If you can instill in your child a love of reading, you give them a gift that is going to enrich them for the rest of their lives. You set them on the path toward influence and success, whatever their chosen vocation (“leaders are readers”). And you also provide them with untold hours of personal pleasure. All this if you can just figure out how to teach kids to read happily by themselves as early as possible.
I write passionately about this because it’s a gift that the adults in my formative years gave to me. I’ll never forget Mr. Jennings, a school teacher, who was so contagiously excited about books that he helped light a fuse in me that exploded into the love of reading I have today.
But even though school teachers like Mr. Jennings can play a vital role, the fact remains that our first and most enduring teachers are almost inevitably our parents. My parents were both avid readers, and our home was always filled with books. That marked me. It set my course.YOU, above all, are the key figure in your child’s formative years. Click To Tweet
That’s a huge responsibility, and it can feel intimidating at times, but it’s a wonderful fact. Don’t ever allow anyone to persuade you to take a backseat to “professional educators” or anybody else. We LOVE teachers, but NO-ONE has our kids’ interests at heart in the same way we do as parents. And no-one knows our kids like we do.
The key to nurturing a love of books and reading is to begin as early as possible. How early? Some even advocate reading aloud while your baby is still in the womb! Now, whatever you think of that, it certainly wouldn’t do any harm, and it would be a powerful way to get things off on the right foot by putting you in the right mindset.
Once your child is born, here are a dozen tips for how to teach kids to read happily and for the rest of their lives:
How to Teach Kids to Read: Birth-12 years
1. Read to Your Baby!
No, it’s never too soon. Get those simple picture books with small amounts of text that use rhymes and songs to teach language skills. Point to the pictures as you go, and talk to your child about each one.
If you begin by reading to your baby for just a few minutes at a time, you will notice that their attention span will begin to grow. The first time you observe this will be exciting.
2. Learn About Phonics
No doubt you’ve probably heard the term “phonics”, but you may not really understand what it means. Phonics refers to the relationships between letters and sounds. In kindergarten your child will learn that the sound of the letter D, and that it’s the first sound in “dog”. By 2nd grade they’ll be learning that “-tion” sounds like “shun”. All of this is learning phonics.
Learning phonics is really learning the building blocks of language, so that your child can learn to read and to spell.
3. As Your Child Grows, Make Reading Fun and Interactive
Put aside your inhibitions and learn to read in an animated way. Use different voices for the characters in a story. Have fun with it. As your child’s understanding and confidence grows, encourage them to read some passages aloud to you or to their siblings. Ask them questions about what you’re reading, or talk about different endings the story might have had.
Reading with your child is one of the best and most memorable ways of spending quality time together. Include it as part of a regular routine before bedtime, and at other times that make sense in your daily schedule.
4. Work with Your Child’s Teachers
Parents often cringe at the words “parent-teacher conferences”, but they are very important. In fact, don’t even wait for the ones on the school calendar; get to know your child’s teachers. You don’t need to be a “helicopter parent”, but you can work with the teacher to augment what is happening in the classroom with your reading times at home.
Your teacher’s feedback will be invaluable, as they spot any areas that need to be strengthened. They might also recommend great books.
5. Get to Know Your Local Library
Build your child’s anticipation and make a special outing of getting them a library card. Then take them at a set time each week to pick out a couple of new books.
Another great place is local bookstores (though they’re getting harder to find, unfortunately, as people shop more online). Very often bookstores hold great events for kids. Get on their email list to be notified when something is coming up.
6. Encourage Your Child to Write
I thought this article was about reading? The two go together hand-in-hand. Writing helps to reinforce your child’s growing literacy skills.
It doesn’t always have to be stories or essays. Start out by making a game of leaving notes for each other on the refrigerator. Make cards for each other. As they get a little older, encourage them to start keeping a diary or journal and write down their thoughts.
How to Teach Your Teenager to Love Reading
1. Help Your Teenager Find the Time for Reading
As children grow and spend more time with their peers, you’ll soon realize that you are no longer the only strong influence in their life. Soon they’ll be surrounded by kids who are absorbed with screens and devices that chew up a lot of time, as well as an increasing number of social engagements.
A wise parent sets reasonable limits. It’s up to you to protect time for what’s important – being with family at home, mealtimes, homework, and for reading. Put parental controls on computers and devices so that you can limit their use.
2. Find Reading Material that Will Interest Your Teenager
As educational as you might think it would be, forcing your kid to read the Constitution probably won’t fill them with delight. The classics are wonderful, but may not be the best place to start. Find what will turn your kids on to reading. Books that will entice them to want to keeping turning the pages under their blankets with a flashlight. Harry Potter did this for a whole generation of readers.
Allow your teenager lots of latitude to pick their own books within what is age appropriate. Try and stay up to date on the popular trends, and read some of them yourself!
Which leads to the next point …
3. Show by Example the Pleasure of Reading
Let your child see you reading often. Take the time to discuss with them what you’re reading, and show them how much you’re enjoying it. If you read some popular books written for their age range, you can recommend it to them. And one of the highest compliments they will pay to all of your hard work is when they start making recommendations to you.
4. Build a Home Library
Keep lots of reading material available around the house. If you have the space, it’s a great thing to be able to make a comfortable place for the family to read in; a place with shelves for books, good lighting, and comfy chairs. (And do we have to say it … no screens in that particular room!)
Maybe you don’t have a whole room to spare, but could you cordon off a quiet corner somewhere
5. Make Reading a Normal Part of Family Recreation
Eventually your teenager is going to have to read things like Shakespeare for school. Lots of kids struggle with this, finding it boring. But what if you took the family to see a live performance of what they’re reading? Romeo and Juliet will come alive on the page in a new way when they’ve seen it acted out by great performers.
If they liked a movie based on a bestselling teenage novel, buy them the paperback! Then when they’re done with it, read it yourself so you can talk about it.
6. DO Be Realistic
The teenage years can be a time of angst, full of growing pains, and increasingly busy. Don’t make reading a chore that your child dreads. Instead, let it be a glorious escape for them. That means being ready to celebrate every little step of progress you make without creating more pressure for them. Your good intentions could easily backfire.
Learning to reading for pleasure enriches our lives immeasurably. It broadens our understanding of the world and of ourselves. You can give your child and amazing headstart to life by instilling in them a love of reading.
Mom, Dad … learn how to teach kids to read for both learning and for pleasure, and you will send them down through the years with a priceless gift. One day soon they’ll thank you.
Further Recommended Reading:
- Give Your Child a Home Headstart to Reading With Phonics
- Early Literacy: Give Your Preschooler the Edge With These Fun Activities
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