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Encouraging Your Child to Read

Updated on May 4, 2012

A Love of Reading Starts Early

I have loved reading for as long as I can remember. As a middle-schooler a new library was built within walking distance of my home. I felt like the luckiest girl alive. My love affair with books has continued into adulthood. It's very rare that a day goes by when I don't indulge myself with a good book, even if it's just for a few quiet moments at the end of the day.

Imagine my disappointment and confusion, when it became apparent my only child seemed completely disinterested in reading. I have been reading to him each night since day one. He has a variety of books available to him. I let him choose books himself, We visit the library at least several times a month. It is certainly not for lack of a role model. He has seen me reading lots!

So, what gives? I've certainly scratched my head wondering why he didn't take to reading when I'd done so much to pave the way for him. In the end I figure some kids take to certain activities, like riding a bike, naturally. They may fall a time or two, but they get right back up and seem to take off over night. Other need a gentler hand holding them steady while they learn the ropes.

Why Is Reading Important?

Reading develops language skills, vocabulary and helps sharpen critical thinking skills. It leads to a greater cognitive development and teaches your child to think creatively. Children introduced to reading in the early years have a broader vocabulary and learn language skills easier. Reading touches every subject in school. A math wizard still needs to read directions of an assignment.

Of course, if you're here, you already know the importance of reading. It's relaying that to your child that is the problem. Reading has some pretty heavy competition in recent years. There are more and more game, TV, and technology generated with children in mind than ever before.

Make Reading a Habit

If your child is reluctant to pick up a book, setting aside time each day for reading is important. Provide a quiet reading environment by turning off the TV, or any other distracting noises. Devise a reading nook, or corner, with a comfy chair or pillows. Scheduling reading before bed is a great way to form a habit. It also helps your child unwind and prepare for sleep.

Even if your child is a bit older you can still read to them. When you do read aloud, make sure you do so with enthusiasm. If you have a way with voices, throwing in a few might not be a bad idea! Anything to get them engaged and interested is worth the effort. My son and I take turns reading aloud to each other. Sometimes after the first few chapters he becomes pretty engrossed in the story and he finishes the book on his own.

Help your child discover their love of reading by finding books based on characters they already love. My son is a Star Wars fanatic. Luckily there are tons of age appropriate books available based on these same characters. I hate to see a movie based on a book without reading it first, but he is just the opposite. If we've seen a family-friendly movie based on a book he is usually excited to go pick it up.

He's also taken an interest in books pertaining to the care of pets. He loves learning more about dogs, and fish since he is the proud owner of both. Lately he has been choosing books all about hamsters, so I assume that's what he'll be asking for next!

The hard truth is, if your child has a choice between video-games or books, he will go for the video games every time. Well, my son would anyway. It might be time to put your foot down and limit game and TV time. There is no reason your child can't enjoy games and TV, but make sure it's in moderation.

Thinking Outside the Box, or the Book.

If your child is like mine, you have tried everything to get them interested in reading. If all the standard advice hasn't worked, there are other avenues you can explore. My son is not likely to pick up a book without prompting, but he loves reading joke books. If your little one is an aspiring class clown, a good joke book might be right up his ally. Mine loves memorizing jokes to entertain friends and family.

Kid friendly magazines are another great way to get your child reading. There are so many available, aimed at various interests. Kids also love receiving mail addressed to them. The colorful pictures and short articles are a great way to entice a child to read further.

Some video games encourage reading. While I have had a problem getting my child to read, he's never been reluctant to try out a new video game. Many require reading, at least in short bursts, to navigate the game. Besides reading, there are more and more games available to help your child with many different school subject. Personally, I don't think video games are a good substitute for reading, but choosing quality education games can improve a child's reading ability.

Some tech-savvy kids might be persuaded to read on an eReader. This will probably apply more to older, more responsible children. Personally, I haven't bought my son his own eReader, but he enjoys using mine.

Another idea, one I wish I'd thought of sooner, is keeping a list of all the books your child has completed. Mine really loves pulling that list out, from time to time, and seeing how long it has grown.

I believe every child can catch the reading bug. Some just take a lot more persuading than others. I wrote this because I found a lot of information for encouraging very young children to read, but not so much for those a bit older. My son is 11, and only in the last year has he started to read for pleasure without my constant nagging. Sometimes it just takes a little, or a lot, of creativity and work to get the message across. If your child hasn't caught the reading bug yet, don't give up.

What's worked for your child? I'd love to hear about it!

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    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 5 years ago from United States

      I think it's good to make sure children are reading, even if it's not a book, like you shared about your son and his joke book interest. Reading is such an important part of schooling that just getting them reading is vital.