By Samantha Carrick, certified reading specialist
Reading with children is one of the most beneficial activities for cognitive development. It increases a child’s IQ, builds their vocabulary, improves their memory and attention, and creates an anchor in the day for meaningful learning and connection. There is truly no other activity quite as rewarding, especially with young children during their most formative, foundational years at home.
As a mother, I’ve seen my daughters’ vocabulary, creativity, and intrinsic motivation for learning flourish because of regularly reading together. As a teacher, I’ve seen the power of books support children through difficult times, cultivate empathy and community, expand their world, and spark the joy and freedom that come from getting lost in a great book.
Reading is the most studied aspect of human learning, and the research is quite conclusive. Reading aloud to children is the greatest contributor to future learning success and enjoyment of reading.
But how do we cultivate a family culture of reading with squirmy toddlers, busy kindergartners, or uninterested tweens? As a reading specialist, it’s my job to motivate the most reluctant, struggling reader
Here are 15 tips to make reading together an enjoyable, rewarding experience for the entire family.
You may be interested: Wiwiurka At Home: Decor Ideas For Beautiful And Practical Play Spaces.
1. Displaying the covers of books is more welcoming and inviting than many books stuffed on a shelf. Fewer choices reduce decision fatigue and help kids reach for books more often. This also increases a child’s autonomy.
2. Keep small baskets of books (3-5) throughout the house – in the living room, playroom, bathroom, bedroom, and even in the car so you can always reach for a book. Weaving in little moments throughout the day really add up.
3. Encourage more interest by varying the location and experience. Cozy up in your bed for a reading party, build a fort and add flashlights, create a book picnic outside, read while the kids are playing in the bath tub. Kids can even play with a quiet activity, like playdough, coloring, or rocking on a balance board, while you read aloud to them.
Book Selection to raise a reader
Research shows creating a steady stream of new books nearly triples interest in reading within three months and will help you raise a reader.
- Rotate books often, which makes books feel new again and adds some variety.
- Visiting the library shows kids other people value books as well. It’s a budget-friendly way to increase the books in your home and focus on books that interest your child. Tip: Save screenshots of books you see online to a folder on your phone. Then you can request these in advance from the library so when you are there, it’s a relaxed experience.
- Little kids have short attention spans, but the more they can interact with the book and feel independent, the more success we will have captured their focus. Plus, interactive books engage multiple senses, thus strengthening neural connections. Look for books with flaps to lift, fabrics to feel, or actions to complete.
- Find books that spark your child’s interest. Reading begets more reading! The more confident they become in reading, the easier it will become to expand their preference of books and add variety.
- Phonemic awareness is a critical early literacy skill required for understanding phonics skills and decoding words. Reading books with rhythm, rhyme, and alliteration lay an early foundation for phonemic awareness skills. Plus, young children enjoy the playful movement of these words!
Check out a list of my favorite books for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and beyond.
- Think relaxed book club, rather than book quiz. Constant questioning can interfere with the experience and increase anxiety around books. Open-ended questions are the best to ask because they require higher levels of thinking and there is generally no right or wrong answer. It’s also a great idea to model thinking out loud: “I wonder why…,” “This part surprised me…,” “This reminds me of…”
- You do not have to read every word on every page to a little kiddo. Instead, try to follow their lead. If they want to linger on the same page and talk about the pictures, go for it! The more positive the experience, the easier it becomes.
- Predictable routines reduce resistance and help children feel a sense of control. Add reading to naptime and bedtime routines. For older kids, aim for 20+ minutes of quiet reading time every day.
- Make connections between books and real life to raise a reader. For example, when you’re outside on a nature walk and you find a caterpillar, bring up the book. “This looks just like the hungry caterpillar we read about. Wow, look at those yellow spots. Let’s read that book today during snack.”
- Make a family tradition of gifting books on the holidays and write a thoughtful note inside the cover. This shows kids books are valuable and becomes a treasured keepsake!
You may be interested: Through Play Children Create Themselves.
“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”– Emilie Buchwald
- Research has found a parent’s attitude towards reading has a huge impact on their child’s reading enjoyment and success. Demonstrate reading together as a gift, rather than a chore and prioritize it every day!
- Model it – Children love to imitate. It’s an incredibly powerful message for kids to see the people they love the most enjoy reading. The next time they are coming around the corner, let them catch you reading a book, even if you only actually got to read for one minute because #momlife. Little moments add up!
- The next time you’re at a store, walk by the book section and admire some new titles. “Ooo, that one looks good! I’m going to add that to my wish-list. Do you see any you’d like to put on your wish list?” You can also celebrate the books your child has already read. “Woah, this is so neat. We read that book and it’s also in this store. Do you see any others you have read?”
- Get all family members involved. A research study found fathers only read to their children 15% of the time. The next time grandparents or aunts and uncles come to visit, encourage them to snuggle up and read a book with the kids.