We grew up with books everywhere — and with no competition from computers and smartphones.
When we wanted to know about something, or there was nothing on TV, we read. With so many options available to kids today, how can you help keep reading fun for your kids or grandkids? here are some ideas.
From “read-ins” at school to reading competitions to drawings for prizes, the focus of many schools and libraries is on encouraging children to love reading and to engage in reading and other literacy activities out of school.
One big goal as a parent or grandparent is to help keep reading fun and engaging, so here are a few tips you can use to celebrate reading at home all year long!
10 ways to keep reading fun for kids
by Carrie Shrier, Michigan State University Extension
1. Keep the topics interesting
Does your child love non-fiction books, or books about fairies? Maybe super-heroes or historical fiction is their thing? Whatever the topic is, let children’s interests guide their book selections.
Visit your local library and talk with the children’s librarian about books in the genre of their choice. You can also use websites like the Scholastic Book Wizard to narrow down selections, read reviews and pick just the right book for your reader.
2. Read aloud
Don’t stop reading aloud to your children when they learn how to read. Listening to books read aloud helps children learn about cadence, fluency and expression. Make up voices for the characters that stay consistent as you read through a book – a high squeaky voice for the mouse or a deep, gruff voice for the bear.
Make reading aloud part of your daily routine for all the kids and adults in your home, young and old alike. Looking for a good book to read aloud? You might want to check out the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award-Winning booklist for ideas.
3. Set a good example
Research shows that one of the most important steps parents can take to support children’s early literacy skill development is to have a literacy-rich home environment. Read for pleasure, talk with your children about how much you love reading, have books available, make reading a fun and special activity at home, not just for them, but also for you.
4. Make a special spot for reading
Consider making a special reading area for your child at home. Perhaps an unused corner of your house with a small bookshelf and a bean bag. Make sure it’s a space that is well-lit, organized and inviting, where kids can find the right book and curl up to enjoy it quietly.
Let infants and toddlers have access to their books, keeping them on a low shelf or in a basket that is accessible.
5. Visit your local library
No matter how many books you have at home, nothing beats a trip to the library to stock up on new and interesting titles. Schedule time into your calendar to go to the library regularly.
Look at your local library’s programs as well, many offer fun and interesting – and usually free – activities to support children’s literacy development. And while you are there, don’t forget to check out books for you!
6. Have a read-in
March is often a month that brings cold, wet and muddy days that make outside play hard. Pick a rainy day to have a read-in. Leave on your pajamas, build a blanket fort in the living room and snuggle up with a good book.
7. Be flexible
In order to keep reading fun and engaging, it’s important to be flexible. Maybe your child is too tired after a long day at school to read at bedtime and they would prefer to listen to an audio book as they fall asleep.
Help your child find a time to fit reading in that works well for your family. Look for pockets of time such as the drive to school, waiting for ballet class or on the bus ride home where kids have some down time and might be able to read a little.
Avoid having hard and fast rules about reading as this is a time that should be fun and not a punishment.
8. Reward wisely
Avoid the temptation to offer screen time as a reward for reading. Thom Barthelmess, president of the Association of Library Service to Children, reminds parents to avoid the temptation to offer screen time as a reward for reading.
“Kids are smart and they’re paying attention, and the message we want to give them is that reading is its own reward. When we [offer TV as a reward for reading], we show them that reading is what you do to get something really valuable, like watch TV,” Thom says.
This doesn’t mean you can’t offer incentives for reading, of course. Every child is different. Some children might respond well to a sticker chart, others might love to have a special trip to the zoo after so many books.
Consider connecting the rewards to your child’s interests and the books they are reading. For instance, a child who loves dinosaur books might be motivated by a trip to the natural history museum to see real dinosaur bones.
9. Reading is reading
Worried that your child isn’t reading novels, but prefers sports magazines? Rest assured that reading really is reading! Let your child select their own reading material. It is okay to let your child select magazines, graphic novels or other material outside of traditional books.
10. Books are special, too
Emphasize the “special” nature of books. Give books as gifts with a note in the cover. Ask people to gift your children with books for holidays and birthdays. Everything seems more special when it’s wrapped up in a bow.
Let children keep books they receive as gifts in their rooms and assure them they don’t have to share them, they can be theirs and theirs alone.
Helping your child grow to love reading is an amazing gift. Reading opens a world of imagination to your child. Make an effort to keep reading a priority in your home; a family activity that is fun, engaging and something you do together, every day or during every visit.