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Childhood Literacy: How to Encourage Kids to Be Lifelong Readers

Updated on July 4, 2011
Photos by Kate Spenser
Photos by Kate Spenser

"The love of learning,

the sequestered nooks,

and all the sweet serenity of books."

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

We live in an increasingly digital age, and many parents worry that with increased time spent using computers, tablets, smart phones, and video game consoles, their children won't learn to appreciate the beauty and power, the "sweet serenity," of a good book.

Books allow children to exercise their imagination. They allow kids to explore new lands, both real and imaginary, to learn new concepts, and to enhance their language skills. And reading is an activity that can be enjoyed without having to plug anything in.

But how can you make sure your kids will be readers? How do you lay the foundation for a lifetime of reading? The key is to introduce reading early and continue to incorporate it into your family's routine throughout the child's development. Here are five ways to encourage your kids to love reading.

Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown with pictures by Clement Hurd, is a classic bedtime story that you can read to your child night after night.
Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown with pictures by Clement Hurd, is a classic bedtime story that you can read to your child night after night.

Read to Your Child, Early and Often

Making reading a part of your child's daily life from the beginning is a great way to encourage a love of books. Reading together should be something they expect to happen every day, and something they look forward to and enjoy.

Some people will encourage you to start reading to your baby while he or she is still in the womb. While they obviously won't realize they are being read a book at that point, this can be a great way for the baby to learn its parents' voices and a great way for parents to start a reading routine. By the third month of pregnancy, the sense of hearing is already developing, and by the half-way point the baby may start to be able to recognize the parents' voices.

Even if you don't start reading while your child is still in utero, it's important to start reading to him or her from day one. Reading to your baby is a great way to start building their language recognition skills, and it's a great bonding activity that parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other caregivers can participate in.

Make it a point to read to your child every day! An easy way to make reading part of your routine is to incorporate it into your naptime and bedtime routines. Not only will it make bedtime happier - your child will look forward to the "extra" time spent reading before bed - and easier - it helps wind your child's energy down - but because sleeping is something kids do every day, several times a day, it will be a great way of building books into your daily routine. If you have room in the child's room, put a small bookcase with your favorite children's books right by the crib or bed so it's easy to access books at bedtime.

Visit the Library and the Bookstore

Making frequent trips to the library is a great - and cheap! - way to get your child excited about reading new books. A weekly visit to the library to explore new books, and to check some out to read at home, will be something your child will look forward to doing. It's also a great way for parents to avoid the monotony of always reading the same books over and over again.

Bookstores can also be a really fun outing. Most bookstores have great children's sections with kid-sized places to sit and enjoy a book. On special occasions - major milestones, holidays, or just-for-fun - let your child pick out a new book to buy and take home. Using books as rewards for achievements helps turn books into special, prized possessions.

Libraries and bookstores often have regular weekly story hours, which are great places to enjoy books as well as for kids and parents/caregivers to socialize. The more different ways you can combine books and fun with your child, the more they will make the association that reading is enjoyable.

Kate's Favorite Chapter Books:

Read Chapter Books with Older Kids

Once your child starts learning to read by him or herself, don't make the mistake of thinking that your job of reading to your child is over! A great way to continue the daily tradition of reading to older kids is to read chapter books with them. Some of my fondest memories from my childhood are of my mom reading books - like Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series - to my sister and me, a chapter a night, before bed. It's a great way to bond with older kids and let them enjoy books that are above their reading level but just right for their imagination level. Picking a series of books - like Harry Potter or one of Judy Blume's series - or several books by the same author - like Roald Dahl or E. B. White - will keep your child excited night after night for the next chapter or the next book.

Make Your Own Books

Making homemade books is a great arts and crafts activity, one that lets kids' imaginations run free! Making their own books helps them appreciate how stories are constructed, gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment, and lets them work on their drawing and writing skills. Kids who are pre-writing can draw the pictures and dictate the words of the story to their parent or caregiver, and kids who are learning to write can practice word construction by writing words themselves.

Homemade books are super easy to make! All you need is crayons/markers/pencils/pens, 4-6 pieces of plain white paper and 1 piece of construction paper, and either a stapler or a hole punch and some string or ribbon. Fold the white paper in half, and then fold the construction paper in half around it to make the book cover. If you're using a stapler, staple the book down the fold, and you're done! If you'd rather use ribbon or string, punch holes along the fold of the book, put the ribbon through the holes, and tie it off on the outside of the book. Then hand it over to your child and let their imagination do the rest!

Let Your Child See You Reading

It will be hard to convince your child that reading is a lifelong activity if they only ever see children reading or being read to. If you want your child to develop a love of reading that will carry them into adulthood, you'll need to model that behavior for them. When you visit the library with your child, check out books for yourself, too! Talk to your kids about what they are reading, and tell them about the books you are reading - you could even make it a tradition to talk about what you're reading every night at dinner. Read in front of your children, not just after they've gone to bed. Instead of turning the television on at night, why not institute a family reading hour (or half hour, or fifteen minutes...I know how busy families are!) when everyone gathers in the same room and reads their own books, newspapers, or magazines? Making reading a regular part of your family's routine will help keep your family close and will lay the groundwork to turn your kids into lifelong readers.


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    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Wonderful hub. it is very important to develop book reading habit in children. Reading makes your child`s personality good to make the society so good.Keep up

    • seanorjohn profile image


      9 years ago

      I love books and encourage my children to read as much as we can lay our hands on. Come wintertime we burn as many as we can get hold of. The charity shops are virtually giving them away and it saves a fortune on fuel.But we always give them a last reading before they are chucked on the fire. I know some of you will be horrified but this is the reality for a lot of old people living in fuel poverty. Nevertheless, we do burn out of date textbooks that we recover from the local schools bins.

    • Anthea Carson profile image

      Anthea Carson 

      9 years ago from Colorado Springs

      Excellent hub and great advice. I take my daughter to the library. I have had a hard time getting her to read but when I take her to the library she really enjoys that. It's a special bonding time between the two of us, and our library has a nice little cafe so we take breaks and I get her a snack which she also loves, and probably associates with the pleasantness of going to the library and reading.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      9 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Great hub! I grew up in a family of readers. My dad actually refused to buy a TV, so reading was what we did!

      My mother and I played Scrabble, also--another word and language-building bit of fun. In later years, she and I had a blast playing Trivial Pursuit--a game that can only be enjoyed by voracious readers who pick up all sorts of odd tidbits of knowledge in their armchair travels through literature.

      To this day, I have zero interest in purchasing any kind of electronic reading device--there is just something about physically turning the pages of an engaging book, eager to see what's waiting 'around the bend.'

      (And, noting the previous commenter's query, I don't think audio books can replace reading, either...)

      Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • camaroon profile image


      9 years ago from Utah

      does listening to audio books help?

    • registerdomains profile image


      9 years ago from India

      Very good hub about getting kids into reading. This is often forgotten by parents. And its very important to give children this habit. Reading makes good individuals so good society. Starting reading habit from young age really help to develop good community and good humanity. Cool hug.

    • moiragallaga profile image

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 

      9 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Beautiful hub, and well deserved accolade of being hub of the day. Those are very useful advice you give in your hub, we have followed those ourselves. My husband and I come from families that love to read and our parents actively made sure we discovered the joys of reading. We simply carried on from their example with regard to our son. Of course, unlike during our time, we have to deal with the challenge of the distraction that modern technology and electronic gadgets provides kids these days. I'm happy to say we have been quite successful. Reading books is a valuable habit we should be able to impart to our children.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      9 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Terrific hub! Reading is one of the best skills and activities a child can develop. The love of books fosters learning and gives joy for a lifetime.


    • sankari.nayagam profile image


      9 years ago

      Great hub! Have really found the difference in my kid after taking her to the Public Library story telling sessions! My 2 year old kid now mostly love books than her toys! Voted up!

    • Dee aka Nonna profile image

      Dee aka Nonna 

      9 years ago

      I love this because I am a reading, both my children are reader and my grandchildren are becoming avid readers. My granddaughter and I make little books all the time. She loves it. Congratulation on this being "hub of the day". Great!

    • Keith120 profile image


      9 years ago from Youngstown, OH

      Your more than welcome! This something that I love to look into and you have put together a wonderful peice. Your hub is grealty arrpreicated :)

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      9 years ago from Canada

      I really enjoyed this hub. This is something that I am passionate about, too, and your suggestions are excellent. Congratulations on your "hub of the day" award. This hub is definitely worthy!

    • RedElf profile image


      9 years ago from Canada

      Congratulations on "Hub of the Day" - this hub is certainly a winner!

    • Kate Spenser profile imageAUTHOR

      Kate Spenser 

      9 years ago from Austin, TX

      Thank you all so, so much for such positive feedback. This is something that I feel so passionately about so I am so psyched that other people are excited about it, too!

    • applecsmith profile image

      Carrie Smith 

      9 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      From one Texan to another congrats on Hub of the Day! Very nice hub, thanks for sharing. Voted up and awesome.

    • Keith120 profile image


      9 years ago from Youngstown, OH

      Thank you so much! That was a good hub :) I am going to take your advice on that. I really see and believe how those methods you mentioned will give parents the results they want for their children. My mother & father never read to me well really maybe a dozen times.

      I had a big family of 8 so they where always busy or tried which is understandable. I struggled all through school because I didn't have a desire to read. This stemmed from the free reign I had outdoors and no time in books or some form of course work. I will be sure to spend time with my children both for enjoyment and to give them a structure to enjoy reading.

      Congratulations on being the Hub of the Day Kate!

    • cardelean profile image


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Congrats on your hub of the day! This is a critical step that all parents need to take from the beginning of their children's lives through high school. Children who are read from an early age have a vocabulary that is about a 10,000 words greater than those that are not.

      I read to both of my children while I was pregnant and parents need to realize that the content is not what's as important as hearing your voice and those words. My children are now book addicts (like their Mom!) and we cannot leave the library without each of them choosing at least 10 books each. They even enjoy "reading" to me. Great job.

    • Paradise7 profile image


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Awesome!!! Yess!!!!! A woman after my own heart--a deep, dyed-in-the-wool READER! And I agree, you can't encourage kids enough to READ, READ, READ! It will also help to develop their imaginations, extended powers of attention and concentration, and of course, verbal and communication skills. They'll do better in school...the benefits are endless, and your kids will thank you to the end of days.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Congrats on being the hub of the day.

      This is quiet encouraging. I never kne that one could read to babies in the womb.In fact i thought that the best time is around two years.

      It's so ridiculous that now more than ever before we have more adults going to school.I mean it's not unusual to see people going in for a degree at 50!

      So why is it that on the contrary more and more our children detests studying. Many will tell you point blank " i hate school". I think we are raising a generation that wants to spend their whole time just playing and exciting themselves. As parents we have a lot of work to do. We must not be self-centred. These children are our tomorrow.

      Thank you very much for this write-up.Sincerely, i want to learn to write like you.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Congrats on being the hub of the day.

      This is quiet encouraging. I never kne that one could read to babies in the womb.In fact i thought that the best time is around two years.

      It's so ridiculous that now more than ever before we have more adults going to school.I mean it's not unusual to see people going in for a degree at 50!

      So why is it that on the contrary more and more our children detests studying. Many will tell you point blank " i hate school". I think we are raising a generation that wants to spend their whole time just playing and exciting themselves. As parents we have a lot of work to do. We must not be self-centred. These children are our tomorrow.

      Thank you very much for this write-up.Sincerely, i want to learn to write like you.

    • J.S.Matthew profile image

      JS Matthew 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Congratulations on being the Hub of the Day!

      Reading at home is the best homework (check out my article if you like!) You really give some in-depth information and wonderful suggestions here. We have to get our kids into reading. Most children can not read or write cursive these days. How will they be able to read the US Constitution? It's scary to think about the future of reading. I am glad that you shared this article! Thanks.


    • brsmom68 profile image

      Diane Ziomek 

      9 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      My children's school has a reading program in effect which encourages them to read daily. They also read at home the majority of the time, and give me grief when they don't see me reading. I read and write all day; but there is something to be said about a good book. I do have to get back into reading "just for fun". Great hub and congratulations on it making Hub of the Day!

    • Karen Banes profile image

      Karen Banes 

      9 years ago from Canada

      Love this hub. My eldest child just turned 11 and is past the stage of being read to by me, but one way we keep the connection going is to read the same books (recently the entire Harry Potter series) and discuss them (endlessly). He is shaping up to be just as much of a book addict as I am and I suspect we will be trading books and recommending titles to each other way into the future.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Awesome Hub! I find that reading in front of my kids is what encourages them most to read!

    • shampa sadhya profile image

      Shampa Sadhya 

      9 years ago from NEW DELHI, INDIA

      Hub of the day, great. Congratulations!

      I read your hub with two special interests. Firstly, due to hub of the day and secondly I too wrote on the reading habit.

      An excellent hub and especially I liked the portion "Make your own book". Keep it up!

      Voted up and useful.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image


      9 years ago

      Congratulations on being chosen Hub of the day, Kate! I've always been an avid reader. Even before school Mom taught me to read with flashcards. My earliest books were Dr. Suess, as one would expect.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      nicely written,

      author could have made it more simpler and userfrndly

    • Writerly Yours profile image

      Writerly Yours 

      9 years ago

      Great timing for me in reading this article, Kate! I make it my business to take my son to the library and the book store. I own a B&N nook and I still have books as well. His school has a year long book challenge both in school and at home. We currently have a Summer reading list and just yesterday him and I were at the bookstore reading together and had a wonderful time.

      I have been a reader since childhood and now still an avid reader and I have given that to my son and everything you say here is exactly what we as parents, educators, and caregivers MUST give our kids. It's priceless when your child begs you to go to the library or bookstore before wanting to play the wii or the xbox! :)

      Reading is fundamental!

      Excellent hub!

      Voted up!

    • Kate Spenser profile imageAUTHOR

      Kate Spenser 

      9 years ago from Austin, TX

      Thanks so much for all the comments! I was so excited and surprised to wake up and find that I had the hub of the day. This was one of my favorite hubs to write thus far, and I'm really glad that you all like it!

    • Pritichauhan89 profile image


      9 years ago from haryana,india

      nice one

    • Deb_in_CT profile image


      9 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Great hub! Thanks for reminding me of these - I've got some early readers in my house.

    • jagerfoods profile image


      9 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      I started reading to my son when he was little. He now has become more reliant on books for trips and before going to bed. In my mind it is all attributed to the books I read him and him seeing me read as well. (Kids do what they see their parents do)

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      9 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Congratulations on being Hub Of The Day! Excellent hub. Reading is so important for children. Voted UP!!!

    • MattyLeeP profile image


      9 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      Encouragement in a progressing mind is vital to success and if followed through over the years, can lead to real achievements in life. A hub like this will most definitely have an impact parents that read this, which in turn will result the way you want it to. Congrats on the informative hub, and positively influencing todays youth.

    • danielleantosz profile image


      9 years ago from Florida

      Great hub! I loved reading as a child(and I still do). I remember devouring books when I was a kid. It was my escape from the world. Thanks for the info, and a trip down memory lane!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Love this! What a fantastic hub.

      As an elementary school teacher, I can attest that parents make all the difference when it comes to a child's attitude towards reading. Certainly, gmwilliams has a point regarding the 'nerd' title that often accompanies a child perceived to be 'overly smart,' but the parents can play a role there as well.

      Beyond a child's level of intelligence, there seems to be a direct correlation between how often a child is teased, and how strong their confidence, sense of self, and social skills. If kids realize they aren't going to get a rise out of someone by coining them a nerd, they have a tendency to quickly move on.

      In any case, wonderful hub. Great work.

    • udnisak profile image


      9 years ago from at my home

      nice article.... encouraging.. i wish i can write like you kate...

    • Kate Spenser profile imageAUTHOR

      Kate Spenser 

      9 years ago from Austin, TX

      gmwilliams, thanks for adding your perspective - I agree that it's sad that we put down kids who want to learn by labeling them "nerdy."

      Karlie, thanks for sharing your experience with this! I'm glad that you and your daughter are reading together - she will treasure that time she spends with you for years to come.

    • profile image

      Karlie Philpott 

      9 years ago

      I learned the hard way how important it is for your children to see you reading. I usually read for an hour before I go to bed which is long after my kids are in bed. So they don't see me reading. On day my daughter starting arguing with me about completing her 30 mintues of reading. I tried explaning how important is was and how fun it can be. Her response to me was "then why don't you read". Ouch. We now read together before she goes to bed.

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      9 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Excellent hub! Children should be encouraged to read and intellectualism should be of major importance. However, this is not the case. However, this is not the case. Highly intellectual and smart children are derided in this society. Schools inundate children that it is more important to socialize than to have academic and intellectual acumen. This must change if American children are going to have the knowledge to compete and succeed in this postindustrial world. Reading is essential, not socialization.


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