Developing reading habits in my children is so important to me, but how do I do this? How can I ensure I’m raising readers? Please HELP!
Does this sound like you? If so, you aren’t alone. This post has Happily Ever Elephants’ essential reading tips and strategies to help you raise kids who love to read!
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I’ve been at this blog thing for a few years now, and since I’ve started, I get asked many of the same questions repeatedly. How did you go from being a practicing attorney to an elementary school librarian? How do you decide what books to review? What are your favorite picture books?
And here’s the biggie:
How Do I Develop Reading Habits in My Kids to Ensure I’m Raising Readers?
It’s a tough question, one I grapple with every day. And do you want full transparency?
I ask myself the same question regularly.
Am I on my way to developing reading habits in my boys? Am I on the right path to raising readers?
I want my boys to fall in love with stories the same way I have. I want them to be captivated by courageous and compassionate characters, powerful plots and wondrous worlds.
I want this because story has, quite frankly, changed my life.
Books have helped me discover the world, discover my self, discover how to get back on my feet after some really low blows.
Stories have forever helped me navigate challenges and carve a steady path through rough terrain.
My boys are young, only 6 and 4, and there is no telling what they will love when they are bigger. Pickle is totally and completely obsessed with basketball and all things sports. Bo gravitates towards music, and all he wants to do is sing into his Daniel Tiger microphone.
But you better believe that even while encouraging them to pursue these other interests, I will do whatever it takes to raise boys who don’t just read because they have to, but because they love to.
I am walking this path right next to you, doing everything I can to develop reading habits in my children because I want nothing more than to raise my boys as readers who are compassionate, critical thinkers and find magic in story just like their mom.
With that being said, this is what I’m doing in my home. I hope you find these tips helpful!
Developing Reading Habits in Kids: 10 Essential Tips for Raising Readers!
1) ACCESS is HUGE when it comes to raising readers!
We have books everywhere — the playroom, bedrooms, living room, kitchen and even in my car. They are literally coming out of our ears.
It’s so easy to have books around your house - you know why? The library is free!
Take trips to the library and keep books in every room where you and your kids hang out.
You can get creative and have books by theme for each room, or just place stacks of books they love all over the house.
Why is this so important?
You want to create a culture of reading in your family. And if that’s not a good enough reason, studies have shown that having books in the home is just as important as a parent’s educational background when it comes to assessing and predicting educational attainment.
2) Develop a reading habit by KEEPING IT FRESH!
Don’t ever stop reading books your kiddos love. That’s a given.
With that being said, though, always make sure to rotate in new exciting stories. New books are published by the week, and there are always new gems your kids (and you!) will love!
Also, pay attention to what is going on in your child’s life and add in new books that might help them tackle their current challenges.
Problems with friends? Grab some picture books about friendship.
Confidence issues? There are awesome self esteem books for kids that will help your children learn to love their unique traits.
Giving up too easily? Read some growth mindset books for kids, and your children will see the beauty and importance of adopting a growth mindset.
When children see themselves in stories, magic happens. I promise. And you can do this by paying attention and keeping it fresh.
3) If you want to raise a reader, get books about WHAT INTERESTS YOUR KIDS!
If your child absolutely despises princesses, do me a favor and don’t try to encourage reading by handing her a princess book, no matter how much your friend’s neighbor’s daughter’s teacher says her students are loving a particular story.
If you want to develop reading habits in your children, get them books about their hobbies and interests them.
Does your child love unicorns? Scour the library for picture books about unicorns.
Do you have a sports fanatic on your hands? There are amazing children’s books about sports, including biographies of their favorite athletes!
Is your little one obsessed with facts? Run with that, and get her some nonfiction picture books that will fill her brain with amazing information.
I promise, when you get them books about topics they already love, you will see sparks light up the room. So cue in to what your child is totally into and run to the library with that information. There are great stories about every topic under the sun. And if a book piques their interest, they will be excited to pick it up!
4) Develop a love of reading by giving BOOKS AS REWARDS!
When we celebrate a special occasion in our house, such as a great month of behavior, the end of school, or a big accomplishment like riding a bike, I love to use books as rewards.
Whether its wrapping up a special story and leaving it on their pillow, or taking my boys to the bookstore and giving them free reign to pick out a book or two, it has become clear to my kids that books are oh-so-special. And that’s because when we need to celebrate, I make a big fuss over their accomplishment and gift them with an awesome story.
Grab a book you know your child will love and leave it with a special note to congratulate them on a big win. Celebrate big and little moments with an enticing trip to the book \store.
Give them coupons for a special individual storytime with mom, dad or even big bro or sis if they do all their chores without complaint.
And who says the tooth fairy has to give a dollar?
You get the idea? Make books an exciting treat!
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5) Raising readers requires one thing: READING, whenever you can!
If you have toddlers at home, grab some of our best board books and read to them throughout the day!
I get it- storytime isn’t easy. Kids are moving and exploring, and getting a two year old to sit still is no easy feat.
But guess what?
Your kids just need to hear the sound of your voice. They don’t need to be still and wholly engaged with your stories every time you pick up a book. Pickle was nearly 4 when this happened on a regular basis!
Read to them whenever you can sneak in a few minutes throughout the day. Some of my favorite times to read when my kids were young were at meal time when they were in high chairs and at bath time!
Even when they were playing with food or playing with bubbles and looking anywhere but at me, I knew they were listening, due to the sheer fact that they were so close and not wandering around the room.
6) The more you TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU READ, the more likely you will be developing reading habits in your kids!
Ask any adult who loves to read what they are reading, and they won’t stop talking about their latest favorite book. Why do you think there is a whole culture around book clubs?
In my experience, the same goes for children.
When I talk to my kids and my students about the books they are reading, they LOVE to tell me all about them.
Ask questions about what you are reading while you are reading. Make connections to books after you put those books down.
Even when you think you are putting on your best dramatic telling of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, it’s ok to stop and talk! Your kids will ask questions, and that’s awesome! You can also ask questions - and that’s even better.
Engage with them. Start a dialogue. Talk about what you see on the pages.
7) Create a BEDTIME READING HABIT!
Do your best to make reading an important part of your bedtime routine. If you start when your children are young, it’s more likely that as they get older, they will continue reading before they turn out their lights.
Will you be able to do this every day? Of course not!
Will it get too late some nights after school activities, baseball games, or an endless amount of homework? Yes.
Will you be losing your sanity some nights because all hell breaks out after school and you are counting down the moments till your kids are asleep and you have a few minutes to yourself? Yes, yes, yes!
Obviously, skipping nights is not a big deal. I promise. But the more you create a bedtime reading routine, the more habitual it will become, and the more likely you will raise kids who love to read.
8) Develop reading habits by giving your kids choice. LET THEM BE THE BOSS!
Giving your children choice over what they read is so very important. I can’t stress it enough.
So they want to read a Moana book over and over and over again? Or a Paw Patrol story? Or a novel you don’t think has any literary value?
I get it.
All of our kids get stuck on certain books that we think are just “eh.” But if they are reading, that’s the important part, and that’s what we need to focus on!
You can always suggest different books to your children. You can give them graphic novels, novels in verse, fantasy, contemporary fiction, whatever. But ultimately, while it’s great for you to recommend books you think they might love, let them make choices so long as the content of their chosen book is age appropriate. (Common Sense Media is a great website to help with that!)
The more you give kids ownership about what they read, the more they will enjoy spending time with their books. And the more they love spending time with their books, they more open they will be to your suggestion when you slip the next Newbery winner on the top of their TBR stack.
9) DON’T STOP READING ALOUD! Even when your kids can read themselves, keep reading together.
Pickle is reading, and I love it! But we still read aloud together, and I have no plans to change this. I won’t stop reading picture books with him, yet we’ve rotated easy chapter books into the mix, too.
It’s the BEST!
Reading aloud, even when your kids are big enough to read to themselves, has amazing benefits.
Not only will reading aloud with older children help you discuss difficult topics with which your kids may be grappling, but because you read a book about a child struggling with similar issues, your kids are much more inclined to talk.
Because books give you an “in.” When a topic arises “naturally” and as a result of something you’ve read together, it won’t feel like you are lecturing your kids. Stories help spark important conversations organically.
And let’s not forget some other, very important facts: reading aloud increases attention spans, creates moments of family bonding, and improves a child’s long term reading success by enhancing vocabulary, comprehension, and writing skills. And, of course, a child who is read to habitually in the home is much more inclined to gravitate towards books.
10) Our number one most important tip to help develop reading habits in your children: IF RAISING READERS IS YOUR GOAL, MAKE SURE YOU ARE MODELING THE BEHAVIOR YOURSELF.
If you want kind children, you need to be kind and compassionate yourself.
If you want children that are grateful, you better be modeling an attitude of gratitude.
If you want your children to read, make sure they see you reading!
It is tremendously important to me that my kids see me reading, especially because they see me on my gadgets a lot. Last year I became frustrated when I realized I was only reading books on my phone, because I knew there was no way for the boys to recognize that I was actually reading a great novel. (Don’t get me wrong - I LOVE my kindle. But all technology has its time and place!)
Thus, I made a big change at home.
When I’m in my house, I only read books. Real books. Not on my iPad, not on my Kindle. Just good old fashioned hardback or paperback books.
It’s made a big difference.
When my kids see me lying in bed with a book, they grab their own and jump in bed with me. When I’m on the couch with a book, they will come snuggle next to me with their books, too.
My favorite is when my little one asks “What’s mommy reading?” It gets me talking about my book, which then encourages my kids to talk about their books. And in my world, there’s nothing better than that.
So there you have it: the reading strategies I employ in our home. The jury is still out as to whether my boys will love to read as much as I do, but I’m doing to do my best to ensure I develop strong reading habits in them now, when they are just little boys.
The good news? I think my efforts are paying off.
I hope these tips are useful and easy to implement with your kiddos too. Good luck!