Books can open up so many worlds for kids, and parents may be wondering how to instill a love of reading. Kids can find inspiration in books through many different starting points: some may pick up a lasting reading habit after consuming a really fun page-turner, while others might learn to love reading after seeing their family members regularly engrossed in books. Even a reluctant reader has the potential to turn into a child who loves to read.
Here are some suggestions from Common Sense Media for encouraging a healthy reading habit that will stick with your child for life:
Continue reading aloud
Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers benefit from being read to every day, but they aren’t the only ones. Even after kids learn to read by themselves, they might enjoy a family tradition of reading a longer book out loud every night and following along with the plot as they bond with parents. Reading aloud to kids has other benefits too, like increased brain activity, better social-emotional development, and reduced chance for aggressive behavior.
Get hooked on a series
When a juicy plot continues into another book, and another—you’ve got yourself a serial reader! For example, younger kids will enjoy following along with memorable characters like Ling and Ting (in the series by Grace Lin) or Ramona Quimby (in the series by Beverly Cleary). Older kids might have fun getting roped into an addictive, suspenseful series like Harry Potter, Legend, or The Hunger Games.
Dive into a genre
Your kid might become obsessed with science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or another genre. And even if you don’t consider it sophisticated literature, it’s still helping to form the healthy habit of reading, and can lead to an appreciation of other genres as well. So don’t be afraid to try out different genres until you hit on one that your child loves, and let them read as many books as they want to in that vein.
Find inspiration in a favorite author
If your kid enjoys one book, seek out more by that author—it’s a perfect way to keep up the reading momentum, and get your kid excited for a trip to the library or bookstore. Kids might get a kick out of getting some of the related books that appear in thumbnail images on the back of a favorite book, or finding the section of the shelf that houses a certain prolific author’s work and trying to read every single one.
Find books about topics your child loves
Whatever obsession your child might have—from ballerinas to sea animals to construction vehicles—there’s probably a book about that topic for your child’s reading level, so that’s a great place to start getting excited about reading. If you can’t find what you’re looking for online, ask a librarian, teacher, or bookseller for suggestions.
Try some classics
Your kids might also enjoy books that you liked when you were younger, classics that people are still in love with, or modern classics that everyone has been raving about lately. There’s a reason that certain books become timeless and universal, and one of these all-time favorites might happen to click with your young reader.
There’s nothing wrong with humor, or comics
Sometimes books that are hilarious or downright mischievous are what hook kids on reading, and that’s okay. Plus, graphic novels and comics most certainly count as reading too. Both humor and graphic novels can be ideal entry points into learning to love books. If you think the content might be questionable, then simply follow along and discuss the plot with them. Just because your child is reading about troublemakers doesn’t mean they’re going to become one.
Ebooks on the Kindle, Nook, or iPad can be convenient for traveling and for quickly acquiring the next book your child wants—and they’ve been shown to be engaging for kids, especially boys and reluctant readers. But your best bet is to stick with the ebooks that look like paper books, without too many distracting bells and whistles.
Create a family culture of reading
Find ways to fit books into everyday life so they become as natural as other family routines and activities. In addition to reading at bedtime, you can bring books on vacations, and to read while waiting for doctor’s appointments. Start a tradition of picking out new books at the library or bookstore once a month or once a week. Read aloud or act out your favorite book series on Saturday mornings after pancake breakfast. Turn the TV and other devices off in the evenings and encourage family reading time instead.
If you keep showing them the versatile value of books, your child will naturally start turning to books when they’re looking for information, inspiration, fun, or relaxation.