Does your child hate reading? Do they love reading? We've put together some tips to help instill and strengthen a love of reading in all kids. Follow these simple strategies and find your child reading for fun in no time.
1. Let Kids Choose Their Own Books
We cannot overstate the importance of letting kids choose their own reading material. Children do not get to make many of the decisions that affect them and guide their lives, so choosing their own books is a small but important way of exercising power and asserting their identity.
Kids are much more likely to read something they’re interested in than something forced upon them by an adult, however well-intended the adult might be. When kids choose their own books, they feel a sense of agency and ownership over their reading, which makes for a positive reading experience.
2. Try Different Formats
If your child is reluctant to read books, try graphic novels. Graphic novels often include more challenging vocabulary than print-only books aimed at the same grade level. In addition, graphic novels require kids to make sense of the text and identify, order and interpret the images on the page. Reading graphic novels uses more and different parts of the brain than are utilized when reading a traditional book.
We also have audiobooks and e-books available; and some kids prefer to listen to the audiobook and follow along in the print copy at the same time. For picture books or lower-elementary nonfiction, check out our selection of Wonderbooks that combine audio and print.
3. Model Reading for Pleasure
Parents and caregivers are a child’s earliest and most important teachers. If you read for pleasure, your child will emulate you. Read that novel or magazine, or listen to a book you heard about on that show. When you read for enjoyment, they will do the same. When kids associate reading with fun and relaxation they may be just as likely to pick up a book as a gaming controller in their free time.
4. Never Make Reading a Punishment
When reading is used as a negative consequence, kids create negative associations with reading. It’s no surprise that children won’t want to read for fun if reading is used as a tool for punishment.
5. Make a Cozy Space
Let your child create a cozy space to read. Ideally, this would be a permanent nook they could retire to while reading. If you’re unable to do this, then encourage them to set up a cozy space any time they want to read. This could be as simple as bringing a comforter or some pillows to the couch or collecting couch cushions to create a small reading fort.
Encouraging a child to read includes helping the child make as many positive associations with reading as possible—and who doesn’t love to be cozy?
6. Create a Bookshelf Just for Them
Similar to how choosing their own reading material empowers kids, so does having a space designated just for their books. It doesn’t have to be a bookshelf, it can be a milk crate, a basket, a single shelf—whatever works in your home. Work together with your child to create this space, listen to their ideas and get as close as possible to their vision.
7. Read Aloud or Together
Just like how modeling reading for pleasure makes a big impact, reading together is a powerful way to encourage your child without explicitly doing so.
Reading together might look like you reading aloud to them—there is no age limit on the benefits of listening to a good story. It could also look like them reading aloud to you, or both of you reading your own books in the same room at the same time.
Spending quality time reading together is a great, subtle way to encourage your child and create those positive associations with reading.
8. Make Reading a Routine
Incorporate reading time into your daily or weekly routine. Designate a couple days or times where you and your child read together in whatever way works best for you (see #7). Your child will begin to expect this, and if they’ve chosen their own book (see #1), and made a cozy spot (see #5), you may be surprised to find how quickly you both look forward to this time together.
9. Ask About What They’re Reading
This may sound easy, but it can be tricky. You want to demonstrate an interest in what they’re interested in.
After your child describes the plot, ask them what they think about the book. Ask what their favorite part was, and if they’ve ever had thoughts, feelings or experiences like the characters. Respond to what they say genuinely and have a conversation.
Your goal is not to quiz them, to check comprehension or judge them. The goal is simply to hear your child’s thoughts on what they are reading—and if you really listen, you’ll gain insight into your child’s inner life.
10. Take Them to the Library
Need we say more? As librarians, we’re trained to help you and your child find the books and information you seek.
Not sure what to read? We can help! Fill out our handy online recommendation form with your child—remember, we want them to want to read—and we’ll email you a personalized list of suggestions. You can also stop by any Information Desk and we will happily help send your child home with a stack of titles.
If you get home and they find they don’t like one (or more) of the books, do not force them to read it. Encourage your child to set it aside and try the next one. This advice holds for kids and adults—there’s far too many books out there to spend time reading one you’re not into.
We also love chatting about books. Encourage your child to stop by the desk and tell us about a book they loved or hated. Knowing that a librarian is there to help is a big part of using the library.