Cultivating the Habit of Reading in Your Children
One of my favorite quotes about reading is Ray Bradbury’s “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
We want to raise children who read because we know that reading opens doors for a child. A child who loves reading can entertain himself for hours and teach himself many things. The more he reads, the more curious he gets, and we want to nurture that curiosity and feed it.
There are many ways to build a culture of reading in the home. Here are some that have worked for our family.
- Buy books. We don’t have the latest or best TVs or phones, we don’t subscribe to cable. But we do buy LOTS OF BOOKS.
- Read books. Your child needs to see you reading. Your example is key.
- Read aloud to your children, and as they grow older, ask them to read to you as well as to each other.
- If you want your child to read a particular book and he’s being reticent, try reading portions of it aloud, a few minutes at a time, and see if it piques his interest. Sometimes a little teaser is all they need.
- Read everywhere: at lunchtime or teatime, at the checkout line, while waiting at the doctor’s or dentist’s office, at the airport while waiting for your flight. We never leave the house without at least a book or two each.
- Listen to audiobooks. They work wonderfully well for long and boring car rides, especially when you’re stuck in traffic! You could get an education just by listening to audiobooks especially if you spend a lot of time in your car.
- Get comfortable around books. Visit bookstores, libraries, book sales. You don’t have to have a lot of money to read a lot. There are even places where you can get books for free. (A tip to my fellow book addicts: Check out booksalefinder.com for book sales near you!)
- Teach your kids the importance of wrestling with a word they can’t read well or that they don’t understand. Eventually they won’t shy away from wrestling with sentences, or entire paragraphs. This exercise in perseverance will serve them well in the future when they are assigned reading material they don’t particularly enjoy.
- Keep booklists, so you can refer to them before a trip to the library or bookstore, and especially before gift-giving time during birthdays and other holidays. Every time I come across a good booklist, I keep it in my files, or I add the link to a notepad file that I have for the purpose.
- Get them around other readers. The love of books is something that’s easily shared and cements friendships, and they will benefit from having peers they can discuss the books they read with.
- If you have older kids, ask them regularly: What are you reading now? Keep abreast of their “reading life” so you can recommend books that might help them with something they’re struggling with, or books that can enrich their worldview, or one that will make them laugh.
- Tell them how excited you are about the book that you’re reading. Enthusiasm is contagious.
- Log the books you/they read. A simple notebook will do, and children can maintain their own log if they like. It’s helpful to keep track of what books are shaping their thinking and it will be a pleasure for them to look back at these lists as they grow older.
And more great suggestions from our PinayVoices editors:
@candicetolentino: Read first, then watch. We decided to let our daughter watch the first Narnia movie but only after we had finished one or two Narnia books. We read aloud and she enjoyed it immensely! She associates read-alouds with affection, perhaps because we started with a really good book that made her love reading.
- Notice what the child is currently interested in and give him books on that.
- If parents are not readers themselves, it’s never too late to acquire the habit.
- It’s not enough to inculcate the habit of reading; it’s also important to teach children to be discerning about what they read. One of my pet peeves is when people defend reading a certain book when it’s criticized by saying, “But it gets kids into reading!” That should not be the only criteria.
- Keep it fun! The surest way to kill the desire to read in children is to treat it like a requirement.