10 ways to instill a love of a basic skill in your kids.
Reading is a fundamental skill all children should develop. However, the magic happens when kids enjoy what they are reading and seek out opportunities to read for pleasure. Here are ten lasting ways to pique your children’s interest in reading.
1 Read to Your Child. It’s never too early to start reading to your child. Read to your kids as often as possible from birth, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will help them learn sounds and language. Continue even when your children are older and can read on their own, to encourage their interest in books, promote a connection between you and provide a way to discuss the book and the world around them.
2 Begin With the Basics. Reading is based on words, and in order for your children to read, they must understand what the words mean. After they learn the alphabet, start to build their vocabulary. The first three years of life are the greatest time for speech and language development, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Take every opportunity to teach new words. Make a game of it by pointing out objects, learning new vocabulary or doing the crossword. Your kids will develop language skills while having fun.
3 Match Books to Your Child. Children are required to read certain books during their school years. They will love some classic novels, and may not enjoy others as much. To move away from the drudgery of required reading, try to match books to your child’s interests. Listen to your kids. Not only does this help you to get to know your child, it creates topics to talk about at the dinner table. Is your son interested in history, and your daughter interested in science? Choose books that match your children’s interests, and you will see them reading more often. They will still have to complete the required school reading, but reading what they are interested in as well will help them maintain enthusiasm. Keep in mind that as your children get older their interests evolve. They may like to read about dinosaurs today, but in six months they may have moved on to spaceships and outer space. Letting them explore all sorts of topics — both fiction and nonfiction — will benefit them in their reading capacity and overall grasp of language.
4 Don’t Try to Level Up Too Fast. Books are based on a reading level. Your children are being tested in their reading skills periodically and placed in a reading level. It’s important to learn where your child is on this scale — at reading level, a little below, a little above, far below or far above. This will determine the reading level of the book suitable for your child. Reading below the level will not challenge your children’s reading skills and help them to advance. Kids may think the books (and reading) are boring. On the other hand, if the book is above their level, they will think reading is too complicated or they won’t understand what they are reading. This will lead to frustration. Keep your children reading at their level or slightly above to challenge them. As they read more, their reading level will advance.
5 Look for Reading Resources Beyond the Classroom. Children read textbooks and books for school, and go to the school library to check out books for assigned reading as well. To encourage their enjoyment of reading, you need to take them beyond the classroom so they can fully appreciate the world of books. Take them to a bookstore to check out the newest available adventures. The vast selection will go a long way in piquing their interest. Alternatively, take them to a used bookstore or thrift store that sells used books. Don’t forget your local library, especially during the summer. Libraries usually have a reading program to encourage children to read and log their reading time. Often they can earn incentives for how much they read. The library also has information to help you keep your child reading.
6 Think Outside the Book. Today there are so many avenues beyond books in which you can engage in reading: on your phone, tablet or e-reader, laptop or computer. Seek out ways to incorporate these other options into your child’s life. Many times we hand our child our tablet or phone to play games with while we wait. Why not load books to your electronic devices so children can read? E-books are usually available from your local library. Investigate phone apps and websites that teach letters, phonics and reading. Many are free, excellent alternatives that encourage reading.
7 Seek Toys That Teach. Next time you are in a toy store, check out educational toys that range from teaching letters and phonics to building basic words. Some devices allow your child to point an electronic pen along the words in the book, which will assist in reading. There are also a multitude of handheld electronic devices with educational themes. Technology is advancing in the area of educational toys, so make sure to take advantage of all it offers.
8 Remember It’s All Fun and Games If You Know How to Read. Children like to use board games, handheld electronic games and electronic gaming systems. While game time should be kept to a reasonable amount, it can be used to encourage reading. Have your child read the game directions and explain the rules to other players. As you supervise, your child can read books or websites that explain the interworking of the game and hints on how to find objects in the game or advance to the next level. Not only will game time be more fun, your child will have learned something, too.
9 Make Reading a Family Event. Is there a new movie coming out that your family would like to see? If so, find out if it’s based on a book, read it first, then watch the movie. My family likes to do this and compare the movie to the book. We also like to share our books. We have a family library of sorts. If one of us finds a series or genre of books that we enjoy, we introduce it to the other family members to read and review. Due to this family-style book club, we are all reading more and discovering new types of books that we may not have explored on our own.
10 Make Sure That Your Children See You Reading. People learn by example, so children will imitate their parents. If your kids see you picking up a book on a regular basis, they will too. We set the example, so start reading. Besides, why should your children have all the fun? Join in the adventure, and see just where a book can take you.
Melody L. Skinner, DNP, APRN, CPNP, a board-certified primary care PNP with ten years of experience in the primary pediatric care setting, works at a private practice in Hanford, CA. Dr. Skinner is one of the Co-chairs for the NAPNAP Childhood Literacy Special Interest Group.