How Families Can Foster a Love of Reading in Their Children
Habits are actions or practices identically repeated at predictable times. They can be as simple as washing your hands before meals or as complex as a holiday celebration. The routines become not just part of us but they become us. A love of reading can be instilled in a child from infancy and become part of their lives as well, becoming as natural as any other routine.
Love of reading is fostered at home by creating a language-rich environment for children. Before setting up this environment though, parents and parents-to-be must have an honest conversation with themselves and each other about their own relationship to reading, whether for pleasure or for learning. As a parent or caregiver, you are your child’s first role model. You are the one they will emulate. Being truthful to yourself and your partner about your relationship to reading will help you choose ways to make a language-rich home for your child that works for you.
The Importance of Shared Reading
The first step in becoming a reader is learning oral language. We instinctively talk to our babies for a good reason: to teach them one of our primary means of communication. Grandparents and other relatives telling stories around the holiday table is an example of not only the spoken word, but also of the structure of a good story. Through storytelling experiences, children absorb the fundamentals of story and through shared reading connect the spoken word to text. Sharing board books with your baby is a first step to help them connect words to pictures. For toddlers and preschoolers, reading aloud is the bridge from a child’s understanding of oral language to the written word. If you make one-on-one story time with your child special it will only increase the joy of your child’s experience.
When shared reading time is approached as a chore, an adult unfortunately models that reading is an unwelcome necessity. Those negative messages will be absorbed by the child: reading is not a welcome pastime. Even if you yourself are not a big reader, shared story time for ten to fifteen minutes a day can set the stage for a child’s love of reading as long as the experience is enjoyable. That means putting social media and work aside, for a complete immersion into story sharing. Asking questions throughout the book is okay. It can start a dialogue between you and your child reinforcing the connection between oral language and text. Ask simple questions like how did that story make you feel? Sharing your own feelings about the story with your child also helps start a conversation.
Bring Reading Into the Home
In addition to shared reading time, having readily available language activities in the home makes it easier for your child to interact with story. Here are some ways to do this.
- Create a reading nook with a comfy chair, favorite books, and even a tablet loaded with digital books.
- If you’re not a book reader, are you a magazine reader? Consider subscribing to a children’s magazine. If your child loves nature try one of the nature magazines. It's imperative that you yourself be interested in the topic. Ask your child to share what they’ve read or read it together.
- Fill your phone with age-appropriate digital books. Language game apps can be fun and educationally appropriate, but it is “teaching” children to read through games. It is not reading. Download fascinating children’s books with stories you think your child will enjoy, either to read or listen to.
- Listen to audiobooks in the car. If it’s your turn to take everyone to and from sport practice, choose a book with stories related to sports. The shared conversation around an audio book is just as important as listening to the book, especially for younger children as they begin to comprehend stories, characters, and structure.
- Read the book before watching the movie. Again, this leads to great conversations about the differences between the two. With discussion, children can practice elaborating their opinions.
- Go to the library and allow your child to choose and check out books even if they can only look at the pictures.
- Attend library story times and other activities.
- Allow books to be left around the house. You want books to be the easiest thing for a child to reach for. Books scattered around the house are not messy clutter, but rather tools to help your child develop into a well-read critical thinker.
- Read your child’s favorite books over and over. Try not to act bored. For young children, especially, rereading books is age-appropriate: they are learning something new every time they hear the story.
- Try to read more. For some parents this might mean reading a magazine a week, while for others it might mean listening to an audiobook while making dinner. Showing your child that there is entertainment beyond a phone or video is important.
Helping your child love reading takes time. If one of the suggestions above doesn’t work then try another until you discover what works for you and your family. Reading is a large part of our lives, so instilling it as a joyful act can only add to your child’s future.
- “How to Raise a Reader,” The New York Times
- “18 Genius Ways to Make Kids Love Reading,” Parents.com
- “5 Ways to Raise a Reader…Starting from Birth,” Zero to Three
About the Author
V. Kulikow is a former Montessori teacher and youth services librarian. She currently works as a UX designer and enjoys content creation both with words and images. On weekends you can find her gardening, taking nature photos, and working on her garden design certification through the Native Plant Trust.
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The opinions expressed in Montessori Life are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of AMS.