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How to Encourage Children to Read

Updated on February 6, 2015
lawdoctorlee profile image

Ms.Treadwell is a licensed attorney and the author of "How Do Hurricane Katrina's Winds Blow: Racism in 21st Century New Orleans."

It All Began with Webster's

My mother wrote in my baby book that my favorite book at 3 years old was the Webster's Dictionary. I cannot begin to tell you how embarrassed I used to be when she shared the book proudly even into my elementary school years.

By the time I started school, I was reading the newspapers and discussing the headlines at the dinner table. Until middle school, I was only allowed to watch one hour of TV per day, so it better be a good show! And nearly every year from 12 - 17 years old, I was signed up for a summer book club at the library. Mother rarely gave me the answers; instead, she told me "look it up." From then on, I was a research fiend. It is an addiction.

Ah, those were the days when "Reading (was) Fundamental" and "School House Rock" was all the rage. But now, there is disturbing news about literacy in America.

Important Information from the National Center for Education Statistics

  • Approximately one-third of all 4th grade public school students are at or below the “Basic” level on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading tests.
  • By 8th grade, there is little improvement since 26% public school students performed at or below the “Basic” level on the NAEP reading test (NCES, 2009).

African-American, Hispanic, and American-Indian students are disproportionately affected. Among 4th graders, one-half of these students scored below the "Basic" level.

What is more troubling is that "the number of high school seniors who read at or above “proficient” has been declining since 1992."

Important Roles Families Play

Make no mistake that family plays a major role in literacy. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, 43% of adults read at or below the "Basic" level. That is approximately 93 million people.

Likewise children who are read to three or four times per week are twice as likely to recognize all of the letters of the alphabet. When classrooms have low parental involvement, the reading average of the class is 46 points below the national average.

If that is the case, then why do less than one-half of American families read to their kindergarten-age children on a daily basis? (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2000).

America’s Most Literate Cities - A Study by Central Connecticut State Universities

In a 2013 study of 75 American cities, interestingly, the study found that "wealthier cities are no more likely to rank highly in literacy than poorer cities."

American cities that ranked at the top were:

  • Washington, DC
  • Seattle, WA
  • Minneapolis, MN.

At the bottom of the literacy list were El Paso, TX, Stockton, CA, Corpus Christi, TX, and Bakersfield, CA. The study was limited to those cities with an estimated population of 250,000 or larger as of July 1, 2011.

Children Need Your Time

Me and my son Michael (2 yrs old) reading an encyclopedia.
Me and my son Michael (2 yrs old) reading an encyclopedia. | Source

You Make the Difference

Some of the statistics can be overwhelming. Whether your community has a literacy program or not, there are some easy ways that you can make the difference in your child's life and how you can encourage them to read. Your child may even have a bunch of excuses NOT to read. Here are my top ten ways on how to overcome those excuses and encourage reading at different stages of development.


Top 10 Ways to Encourage Children to Read

1. Start early: Read to your children even when they are infants - it can soothe them and you!

2. No TV: Turn off the TV, computer, video games, etc., for a set reading time everyday, even if it is only 15 minutes...."Now it's reading time."

3. Include snacks: Read to them during snack time.

4. Sit close: Sit them close to you when you are reading. They will feel loved; and they are getting good attention from you.

5. Questions: Have them ask you questions at the end of the book/chapter - it gets them to learn how to think about what they are reading for the future.

6. Read at Bedtime: Bedtime stories with hot cocoa for them and you are the best. Of course, you may prefer to drink your coffee or tea. They are left to go to sleep with nice images in their head and warm feelings in the heart.

7. Get a library card: Take them to the library and get them a library card - it makes them feel independent, "Now you can get books whenever you want." They can go with friends or a relative too!

8. Visit a great library: Take them to the library and stay awhile. Let them read the first 2 or 3 pages there. Ask them if they like the way it starts so they can decide if they want to read the rest. Go to different libraries to break up the monotony - maybe even a day trip to a large, "fancy" library, like the New York Public Library or the Library of Congress in DC. Best of all, LIBRARIES ARE FREE!

9. Use encyclopedias: There is nothing like a good-old fashioned set of encyclopedias. When your children ask you questions tell them to look it up and share what they found with you. It teaches them how to research, makes them feel smart and confident. Make it a game called, "I betcha didn't know..."

10. Let the child read: Have them read to you. For example: "Hey, since you're such a good reader, why don't you read to me something you enjoyed in school today."

"We shouldn't teach great books; we should teach a love of reading. Knowing the contents of a few works of literature is a trivial achievement. Being inclined to go on reading is a great achievement." from B. F. Skinner: The Man and His Ideas by Richard Isadore Evans, 1968.

— B. F. Skinner

Share Your Experience

How often do you read to your child/children?

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On a personal note...

I raised three kids of my own, all of whom are avid readers. They are always researching something following my mantra, "if you don't know the answer, look it up." And one of them, my daughter, is majoring in library science in college. She called me the other day to discuss her latest (and major) research project on a 14th-century Carthusian missal.

"A Cart-what?," I say!

Her dream job is to work for the Library of Congress. Who knew?!

As for me, not only do I read books, I write them. Yup, it is true, my book is on the library shelf!

Once the dictionary was my favorite book, now it is the thesaurus. Some things never change (*smh*).


By Liza Lugo, J.D.

© 2012, Revised 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Ms. Lugo retains exclusive copyright and publishing rights to all of her articles and photos by her located on Hub Pages. Portions of articles or entire content of any of these articles may not be used without the author's express written consent. Persons plagiarizing or using content without authorization may be subject to legal action.

Permission requests may be submitted to liza@lizalugojd.com.

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    • rlaha profile image

      rlaha 5 years ago from Spartanburg, SC

      Hi lawdoctorlee. I enjoyed reading this hub. Parents or caregivers should really encourage their children to look at pictures in books at an early age to get them interested in reading. As you said, taking them to the library or reading them bedtime stories also are great pointers to get the children interested. The way one reads the story to the child also will have an impact on the child's interest to read. The more entertaining the parent/caregiver, the more interested the child remains.

      Great hub! Voted up, interesting and awesome!

    • lawdoctorlee profile image
      Author

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 5 years ago from New York, NY

      rlaha, thank you for taking the time to read my hub and for making great comments. I used to make different voices for different characters in the books when I read to my kids. It would just crack them up.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for all the good suggestions for encouraging children to read, lawdoctorlee! I enjoyed reading your hub.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image
      Author

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 5 years ago from New York, NY

      AliciaC, thank you for taking the time to read my hub and commenting. Glad you enjoyed it :-)

    • Ashleymckinnon profile image

      Ashleymckinnon 5 years ago from Coleman, WI

      These are great ideas. I am a read-a-holic and currently pregnant and can't WAIT to read to my baby. The ideas about reading during snack time and having them ask questions after chapters is really simplistic but brilliant! Vote up.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image
      Author

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 5 years ago from New York, NY

      Ashleymckinnon, thank you for taking the time to read my Hub and comment. Glad you enjoyed it. Congrats on your pregnancy. Thanks for the vote up.

    • taylord08 profile image

      taylord08 5 years ago from Virginia Beach

      I'm a believer in always reading to my kids. This is a great article, not only do they learn more but they grow up loving to read and smarter.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image
      Author

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 5 years ago from New York, NY

      taylord08, thank you for taking the time to read my Hub and commenting. You and I share the same value in reading to our children (well, mine are grown now). I love what you said on how they grow up.

    • rlaha profile image

      rlaha 5 years ago from Spartanburg, SC

      I am sure the kids really enjoyed you reading them stories with different faces and voices :).

    • lawdoctorlee profile image
      Author

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 5 years ago from New York, NY

      They sure did, rlaha :-)

    • rlaha profile image

      rlaha 5 years ago from Spartanburg, SC

      That's great! :)

    • taylord08 profile image

      taylord08 5 years ago from Virginia Beach

      My first son, that sixteen now had the opportunity to go to an advanced school because of his reading and understanding.when it comes to learning he can tell you I don't play. But I do it to better them, so they can have a better life than I had.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image
      Author

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 5 years ago from New York, NY

      taylord08, thanks for reading my Hub and commenting. I wanted mine to have a better life too.

    • teachertalking1 profile image

      teachertalking1 5 years ago

      Such a great hub! We often assume that all parents know the importance of reading to their children. As a teacher, I know firsthand that this is sadly not the case. I especially love #9 regarding encyclopedias. I give explicit lessons to my 3rd graders on the wonderful resource that encyclopedias can be, but am often met with the question, "Why would we want to go to the library and look up the information in an encyclopedia when we can just google it?". Although I am a strong advocate of technology, I have to admit that this is one of the negatives.

      Your children are lucky to have such an insightful mom!

    • lawdoctorlee profile image
      Author

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 5 years ago from New York, NY

      teachertalking1, I am flattered that you took the time to read a few of my Hubs. Thanks for your following and for your comments, which have been very encouraging to me.

    • Rev. Akins profile image

      Rev. Akins 5 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      Great Hub, we have tried several of your ways with our kids, and our daughter (who is almost 2) loves to read. Our son (who is 6) still enjoys being read to, but we are struggling with helping him become an independent reader. He knows lots of "tricky" words and has a great vocabulary (he gets that from his mother). Thanks for the information, we need to go back to these basics and keep helping our kids develop a great love of reading! Thanks again!

    • sankari.nayagam profile image

      sankari.nayagam 5 years ago

      I found a lot of difference in my daughter after I started reading to her.Reading to our kids is a wonderful thing and we should make it a habit. You have given simple and great ideas to make it a habit. I enjoyed it very much as I experienced the benefit of reading to kids. I want other hubbers to enjoy this and so sharing your hub!

    • shampa sadhya profile image

      Shampa Sadhya 5 years ago from NEW DELHI, INDIA

      Voted up and useful!

      Your hub is really very useful and meaningful.The parents have to play a special role in developing the book reading habit in the children.

      I also wrote a hub on this same subject. I wrote it after experimenting the different methods of developing this habit in my son. The result is that I am experiencing a tremendous knack of reading in my ten year old son. Yours is a really well written hub.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image
      Author

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 5 years ago from New York, NY

      You're welcome web-tools. Thanks for taking the time to read my Hub and for commenting.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image
      Author

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 5 years ago from New York, NY

      You're welcome,Rev. Akins. Thank you for taking the time to read my Hub and for commenting. Always stick to the basics. I think there was a football coach back in the day who started training with: "This is a football."

    • lawdoctorlee profile image
      Author

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 5 years ago from New York, NY

      sankari.nayagam, thank you so much for taking the time to read my Hub and for commenting. Glad you enjoyed it. Thank you so much for sharing my Hub with others.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image
      Author

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 5 years ago from New York, NY

      Hi Everyone! I need your vote!!

      Guess what? My Hub "Top 10 Ways to Get a Raise from your Employer" has been selected among 6 candidates for this week's HubNuggets contest on HubPages!

      The criteria for selection as a HubNugget is entirely dependent on votes, so please vote for this Hub before Wednesday, February 15, 2012!

      Click on the HubNuggets at http://hubpages.com/topics/business-and-employment Vote Now tab at the top, right below the title.

      Thanks so much for your support and following of my written works.

      Liza Lugo, J.D. aka lawdoctorlee

    • Rosie writes profile image

      Rosie writes 5 years ago from Virginia

      I enjoyed your hub and completely agree with all the points you made. As a teacher though, I can't control what my students go home to and I have to come up with ways to get students motivated to read when they leave my room. Reading quality literature and material that they are interested in keeps their attention in class, but I want them to want to read at home too. Your hub would make a great flyer to send home to parents.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image
      Author

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 5 years ago from New York, NY

      Rosie, I understand your plight. Between budget costs at schools and the limited time you have the children it's difficult to be a teacher these days. How many students do you have personally? I might be willing to allow you to copy this article to send home to the parents as a flyer.

    • profile image

      Jaimie 5 years ago

      Additional to the recommendations stated above, another new and fantastic way to help encourage children to read is with the help of Samson's Classroom. The online series focuses on intriguing children while helping them with reading comprehension, spelling and sight words. Check it out and see for yourself! http://www.samsonsclassroom.com/

    • lawdoctorlee profile image
      Author

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 5 years ago from New York, NY

      Jaimie, thank you for taking the time to read this hub and for your comments. Also, thanks for the link :-)

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