All three of my boys have a voracious appetite for reading, and although I can’t claim to have some magic, fail-proof formula for you, I’d love to share some of my tips and techniques on raising kids who love to read!
Model It! – I have always loved to read and used to have no problem plowing through book after book after book before my children were born. But here’s the tricky thing: once I became a mother, I found that reading was no longer an easy thing for me to fit into my own daily routine! With the sleepless nights and long days, my eyes would snap shut the second my head hit the pillow at night. But as my kids got a bit older, I knew that I wanted them to SEE me reading consistently. Not on my phone or tablet, but with an actual, physical book in my hands. I wanted them to see me reading things other than their children’s books. I wanted them to see me enjoying a book on my own. I wanted them to see me making time for reading in my own life! I believe that modeling a love for reading from an early age will encourage your own children to follow in your footsteps. Whenever one of my boys would ask me about the book I was reading, I would talk about the plot like it was exciting and exhilarating, and let them see that reading is fun! I’ve always told them it’s the cheapest way to travel. Hehe.
Make Time for It! – Every single night at 7:30 (usually 8:30 in the summer), since the boys were very young, we have designated “Room Time.” This means they are in their PJ’s, their teeth are brushed, they are bathed, and they head to their rooms for some quiet time before it’s lights out. They can choose to read quietly or they can draw or play quietly while listening to an audio story. Either way, they are engaging in a reading activity, whether reading a book or listening to a book! This has been such a consistent practice in their lives, now they value their "down time" and look forward to it. Bedtime routines tend to be much easier when your kids love to read! When our boys were too young to read on their own, we would all pile on the couch to read a book together before they climbed into bed for the night. These little moments are setting a foundation that your kids can build on for the rest of their lives!
Love Your Local Library! – We go to the library every other week to refresh our book and audio book supply. The kids LOVE having their own library cards (I think Truman still thinks his is a bonafide "credit card") and they can each check out up to 30 items each time! The Metropolitan Library gives out little key fob versions of each library card, so I just keep them all on my keychain so that I don’t have to stress about each boy remembering his card each time we go. Each kid brings a cloth tote to carry all of their books, and we go on our own little ‘shopping spree’ every 14 days! It is a blast. Plus, starting June 1st, all of our local OKC libraries will begin their Summer Reading Program, which offers prizes and incentives to your little readers for logging their Summer reading hours! You can log it all online and it is a really fun and easy way to motivate your readers through the Summer months. My kids look forward to it every year. An easy way to keep track of all their books once you’re home is having a designated tote next to each kid’s bed so that they don’t get scattered and lost all over the house.
Do Your Research! – As your child grows and develops his or her own personality, you can help them find books and series that you know will interest them! I use the website Common Sense Media to stay up to date on what books are trending for each age and stage my children are in. They have great book lists compiled for all sorts of interests and genres. If you can help your kids find books that interest them, it will only spark their love of reading even more. Your local librarian is also a great resource for finding books your child might love!
Make it Fun! – Have a reading picnic out on the grass for lunch or dinner. Create your own sticker or incentives chart for your little ones at home. Act out a play based on a book you all read together and enjoyed. Listen to books on tape in the car. Encourage you kids to build LEGO sets based on their favorite scenes from books they’ve read. Staple blank paper together and help your kids create their own literary masterpieces! Let them read in a tree. Let them read in a tent. Let them read in an epic blanket fort that you helped them build. Let them watch the movie based on their book after they’ve read it themselves. Encourage your kids to have book clubs with their friends, where they all read a book together at the same time. You can incorporate reading in so many fun and easy ways—always be on the lookout for ways to make it fun!
Encouraging a love of reading will be a gift that your child will carry with them forever. It has always been a very high priority in our family, which has meant that we have had to fight for keeping it in our daily rhythm. It’s easy to become so busy that reading takes a back seat, so we have had to say no to things over the years that would have meant consistent late nights out for our family and our kids. For me personally, having downtime to relax and read for my family is of utmost importance. My kids will be able to enjoy reading up until the very end of their lives! There are not many things that we can enjoy for the whole span of our days like that. I want to fight to build that important foundation now, while I can. I know their lives will be enriched by it in countless ways, as mine has been as well. It can be hard work, but try to remember that building a love of reading is always worth the extra effort! Happy reading y’all!