Everyone wants his or her kid to grow up to be a great reader. After all, childhood reading skills have even been shown to predict success not just in school, but also later in life. It isn’t too hard to get a child to read. But fostering a love of reading? That’s the hard part.
You can tip the scales in your little reader’s favor though. Learn how to raise a reader by following these expert tips.
Stock Up on Books
Having a home library—even a small one—is a big deal, especially when it comes to raising readers. Studies have shown there is a strong correlation between the number of books in a household and kids’ overall educational outcomes. In other words, kids whose parents keep books in the house have a big advantage. This is because when kids are constantly exposed to books, they become a normal part of everyday life.
“I have always had books in the house,” says Jaime Herndon, a writer and parent. “I read to Micah when he was in utero, read to him as an infant, and he’s always reached for books. They’ve become part of the everyday for him, and he ‘reads’ at least 2-3 books a day, plus our nightly reading.”
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Lead by Example
The best way to raise a reader is to read yourself. Don’t do it secretly. Read where your kids can see you. If your kids think that reading is something adults don’t do, they might be less inclined to do it as they get older.
“Modeling” what to do is one of the best ways to teach any behavior, because kids love to copy adults—especially their parents.
“Adults need to model reading for children,” advises Carol Ann Moon, reference and instructional outreach librarian at St. Leo University in Florida. “I read because I had many models in my family.”
Read to Your Kids
You can also model by reading aloud to your kids. Making reading a group activity has several benefits. Kids not only learn to love reading because it’s something they do with the people they love, but they also learn how to pronounce the words they see on the page and pick up reading fluency skills, too.
When they’re old enough, ask your kids to read books aloud to you. If they’re nervous, get them to read to the family pet instead. Dogs are fantastic listeners.
“I read to [my son] Prose and now he wants to read me the books,” says author and mom Fabienne Josaphat. “It's amazing how he can't read yet—he's only 3—but he memorizes the lines, and he recites them. … I try to put down my phone more and show him that I am either paying attention to him or reading.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting to read out loud to your child at birth.
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Engage Kids’ Natural Curiosity
If you’ve been raising a reader, they may already think of books as sources of fun. Still, they may not know the variety of books out there. So when you’re out and about and your child starts asking questions about the world around her, make note.
“When [my children and I] are doing other things and become curious, we make an effort to learn more by finding a book on the topic on our next trip to the library,” says Kelli Casey, a secondary reading and English language arts resource teacher. By doing this, Casey shows her kids that nonfiction books are great resources for learning new things.
Make Reading a Habit
Just like with many other healthy things, reading becomes second nature to kids when they make it a habit. As a parent, you can foster a reading habit early by setting out a time each day to share a book with your child. Habits are made and kept by repetition, so try your best not to skip a day, even when you’re busy.
“Some nights I’m just so tired, but I remember that I don’t want [my son] to lose interest in reading,” says Donna Ho, a mom and former language arts teacher. “So I suck it up and read to him. When he asks to read a second book, I do.”