Updated: May 7
As children learn and grow, reading can broaden their imagination, their ability to problem solve, think critically, and find creative solutions to problems. Reading isn’t just about words, language, and communication, it’s so much more. This is why teaching children to love reading is so important. Here are some helpful tips on how to do just that.
Don’t Force Kids to Read
Sometimes as parents we want the best for our kids, at their expense. It’s not on purpose, and it’s well-intended. Especially with our first kids, we want to do every “right” so we may think, “I need my kid to read by age 5 so I have to start teaching them everything now.”… “Oh no they don’t want to read right now, too bad they need to it’s good for their development.” I can tell you right now forcing a child to read is counter-productive.
Kids lose their love of reading when they’re forced to read and it gives them a negative memory associated with reading. This is why it’s important to never force them to sit down and read. But, there are ways to make reading fun, so they ask to read more often.
Always allow your child to pick the story they want to read.
Even if you limited their options to five books, they need the opportunity to pick the book, even if you’ve read it a hundred times. Children re-read the story for a reason. Each time they read it or you read it to them they are getting something new from the book.
Incorporate Movement into Storytime
Why do adults insist on small children sitting still when we can barely do it for our work meetings? Movement does not detract their attention from the story. In fact, if done right you can instill MORE learning and retention by adding movement moments during story time. Now, some stories lend themselves better than others to movement moments. They may have a sing-song rhyme and prompt you when you’re supposed to clap, stomp, or ROAR. Others may not, but you may be able to sit down and think of ways for your kids to mimic what’s happening in the story.
Books like “Ten Tiny Toes”, “Barnyard Dance”, and “When I’m Feeling Red” already make incorporating movement easy. In other books, you’ll have to look at the pages, ask them to show you how the character may walk, jump, stomp, spin, clap, and so on. Are you reading about a train? Lift your arm up and down and say, “Choo choo!” Whenever the train is on the page before or after you start reading. The options are limited only to the imagination.
Note: For ages 0 to 2 it’s okay for them to wander the room and play with a toy as you read.
Complete the Sentence
Books with rhyme and repetition make it easy for small children to remember what words will be said on the page. Allow them to finish the sentence or say the words that rhyme as you read. If your voice trails off, it’s a signal to your child they get to say the word without you having to tell them to finish the line or say the keyword. When I trail off I like to make my voice slowly go to a high pitch as an added clue I want my kids to say the next word in the sentence or story.
Books that have one word on each page are great for early language development. You can read it through a few times, then go ahead and have your toddler say what the words are, based on the images on the pages. They’ll know more than you may realize the first time they try. You can guide them and say the words to remind them, have them repeat it after you say it, and then they’ll learn it for the next time they give the book a pass through.
Point and Question
Point to part of the page and ask your child a question based on age and ability level. You may what them to identify the object. PRAISE THEM when they participate. Make this a fun exciting experience, like a game of sorts. Or you may want them to identify colors, count, or make the sound of the object or animal.
As your children get older ask them about their thoughts on the story. Talk about how the characters feel or how they feel as you read together. You can swap between critical thinking questions and simple recall to see if they are following what is happening in the story. It’s neat to see your child articulate the subject and summarize the story for you. Then, you can talk about the purpose and meaning behind the story. What do they think? What do you think? These things build a special memory and bonding time between you and your child.
Dress Up and Activities
Pretending to be characters in the book, dressing up like the characters, or pretending to be yourselves in the story are super fun and great ways to get your child to love reading. You can find printable pages, games, and other fun activities that you can do with your child that use themes or characters from their favorite book. You can do this with your topic or book of the week as well. The important thing is to ensure your kids are having fun with whatever game or activity you’re playing. Be sure to tell them this is related to the book. This way they associate books with a fun time and special memory.