I shared last week, why reading to baby is so important. This week I want to share some tips on how you can get your children to love reading. Working at Head Start I’ve heard many reasons why reading isn’t a priority in homes. I’ve heard things like “there is just no time for reading”, “my child will not sit still for a story”, “my child doesn’t like books, they’d rather be outside playing”, the list goes on and on. But what I tell families struggling to build reading into their routine is simple, read more. I know what you’re thinking…That’s not very helpful. And you’re right. But the tips below will make it more helpful and you will see how simple it can become.
Don’t get me wrong there will always be families who just simply cannot make reading work in their home. These tips are simply guidelines, but ultimately you are the parent and you have to do what works for your family. Something I really stress to families is reading should be fun. If you or your child view reading as a chore, you’ve already lost the battle.
Tips to get your children to love reading:
- Snuggle up with a book: All children enjoy a good snuggle. When you hold them close and look at a book together, they will enjoy the snuggles, hearing your voice and the story. Snuggling to read a book builds feelings of safety, security, confidence, and a love of reading.
- You can also try different places to read, laying on the floor next to your baby/child, in bed, on a favorite chair, or even at the park. Get creative.
- Even when your children are older they still love to hear you read to them. It is a great way to spend some quality time and strengthen your relationship.
- Choose the right book: For babies, they like books with bright bold or high contrast pictures because they can see them and it will grab their attention. Children also love repetition, how many times have you heard them say, “read it again?” Keep cycling through the books they love, but be sure to grab new books too. You can create a larger repertoire of books, and it will help them learn to try new books.
- For babies books made of cloth, soft plastic, or board books are great. These books are much sturdier and the pages are easier for baby to handle.
- Pick some books about things they are really into. If your child loves Star Wars, pick a few Star Wars books to read. But remember to tie in a few books about other things too. Maybe a book about Space, Aliens, etc.
- Keep books within reach: Keeping books where they can be reached like in a basket next to the couch, on a bookshelf in their room, or in the car makes them easy to reach, hold, and look at as toys. It will amaze you how often they will pick books up on their own. *Remember babies will probably put the books in their mouth, which is totally ok, and exactly what they are supposed to do, so make sure you only put durable books within their reach (fabric, soft plastic, and board books.)
- The right mood: Picking the right time to read can sometimes be tricky. Reading when everyone is happy is more fun and helps fosters a love for reading. But reading when they are sick, tired, or grumpy can be a nice time to snuggle and read a book to help them feel connected and loved.
- Keep in mind that you don’t need to worry about reading a book all the way through. This is a struggle for my control freak nature, but making them sit through a book they don’t like, aren’t interested in, or generally hate will not make them want to read, it tends to make reading feel more like a chore and can take away that loving feeling. When they lose interest in a book, try a different book or something completely different.
- Not just at bedtime: Routines can soothe a baby, and help them learn to predict what will happen next. Reading before bed is a great bedtime routine to get books into your daily life, however, there are lots of other places to stick books.
- First thing in the morning- Babies are more attentive and engaged when they first wake up making it a great time to read books. And as the children get older reading a book when they first get up gives you a little more time in that nice warm bed you’re reluctant to get out of.
- The backseat of the car- this can be physical books, audiobooks, or story podcasts. And as they get older you can ask them to read to you. I had a friend a while back whose daughters loved to read to her when they were driving on long trips.
- While waiting- keeping books in your diaper bag or purse will give you something to do when you get stuck in a long line, in a waiting room, or at a restaurant together.
- After dinner- who says you have to wait until bedtime to read? My husband doesn’t get much time with our son, so after dinner, I usually clean up and they will read a few books together. It is a great way for them to get reconnected after being apart for the whole day. Plus, it gives me a mommy break, even if it’s just to do the dishes.
- Naptime and bedtime- One piece of advice my pediatrician gave me early on because M was not a great sleeper, was pick two naptimes and do the same routine that you do for bedtime. We read a few books to help settle down and get us ready for naptime and we follow the same routine for bedtime.
- Make it fun: The most important tip is to make reading fun. If you make it a chore it takes the enjoyment out of it. The enjoyment is the part you want to foster to keep them engaged and help them build that love for reading. You want your child to see that reading is an enjoyable, fun time to connect, a time to laugh and talk together. To help make it fun try letting them:
- Pick to book
- Hold the book
- See you enjoying books yourself
- Read and re-read their favorite books
- Quit books they don’t like
- Turn the pages
- Ask questions about the story
- Retell the story
- Let them move around while you read (especially for toddlers)
Reading is an essential skill for children to learn. Reading aloud helps children in many ways. In fact, research suggests reading earlier to children will help them learn more words by the age of 2, do better on standardized tests, teaches them about communication, builds listening, memory, and vocabulary skills, and gives children information about the world around them. Even though reading is so important sometimes it can be hard to fit it into your schedule or even know where and how to start with your child. I hope these tips will help make reading a larger part of your family.
What are some tips and tricks you use to get more reading done in your home? What is your favorite tip or a tip you’re going to try with your family? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.