How to get your kid excited about reading

Great tips and ideas for raising a reader

Remember when your child first learned to read and wanted to sound out the words on everything from books to street signs? How come, just a few years later, that same child whines that “reading is boring”? According to Paul Kropp, author of How to Make Your Child a Reader for Life, kids often have a reading slump around grade three, when the type of books they read tends to change. “Instead of a 32-page picture book, they’re faced with a 120-page novel,” he explains. The result: Some kids grab an easy book or give up reading altogether. But, Kropp contends, “you don’t get smarter by reading what’s easy for you.” Here are his tips on inspiring young readers.

Do continue to read to your child Reading aloud allows you to introduce more sophisticated material than kids are capable of reading themselves. “It stretches them,” explains Kropp. You’re broadening their knowledge, opening up new forums for discussion at home, and giving them a taste for more complex stories, words and concepts.

Do cater to his interests Boys tend to “adore bombs, barf and bloodshed,” points out Kropp, as well as goofy humour like Captain Underpants. They also like to read for information, so even going through the Canadian Tire catalogue with dad can appeal. Use your knowledge of what your child enjoys, Kropp advises, to find books he’ll find hard to put down.

Do ask for suggestions from experts — of all kinds Teachers and librarians see lots of budding readers and can often suggest books that will engage them, but the ultimate expert in your child’s eyes may be a buddy. Says Kropp: “The friend recommendation is very powerful.”

Do launch a family book club Pick up the same book your child is reading and you have the stuff of great conversation. Got a villain in your story? You might say to your child, “That guy was such a creep! Why do you think he would do that?”

Do expand your concept of reading “You can’t be snobby about reading,” says Kropp. Every budding reader reads a lot of mundane material from cereal boxes to comic books to Twitter postings. It’s the nature of the process. “They’re getting good practice with simple material, becoming more confident as readers, and solidifying their skills,” he explains.

Don’t put a computer or TV in your kid’s room If there’s no electronic alternative, books become the only option. Kropp advocates maintaining a specific bedtime with time for reading, and telling your child, “If you can’t fall asleep, you can always read.”

Don’t nag For some kids, especially struggling readers, books cause anxiety. Even for strong readers, school’s emphasis on reading for performance can make reading seem like a chore. Put the fun back into it by picking up a book of jokes or humour, and reading it together at night. Or try storytelling — preferably with your child as the hero — which at least familiarizes him with the rhythm of a tale.