Here’s a little secret I’ve learned over time as a teacher and as a parent. How you handle books will eventually influence how your kids treat them. Children naturally follow your lead, so if they see that you enjoy reading and treat books with care, they will likely do the same.
Every parent wants their child to enjoy reading, but ironically, many have a way of messing up the inherently joyful act of reading a good book. One of the most crucial ways you can instill the love of reading in your kids is to show them what it is like to read for sheer pleasure. It really is that simple. Demonstrate what it is like to get lost in a great adventure full of mystery and intrigue, and be swept away from everyday life for a few minutes. Let them see what it is like to feel the emotion of a great novel. Exemplify how exciting it is to feel the pages of a new book, and to get lost in their own imagination.
Here are five easy ways to help you children fall in love with reading:
• Put real books in their hands. In a world of eBooks and apps, there is nothing quite like a good old-fashioned book. Not all books are created equally, so skip those commercially made books sold to schools and look for authentic children’s books written by well respected authors, with well-developed characters and plot lines.
• Read out loud to your kids often. Doing this allows the magic of your child’s imagination to run free during a book. Even when your child can read on their own, nothing is more powerful than the mental images that are conjured up in their minds when they listen to you read a good book.
• Have a conversation with your kids while they read. Engaging your child in a conversation before, during, and after reading a book has a very strong correlation to their literary strength later in life. When your child interrupts you in the middle of a sentence to make a connection to something they have seen or heard in the real world, it’s an incredible thing; they are beginning to visualize, infer, think, and increase their knowledge of the world around them.
• Make your time reading with your kids a special time free of distractions. Never rush the process of reading a book. Hold your child. Read for them, to them and with them. You might even enjoy a great children’s book as much as they do!
• Show your child how much you love books and let them see you reading. First and foremost, teach your children to respect books. Make books part of your family routine every day and show your kids how useful and gratifying reading can be in real life. Hug your books and tell your child how much you love books. Share stories about your experiences with books and be gentle with them. We treat the things we love carefully, and by treating our books with respect and love, we are showing our kids that books have value.
Even if you do all of these things, I can’t promise that your child will become a literary genius; what I can promise you is that somewhere down the road of life, you will realize that you had a strong influence on your child’s love of reading. The desire to read and the interest in a good book is an invaluable gift that you can offer your child, and one that is well worth the investment.