“I just don’t like reading.”
“I’m not a big reader.”
“Reading is boring.”
“Reading is hard.”
The number of times I’ve heard this from both students and adults is staggering. Quite frankly, it’s terrifying.
Reading is one of the single greatest skills you can give to a child to help them succeed. It improves everything from test scores to abstract thought to problem solving, yet it is so hard to get some children to read. But here’s the really uncomfortable part: it doesn’t matter what happens at school, if the home environment doesn’t encourage reading, the child will not grow up reading well.
And this year? The home environment is even more important! For many parents, school is at home, and the struggle to balance online learning with all the other responsibilities is creating a beast of a problem. To try and ease your stress, put away all the nonsense and the demands of school and relax into learning by creating an environment that encourages reading, creating, and thinking.
Building a culture of literacy in the home is so important and honestly, you might be doing more of these things than you realize.
Surround Them with Books
In order to get kids interested in reading, they have to have books. All the books. Fiction, nonfiction, magazines, picture books, poetry, etc. This could easily break the bank if you head to Barnes and Noble and by off the shelf, but it doesn’t have to cost your entire paycheck. Thrift stores, garage sales, used bookstores, Craigslist, and even the library are great resources to find books cheaply!
Children need to associate reading with pleasure and there is something about curling up with loved one and listening to a beautiful story (often with fun pictures) that creates all the feelings. Read to your children. Every day. Even if you can only manage five minutes. It doesn’t even matter how old the children are. As a teacher, I would read aloud to middle school students. AND THEY LOVED IT.
Let Them See You Read
This might be a struggle if you are someone who doesn’t like to read or sit still. Children imitate what you do, and if they see you reading regularly it becomes a part of their family identity. You actions speak far louder than words. If you don’t like books, try magazines or newspapers. Try a nonfiction book or a coffee table book (which, let’s be honest, are picture books for adults, and I love it.) Just please don’t use your phone or device. Let them see the actual book or newspaper in your hand.
Make Regular Trips to the Library
Make the library a regular place you visit. Let kids get excited about picking books and bringing them home, even if they just look at the pictures. Let them explore their interests and try new things. Don’t worry if your ten-year-old only wants to get picture books, or if your child isn’t interested in reading more “high-brow” literature. The library is carte blanche to get anything and everything because IT’S FREE.
Listen to Audiobooks
This is a recent discovery for me. Instead of falling back on the TV when you need a break, what if you turned on an audiobook for your children to listen to while you cook supper or work? There are plenty of apps, some free some not, that you can download books and listen to them. We naturally love listening to stories, and for many struggling readers, listening is much easier. If you don’t think your children are ready for that, you could try finding videos of read alouds online. The point is to surrounding them with stories.
Talk about Books
Make books and stories part of your regular conversation. Talk about something you are reading and what gets you excited about it. Ask you children what they are reading and whether or not they like it, but don’t dismiss your child’s opinion. Let them dislike certain books, even if you love them. (Points to self.) Let them share funny or silly things they are reading and laugh with them.
The biggest thing to remember is to create an environment where reading is a regular practice, something we do for enjoyment and learning, and a part of our everyday lives. If you’re new at this, start small. Try reading aloud with your children for a few minutes every night, then slowly build up and add more.
The goal is to help your children become lifelong readers, and creating an environment that encourages reading will help them get there.