Common sense tells us, and studies have proven, that the more kids read, the better they are at it. The other side to this coin, however: children who don’t read much often experience reading difficulties…and because they struggle, they’re less inclined to pick up a book, thus perpetuating a downward literacy cycle.
So, what can you do to encourage your child to read more? Here are ten top tips for developing your child’s reading habits that you can try at home. Remember that creating a habit takes time, so be patient, keep at it, remain positive, and offer encouragement.
1. Be passionate: Nothing peaks a child’s curiosity than the enthusiasm of those around them. Excitement is contagious, so show your child that you’re excited about books and reading, and they’ll be more inclined to join in on the fuss.
2. What interests them? Find books based on topics, ideas, hobbies, or people that your child is interested in.
3. Notice what they notice: Become increasingly aware of what grabs your child’s attention when they do look at books, and then build on that enthusiasm through discussions, playing associated games, finding more books on the same or similar, or simply by becoming equally enthused.
4. Library visits: Take your child to the library regularly. Don’t rush; take your time. Allow your child to explore the shelves and discover the pleasure of searching for the book/s they’d like to have a look at. For younger children, why not take advantage of the story-times that most libraries offer. If your child has little interest in reading books, the library may have a selection of comics for them to try – comics still require reading, and may be an easier hook.
5. Nurture your own reading habit: Children do what they see. If they see their parents and caregivers reading, they will see reading as a pleasurable, relaxing part of the norm, and they will be more inclined to mimic it.
6. Clutter up your home: Make sure that you leave lots of reading material lying around – at a level that your child can see. Leave books next to his bed, next to his car seat, and everywhere that your child spends a lot of time. Seeing a variety of books, magazines, newspapers, and catalogues in the house makes them part of the norm.
7. Read together: Reading to, or with your child is far more than a literary activity. There is an intimacy to reading together that nurtures relationships immensely, all the while setting up a platform to engage with your child over books. Some households (and cultures) commonly read together as a family.
8. Big brother, big sister: Encourage older siblings to read to their younger brother or sister. This not only provides the opportunity for the older child to practice, but also allows them to be a good reading model. Perhaps the sibling that is reading can choose the book they think their younger brother or sister would like to hear.
9. Build a habit: Find a regular time in the day – that suits both you and your child – for reading. Maybe every day before bedtime, or while you’re preparing dinner. It doesn’t need to be a big chunk of time – even 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference in a child’s reading ability, and in developing the habit.
10. Give the gift of books: At birthdays, Christmas and other gift-giving times, wrap up a book gift for your child. An alternative to buying books that will interest them, is to get them a gift voucher for a bookshop where they can enjoy choosing whatever book/s they would most like. Another idea is to subscribe your child to a magazine he/she enjoys reading. Not only are books enduring, but your child will also recognise that they are, indeed, something special.
You may also find the following NZ Booklovers articles helpful: Why Kids Don’t Read, Read it, Write it, Play it, Build it: Ten Fun Creative Reading-Related Activities, It’s a Readers World: Ten Reading-Related Activities for You and Your Child.