Encouraging a Love of Reading in Children: Dos and Don’ts

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Video games, sports, schoolwork, social activities: with all this competition for the time and attention of your children, how can you insure that they learn to love reading? Reading offers many benefits to children, such as language development, academic success, knowledge, and the introduction of new ideas. Reading will open the world to your child and it can be a lifelong source of pleasure. Even with so many demands on your child’s time, there are things you can do to encourage young readers. Below you will find a list of dos and don’ts to help your child come to love reading.

Dos:

  • Do show them your enjoyment of reading. Children are very motivated to copy the behavior of adults. Let them see you reading regularly. Share appropriate news articles, letters and other reading material with them. Talk to your child about books that you have enjoyed and learned from.
  • Do read to your child. Cuddling with a book together on the couch is a wonderful way to bond with your child. Discuss the books you read. Ask open-ended questions such as, “What do you think will happen next?”, “What would you do in that situation?”, and “Who is your favorite character?
  • Do visit the library and bookstores regularly. Let them choose books according to their interests. If they enjoy a particular book, help them find other books in the same series or by the same author. Find books that will be easy for them to read, thus increasing their confidence.
  • Do introduce a wide variety of books. You never know what might capture your child’s interest. Keep in mind that many beginning readers prefer nonfiction books, and that pictures are very important to readers at this stage. Some favorite topics may include animals, biographies, ancient history, and fairy tales.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t push. Encourage your child’s interest and ability to unfold naturally. Realize that beginning readers need a lot of practice with easy books. Reading is an inherently pleasurable activity, and your child will discover this in time. For instance, a good way to encourage a young reader to tackle a chapter book, without pushing, is to read a chapter or two of the book aloud to your child. When your child begins to take an interest in the story, find an excuse to stop reading. Chances are, they will be so engrossed in the story that they will pick up the book and finish reading it on their own.
  • Don’t offer artificial rewards for reading. Candy, toys and gold stars take the attention away from the reading and place it on the reward. It sends the message that reading is not worth doing for its own sake. In the long run this will reduce motivation. Reading offers its own rewards.
  • Don’t quiz or test your child. Let them tell you what they enjoyed about the book. Quizzing your children will make them feel self-conscious and nervous about their reading, while discussing will allow them to share their thoughts and opinions in an enjoyable way. How much would you enjoy reading the latest Stephen King novel, if you knew you would be tested at length on the content as soon as you finished it?
  • Don’t let other activities crowd out reading time. Turn off all screens and let your child know that reading time is a priority in your household. An effective way to find time for reading is to send your child to bed thirty minutes before lights out with a book or two. As well as enjoying the book, they will probably get a better nights sleep because of the relaxing effects of a good book.

Watching a child develop into a reader is exciting. With a little effort on your part, your children can reap the rewards of a lifetime of reading, and soon they will agree with Erasmus that, “It is the friendship of books that has made me perfectly happy.”

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