One goal of most homeschooling families is to raise a life-long reader. We hope that reading for pleasure as children translates into being adults who read! But how do we as parents assist our children in the goal of carrying books into their adulthood? How do we encourage our reluctant readers to stop the grumbling and learn to enjoy the books we put in front of them?
Some of our young children will naturally grab a book and dive in. But others will need a lot of prompting and patience. Just like some children gobble up their vegetables (those children exist, right?) and some need weeks, months, or even years to become comfortable consuming foods that are good for their bodies. Books are the leafy greens for our minds! And spending time encouraging our children to love reading is a worthy endeavor. Here’s how!
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Start reading at a young age
The first way to ensure our children are life-long readers is to start reading to them at a very early age. We’re talking infancy. This sets the stage for our children to want to read for pleasure once they learn to read for themselves. But there are so many other natural benefits that go beyond these goals.
Studies show that reading to babies…
- models communication skills
- promotes early literacy skills
- stimulates cognitive thinking skills
- enhances memory
- presents an opportunity for bonding
- introduces concepts like numbers, letter, shapes, and colors
- gives our babies information about the world around them
Snuggling up with our babies to explore a book helps them (and us!) associate reading with feelings of contentment, security, and love. And reading to our children as babies means we have a better chance of continuing to read aloud to our children as toddlers, preschoolers, elementary schoolers, and beyond!
So scoop that baby up into your lap for story-time. Provide lots of board books for exploring, flipping through, and chewing on. Enlist an older sibling to read a silly nursery rhyme. Make a short picture book a part of your daily bedtime routine. Read, read, read.
Provide a feast to raise a life-long reader
A strategy we use in our family to assist in our goal of raising life-long readers is tucking books into every corner of our home. We have hundreds and hundreds of books, which are appropriate for every age and stage. Each of our 8 children have a loaded bookshelf in their bedrooms. Our homeschool room has even more books to enjoy. And we always have a stack from the library waiting for us to plow through.
On homeschooling days, I require my Elementary aged kids have 20 minutes of silent reading after their English lessons. I allow them to chose the material (as long as it is somewhat grade level appropriate). This ensures reading is a part of their daily routine.
Of course, none of us can make our children enjoy reading. Especially once they reach a certain age. The idea is to offer a feast of beautiful books that they can pick and choose from, always having one available that they are sure to enjoy. (I do this for myself as well. I never let my “to be read” stack get too low without replenishing it. This way I never use the excuse, “I don’t know what to read next”!)
read-aloud to all ages
“One of the greatest gifts adults can give – to their offspring and to their society – is to read to children.” – Carl Sagan
This is a tip that I learned years ago from Sarah Mackenzie of The Read Aloud Revival podcast. Most of us know that it is beneficial to read to our babies (as mentioned above). But so many of us stop reading to our children once they learn how to read for themselves. I’m here to tell you that we should make reading aloud to our children a priority FAR beyond that stage if we are intent on raising life-long readers!
And here’s why. Reading great books aloud to our children…
- Bonds parent and child over stories
- Gives kids a boost in their academic skills
- Helps them develop empathy and compassion
- Inspires kids to live as heroes
I have read dozens of chapter books to my older children and it is something we all enjoy. Could they read those same books silently to themselves? Yes. Will I continue to read aloud to them for as long as possible. Also yes.
be a mom who reads
This may be the most important tip to raise a life-long reader. We can impliment all of the ideas above perfectly, but our goals will fall flat if our kids don’t see us reading. Our children need to know that we want them to read for pleasure because reading is fun and important.
My kids know that I read a wide variety of genres and always have a book in my purse. I talk about the books I am reading with them. When I get library books for them, I also grab a giant stack for me. And my bookshelf is bigger than theirs! Haha! Most importantly, they know that my very favorite way to unwind is to grab the latest mystery title and head to my bathtub.
Teaching our children a life skill will never reach as far as modeling that skill. These types of lessons are caught, not taught. Our kids care way more about what they see us DO than what they hear us SAY. So pick-up that novel you’ve been putting off. Set aside time to sit down under a fluffy blanket with a cup of coffee and enjoy the story. Your kids will thank you for it later!
Helpful resources for How to raise a life-long reader
The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller
For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time by Jamie C. Martin
Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt
Honey for a Teen’s Heart by Gladys Hunt & Barbara Hampton
The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie
As always, you can learn more about our big family fun over at Meet Tanna from Megavan Mama.