For many students, reading feels like just another required school activity. However, parents and educators know that reading has immense educational and developmental value for their students.
For instance, an article published by the Children’s Bureau notes that reading to your child from a young age promotes better focus, creativity, and overall cognitive development. Research also shows a clear correlation between students’ reading levels and their performance in school.
The benefits of reading extend far past school-age, however. As noted in the Children’s Bureau article,
“Reading is the key for lifelong learning, and if you can instill a love of reading at an early age, then a commitment to lifelong learning is sure to follow . . . Children who value books are motivated to read on their own, and will likely continue to practice independent reading throughout the rest of their lives.”
According to this research, reading is an incredibly important part of a child’s educational and personal development. The benefits of reading are felt in the present, but even more so in the future.
Since this is the case, how can parents encourage their children to enjoy reading and do it more often?
Based on research, here are 5 practical ways to encourage a love of reading in your children.
#1: Take off the Pressure
Many children are already struggling under the combined pressures of schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and family or educational expectations. If parents treat school as another thing that must be done, children will pick up on that. They’ll start to see reading as a chore, instead of something fun and exciting.
In an article on parents.com, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, a professor and author of Taking Back Childhood, is quoted as saying that too much pressure “can overshadow the joy” of reading. The article further explains that “[reading should be] light and fun. Books should make you laugh and smile, transport you to faraway lands, and transform you into dragon-slaying sleuths, making you feel all the feels along the way.”
If reading sessions are leaving your child in tears, let the pressure up on both your child and yourself — reading is meant to be fun!
#2: Read Together
As mentioned above, the benefits of reading with your child are deep and far-reaching. Early reading is extremely powerful for early cognitive development — as reported by a study on child development, the impact of reading is that
“Many existing connections among brain cells are strengthened. At the same time, new brain cells are formed, adding a bit more definition and complexity to the intricate circuitry that will remain largely in place for the rest of these children’s lives.”
Your child will benefit intellectually from reading with you forever!
However, reading with your children is also the perfect way to teach them to love reading. Many parents have a routine reading and cuddling time with their kids, which connects reading to the positive emotions of bonding and comfort. This teaches kids to view reading as a safe space in which to explore the world, develop imagination, and promote creativity.
As the article published by the Children’s Bureau states at its conclusion, “Reading aloud to children is truly the single-most important activity for building these understanding and skills essential for reading success that your child will carry with them all throughout their life.”
#3: Get Creative
Children are often placed within a constricting school environment long before they are cognitively ready for it. Young brains are designed for learning through play, not by sitting still — so doing more sitting still at home is likely the last thing your student will want to do!
The solution to this problem is to make reading as much fun as possible. This is yet another way to relieve pressure on your student by not treating reading as a homework assignment that has to happen every day!
This article from parents.com has several creative ideas for how to make reading fun again. For instance, try building a blanket fort by your child’s bookshelf. Cozy spaces that encourage reading will help your child see reading as an adventure and a positive experience. Another idea is to watch the corresponding movie as a family after you finish the book. Finally, consider if there are any ways to bring books to life through art projects such as painting, drawing, or sewing.
Combining imaginary with real experiences will help your child make that connection on their own when reading — their stories will come to life and they will learn to see reading as an exciting adventure!
#4: Limit Access to Technology
Although reading is both good fun and leads to many amazing benefits for children, fewer and fewer children are reading much on their own past the early grades. One reason for this may be a lack of time, but another is that many things are easier.
Parents, as hard-working adults you know this already. No matter how much you want to eat healthy, exercise more, and save intentionally, it is much easier to take the path of least resistance. This is just as true for your kids with reading!
While reading can be a wonderful and creative experience, it is also hard work. This means that there is an initial barrier your kids have to move past in order to help them learn to love reading.
One way to move your kids past this barrier is to limit their time with technology. Don’t frame this as a negative thing — for instance, “you may watch TV after you read a book.”
Instead, cultivate a learning atmosphere where the TV is rarely turned on, or is at least balanced with family reading time. Make reading the easiest leisure activity, and your children will be more likely to put in the hard work of reading
#5: Model Reading Yourself
And this brings us to another powerful way to encourage your children to read — by modeling this life-changing behavior for them!
The best way to show your children how much fun reading can be is by cultivating a love of reading yourself. Many parents have unfortunately also forgotten the delights of a good book, and only read the newspaper, articles on their phones, or the subtitles on TV.
Do your children and yourself a favor and read more often! Read publicly, and read with pleasure. Your children will pick up on your attitude toward the written word, and it will in turn shape their attitudes.
A Future of Readers
The future already belongs to readers — your goal is to train your children to really love reading and to join this promising group of people.
To recap, the 5 practical ways to do this are to take off the pressure, read together, get creative, limit access to technology, and model reading for your kids.
These steps may feel like a lot, depending on your current lifestyle. However, I encourage you to just incorporate one into your life — you may be surprised where it takes you.
If you agree that reading has immense benefits for children but you are short on time to choose level appropriate books or read with them, consider signing up for Read With You’s programs. We teach children to love reading by reading literature with them, practicing level-appropriate language skills, and cultivating curiosity. Students around the world have already experienced the benefit of our unique, literature-based tutoring model!