilmore, but employing these strategies will help your child develop an appreciation–and maybe even passion–for reading that will enable them to retain and comprehend material on a whole new level.