Whether they are toddlers or teens, reading with your children will enhance their education while strengthening your connections as a family. Short on ideas for motivating your kids to pick up a book? Never fear, with the following ideas, nurturing your children's journey into a world of wonder, exploration and information is as easy as ABC.
Audiobooks: Although reading one-on-one with an actual person is ideal, studies show that children can improve their reading skills by following along in a book while listening to a recording of the text. Families who listen to audiobooks together create common literary ground and a new way to connect. And let’s not forget one final benefit to audio books: mom and dad can give their voice boxes a rest.
Build listening stamina: Your toddler is not going to sit still for The House at Pooh Corner, on the first go. Begin your read-aloud journey with simple, short books. Build up to longer picture books and then those with fewer pictures and more text. Reading together regularly will increase your child’s attention span.
Connect books to your child’s life: Whether it is a fascination with bees, a family crisis or a question about why the worms come out of the ground when it rains, there is a book to share on the topic.
Discussions: Pause occasionally in your reading to ask questions, clarify details and wonder what will happen next. Talk about whether you liked or didn’t like the book and why.
Enjoy what you read: There is no rule that says you have to finish a book; if your child finds your selection dull, choose another.
Flashlights or reading lights: Bestow these on your children and let them read for a bit after “lights out.” Let them think they are getting away with something and you’ll add to reading’s allure.
Give books as gifts: Nothing says “reading is important” like providing a child with books on special occasions.
Hideaway: Create a private book-nook for your budding reader. Toss a beanbag chair and a blanket beside a low bookshelf full of enticing titles.
Independence: Allow children to choose their own books, even if that means a year of graphic novels and repeating the same titles.
Journal: Funny quotes? Breathtaking description? Capture them in a reading journal.
Keep track of the books you read: Celebrate your shared-reading accomplishments at the end of the year. Your reading list will become a family time capsule of your reading journey.
Local library: A no-cost reading and educational celebration, the library should be the second home of every family with children. Story-times and activities for all ages will build your child’s enthusiasm for the printed page. Visit often and come home with armloads of books to share.
Magazines: Even in our high-tech world, who doesn’t love getting mail? High-quality, advertisement-free literary magazines and publications covering science, history and more are available for children as young as one year. Your child will drop everything when the latest issue arrives with her name on it. Newspapers: Start them out with the “funnies” and eventually children will find their way to other sections.
Organize a book club: Older readers can share books with peers, but even pre-readers can participate in a parent-child group if an adult reads with them. Parents can more easily help facilitate book groups for children when they have read the books themselves.
Provide choices: The library is your best resource here. Bring home anything that might appeal to your child, as well as books you’re not sure about. This is especially true when a child launches into independence with short “easy-reader” books. Kids feel immense pride making their way through a series of the simplest readers, but they are less likely to read them over and over again. Be ready for them with incrementally more challenging books.
Quiet time: Reserve time each day for everyone to read without distractions.
Reading streak: Alice Ozma and her father never imagined where they would end up when they agreed to read together for 100 days in a row. At the end of their 100 days they decided to continue, and managed to read every day for eight years. Learn more about their journey at www.makeareadingpromise.com, and then challenge your family to read every day for a set number of days.
Series: Read aloud the first book of a series to capture your child’s interest then provide sequels for independent reading time.
Tweens and teens: Don’t stop reading to them! If you have stopped, see if you can lure them back in. What is your teen reading for freshman English? Offer to read it to him, or pick up your own copy and chat about it over dinner. A commitment to spending even a few minutes each evening reading together will strengthen your connection. At the very least you will cultivate a common topic of discussion.
Used book stores: Book lovers often suffer from a passionate need to own the books they love. To avoid your bank account suffering as well, visit second-hand stores and used book sales for more sustainable purchases.
Voices: Engage listeners young and old by reading with enthusiasm, rhythm and by using different voices for the characters. Be bold; your skill and confidence will grow over time.
Write your own stories: Children need to know that any story they write is a “real” story, worthy of your attention. Take dictation from small children and those with limited writing or keyboarding speed.
Xample: That’s you! Find time to read on your own as well as to and with your children.
Y A: The ever-growing young-adult book market bridges the gap from tween to adult with potentially sensitive subject matter. Seek suggestions from teachers and youth librarians as younger readers gravitate toward the teen section.
Zzzz: Maintain a bedtime-story routine. As tempting as it may be to skip the story as punishment for rowdy behavior or when you are short on time or patience, read anyway. A routine, even if you need to shorten it, will help your child relax and reinforce reading’s importance.
Heather Lee Leap has read countless stories and books out loud, including the entire Harry Potter series—twice. Her children complain when their dad takes over a reading session because he doesn’t do the voices right. Heather cautions that the read-aloud lifestyle can become an addiction, but is well worth it.
M is for magazine, something that’s a thrill to read, especially when it arrives in the mailbox with your child’s name on it:
- "Letters for Kids," twice monthly letters in the mail written by middle-grade and young adult authors for $4.50/month.
- Cricket Magazine Group offers multiple publications for toddlers through teens in a wide range of subjects.
- "New Moon" for ages 8 and up, brings girls’ voices to the world.
- "Ranger Rick" and "Ranger Rick Jr." Nature magazines from the National Wildlife Federation.
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