5 tips to get your kids reading at home
Updated: May 20, 2020
We all know the importance of reading.
But how do we get our kids truly interested so they choose to pick up a book and read?
It's never too early, or too late, to start encouraging your child to read at home. However, the earlier they start, the more likely they are to continue the habit as they grow.
Here are some simple ways to get your kids interested and maybe even excited about reading...
1. Read together
Reading together has to be one of the simplest ways to help your child to develop a love of reading. It applies to children of all ages from newborn babies, all the way up to...well, as long as they are still happy to read with their parents!
From baby board books to Harry Potter, there’s no time too soon or too late to start enjoying books together with your child.
As well as developing a love for books, reading aloud to your child also has many important educational benefits including: expanding their vocabulary, improving comprehension (because they'll have the chance to ask or answer questions), it demonstrates fluency and it's also a perfect time to bond.
Before bed is possibly the easiest time of day to set aside to read aloud to your kids. It helps to create a solid bedtime routine and can (hopefully) help to settle them down to sleep.
But if you can find time to read together at any point in the day - go for it! You could introduce a story before daytime naps, if your child is very young, or to relax together, after a tiring day of school (or homeschool).
Sometimes I’ll read my kids a story over the dinner table when they’re not too enamoured by the meal in front of them...it keeps them eating and distracts them from the fact that it might not be what they want to eat (sorry kids, we can’t have pizza every night!).
2. Create a literacy-rich environment
Basically - have plenty of reading materials available and accessible at home.
This is key to reading development for little ones. Young children really benefit from language exposure from a young age - so the more exposure the better.
Here are some examples...
For younger children (preschoolers or kindergarteners) having the alphabet on display is really beneficial. You could make an alphabet poster (your child can help you to make these with markers or paints) or even make post-it note alphabet cards to stick on the walls.
We love these alphabet wall stickers from Amazon and have several sets all over the house - we have a set going up the stairs, a set on the hallway leading to the kitchen and one in our reading corner.
Every time the kids climb the stairs, they have an opportunity to practice their letters, sing the alphabet song, or say the sound the letter makes.
I wish we had found these dinosaur alphabet wall decals earlier - my kids would love these!
Opportunities like this, allow for a natural learning environment where you don’t need to set aside time in your schedule to ‘teach’ - kids will learn from their environment.
You could also label things around the house. From toy boxes to kitchen cupboards and chest of drawers, label anything you can think of to expose your child to more reading opportunities.
If you’re a bilingual family or your child is learning a second language, why not label things in both languages. Depending on the age of your child, they could help to make the labels.
For older children, if you have magazines or newspapers around the house, share articles about topics that they are interested in.
Or ask them to flick through a recipe book and choose something they’d like to make with you, or look online for a new cookie or smoothie recipe to try out.
Reading doesn't have to be just sitting down with a book. The more a child reads, the more confident they will feel in their reading ability, and in turn the more likely they are to choose to read and to enjoy it!
If you don’t have many books or reading materials at home don’t worry. Libraries may not be open or accessible right now so check out my ultimate guide to online reading resources.
3. Set up a reading nook
There are lots of ideas for a cosy reading nook or reading corner/den (whatever you like to call it) on Pinterest so you can find lots of inspiration.
But in reality, this area doesn’t need to be anything fancy or a perfectly Instagram-able area. It really just needs to be a comfortable, cosy, safe space where kids can read either by themselves, with their siblings or with you.
All you need is a corner or small space in a bedroom or living room, add a cushion and maybe a blanket.
If you have soft toys/stuffed animals, a few of these would make a good addition. Stuffed animals also make great reading buddies for your child to read to.
And of course...books. You could ask your child to choose the books they would like in the reading nook.
Having choice over what they read will make them much more likely to choose this as an activity.
The nook can simply be a lovely place to snuggle down and read or it can also be a calming space for when a young child needs to take a break.
When our kids are overwhelmed we often encourage that they take some ‘calm down time,’ where they can choose to sit in the reading corner and relax. We find this really helps our kids to calm down and regulate their emotions so it may be worth a try.
Have fun creating a reading nook and ask the kids to help.
4. Set an example
If you have the time - read yourself. Kids copy their parents. You’ve probably heard the saying:
“Your child will follow your example, not your advice.”
I don’t know who actually said that but it’s proven true in many cases with my kids! Whether it’s a paperback, e-reader, magazine or newspaper, the more often your kids see you reading, the more likely they are to also pick up a book.
Even if they are just looking at the pictures or pretending to read, it creates good habits.
However, finding the time to read is much easier said than done, especially right now, when many of us are homeschooling our kids whilst also juggling work commitments.
Generally, we try to keep books and toys away from the dinner table and use meal times to chat and catch up as a family. However, we like to read at the breakfast table on weekends, when there is no rush to eat before getting out the door to school and work. So we have a relaxing weekend breakfast and allow the kids to take a book to the table. Maybe there's some time in your week when the whole family can read (their own choice of reading material) all at the same time.
Usually my son has a dinosaur fact book and my daughter will choose any picture book that comes to hand, or sometimes she’ll pick up one of my paperbacks and pretend to read. It’s a nice routine for us because it instils an enjoyment of taking the time to read for pleasure and also allows us as parents to sneak a few chapters of a novel or to catch up on the sports news! Even if it's only once a week...
5. Read whilst playing
Make reading fun by incorporating it into play activities. One example of this is one of our favourite weekend games - playing ‘restaurants.’
I write the menu and the kids have to read it (the eldest reads to his little sister) to order lunch or snack. This also makes lunchtime a lot more fun! I give them two or three options (usually just different types of sandwiches) and they always eat with less fuss when they have chosen what to have.
Of course this also works in an imaginative format where the kids write the menu and read it to their customers (me, stuffed animals, dolls or dinosaurs etc) and serve play-dough food, or any toy food on hand. We sometimes make paper food for our play kitchen and restaurant when we're out of play-dough.
You don’t need any fancy toys to play this, just the dinner table, or a picnic mat on the floor, and some paper and pens to make the menu. There are so many ways you can incorporate reading into everyday play activities, with very little materials.
For more play-based reading ideas, check out my post coming later this week.
In the words of Dr. Seuss…
So keep reading!
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