As a child, I loved to read. I could spend hours immersed in a good book that took me on an adventures to a different world. However, J-Man is somewhat different. It has really been a struggle to get him to read his assigned books much less read for pleasure. So, over the past few weeks we’ve been trying out some different tactics to encourage reading in our home. Yes, we’re gone the route of taking away privileges if he does not do his assigned reading but more so than that, we’ve tried to find ways to make extracurricular reading fun.
Now, why is it important to me that my children love reading? Well, all it takes is looking at a few statistics on the impact of reading on their development and mental growth to see that reading is not just a recreational activity – it is one which helps them to prepare for the future.
Research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showed that reading enjoyment is more important for children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status.
So, what steps are we taking to turn reading into something that our kids not only enjoy but that they prefer over television and video games? Quite simply, we are working to make reading fun!
Discover What They Love
When I first started encouraging J-Man to read more, I pulled out all of the books that I had loved as a young child. With titles like Little Pilgrim’s Progress and The Rats of Nihm, I fully expected him to jump in and fall in love with the characters as I had. However, that didn’t happen. He struggled through several pages and then gave up all together, claiming that he hated reading and it was so boring. So, instead of giving up, we let him choose books that he was interested in. Now, I’ll fully admit that Diary of a Wimpy Kid would not be my first reading choice for him but he became immersed in the books and can’t be pulled away from them. I quickly discovered that I while there were guidelines, when it came to reading for pleasure I had to let him choose books that appealed to what he loved.
Hit the Library
Go! Get your kiddo a library card! It’s much easier to get them excited about reading when they have endless possibilities and the feel of freedom when choosing them. J-Man wants nothing more than to feel grown up. And when I am able to take him to the library, let him go off on his own and choose books that he loves, it becomes much easier to get him to want to read. This also eliminates the desire of us as parents to force our children to finish a book because we bought them. Instead, if they are not liking the book they picked you can simply take them back for another try – preventing reading burnout and keeping them excited about reading something new.
One of the biggest helps I have found in my battle to get J-Man to love to read is electronics. Now, we all fully know that we are in an age where everything is going digital – and books are the same! With some Nook options as low as $79, it’s a great option to get your child excited about reading. J-Man loves the ability to read on the Nook or the iPad as opposed to a paperback book. There is just something about the words being on the screen that makes it magical to him. And while at first I was hesitant to make that jump because it blurred the line between reading and computer time, I have found that these devices make reading easier and more fun!
Open Your Ears (And Your Mouth)
I will fully admit that sometimes I need J-Man to read so that I can get other things done. However, when he comes and wants to talk about the book to me, I’ve found that it’s super important to encouraging his love of reading for me to sit down and listen and be willing to discuss it with him. Whether he’s gotten to a part of the book that excites him or confuses him, my willingness to take time to listen and encourage gets him ready to jump back into the book. A great way to encourage your child to continue reading is to ask them how they think the story will end and then encourage them to see if they are correct. You may just be surprised when your kiddo passes on the cartoons because they just have to see if they were right.
Know When To Push (And When Not To)
All children are not going to love reading to the same degree. It is important that you know your child and know when to push them to read and when to let them walk away. I know I have personally read books that were just torture to get through. Now, I’m the type of person who is going to finish a book if I start it – even if it is painful. But most children are not that way. It’s great to encourage them not to give up five pages in as the story may get better but if they just don’t get the book or really hate the story, be willing to let them put it down and try something different. If this becomes a habit with every book they read, you may need to re-evaluate but as long as it’s just the occasional book that is losing their interest, back off and let them take a break and then start a new book that may be better suited for them.
It is hard as a parent not to want our children to read just because we ask them to and know that it will help them be successful in life. However, if we truly take the time to help them develop a love for reading and build the strong foundations needed to not only understand but also love books, we are helping prepare them for both the enjoyment and success that reading can bring. So, be ready to take time. Be willing to help them find books that speak to them. And be patient – a love of reading is often developed and not born. So don’t get frustrated when your child puts down the book today – because tomorrow they will have the chance to pick it right back up.
Tell me – how do you encourage your child to read?