Raising Children Who Love to Read
Children learn how to live their lives far more by imitating what they see than by doing what we tell them. From the very beginning, we have a chance to show our children that reading is not only an important skill, but one that can bring great joy to their lives!
Parents can share books with children from infancy. Those wonderful board books with bold black and white pictures are great to help babies learn to focus their eyes and associate books with the warm, affectionate feeling of sitting in their parents’ laps. As children get a bit older, interactive books such as Pat the Bunny and Dear Zoo get toddlers engaged with fun books.
As children grow, reading books to them nightly is a wonderful way to increase their vocabulary, teach them how books work, where to look for the words, how to look at the pictures, as well as the many life lessons of kindness, generosity, and just having fun that stories impart! Even if you have many books in your house, it is worth getting a library card and using it often. Variety increases interest and when librarians begin to know you and your children, they can make suggestions for books you’ll love. Many libraries now have extensive collections in other languages, so even if English is not your first language, you can still read aloud to your child.
As your child begins to be able to read on their own, there are many great easy readers for them. From Mo Willems’ Gerald and Piggie series to the Narwhal and Jelly series by Ben Clanton, easy readers have become very funny and sophisticated! However, just because your children can read to themselves doesn’t mean you should stop reading aloud to them. You can read books beyond their reading levels to get them interested in rich stories with greater vocabulary and more meaty themes. Children in later elementary and even middle school love to be read to so you and they can share stories, appreciate humor, and discuss ideas together. Older children become interested in books that are outside of their comfort zones when parents read a few chapters from a new book, especially the first book of a series, and get hooked! For older children, such as middle and high schoolers, reading books together can be a safe and natural way to talk about some weighty issues that might be awkward to discuss otherwise.
What if you just don’t have the time or you’re feeling insecure about your own reading skills? Audiobooks are amazing for this! Many titles are available in audiobook form, free from the library or for purchase on sites like Audible.com. Recent research shows that listening to audiobooks can activate similar areas of the brain as reading a book.
So no matter how old your child is, or how you read or listen together, reading is a skill they will use and enjoy their entire lives!