My 10-year-old son loves reading. Although his love extends to playing video games and hockey, he always has at least one novel on the go. My husband and I keep track of the chapter books our son has read on the fridge, and he’s just shy of 200! With my help, my son has learned to love reading and in turn, reignited my passion for books.
Now we read together: at the park, in the car (when my hubby is driving, of course) and on vacation.
Every so often, my friends will ask me how we got him to love reading, and three main things stand out when I think about his journey. Here's how you can instill a love for books in your child.
When my son was born, I already had a bookshelf built for him. We started with toddler books, then story books and now we have a floor-to-ceiling IKEA bookcase filled to the brim with chapter books, graphic novels and multiple series of young adult fiction books. Since our son's birth, we’ve kept books everywhere: plastic books for the bath, books near the toilet (for, when, you know) and I always keep new titles in the car and on the coffee table that I rotate regularly.
There isn’t a room in our house that doesn’t have reading material.
Part of this is thanks to our beloved local library. I’ve been taking my bean there since he could walk – he’d kick off his shoes in the children’s section, collect a pile of books and sit down to go through them. He was always excited when we got home to read the wide variety of books he found: funny comic books, instructional cooking and craft books, informative history and science books. He had his first library card when he was six.
Every member of our family has a magazine subscription. While my husband and I receive our own magazines, our son loves flipping through kiddie ones like Chickadee, Owl, the American classic kids’ Highlights magazine and National Geographic Kids. It’s always fun when they arrive in the mail. Plus, magazines are lightweight, thin and can easily be toted around.
Keeping books or magazines at arm’s reach will encourage your child to read when they’re bored, whether they’re sitting on the potty or need a screentime break.
I always encouraged my son to read, and it helped to celebrate different milestones. We’d often track his progress in a fun, visual way. One summer, we created The Very Hungry Caterpillar on his door with colored circles I’d cut out—each time he completed a book, we added a circle, and he loved the challenge of building the longest caterpillar possible.
When he completed his very first chapter book from the Stink Moody series (a great one to start with, by the way), we proudly put it on display for weeks. Then we started tracking how many chapter books he’d read on the side of the fridge, first with English chapter books and now with French, too. Everyone who comes into our kitchen asks about all the tally marks on the refrigerator, and my son is always proud to explain what it is.
After he hit 100 chapter books, we added a little reward system. While some parents will balk at the idea of rewarding a child for simply reading a book, for a lot of kids, this is a very big accomplishment! Being able to sit quietly and concentrate on the same book for several days (or weeks) takes a lot of discipline, and some kids really thrive on rewards.
It doesn’t have to be anything big: a trip to the bookstore to buy new books, an ice cream or a late night might be the incentive they need to stick to reading. The best part? They’ll be building their love for books. Trust me.
While reading at the kitchen table or on the couch is easy, you know what’s really fun? Curling up with a blanket outside on a cool fall afternoon with a hot chocolate and a great book. Or sitting at a café, or reading in a tent. Reading is fun by nature, but it can be even more enjoyable when it’s an experience.
My son and I's go-to reading spot is down by the St. Lawrence River – I park our SUV backward to face the water, pop open the trunk, bring fun snacks and pillows and sit in the back of the car to read and admire the scenery. Whenever we go on vacation, we’ll find little nooks at the hotel or cool places in the city we’re visiting that are fun for reading – it’s always a part of our trip.
Sometimes, it’s the surroundings that can make reading so much more fun. The change of scenery from home can help spark a new interest in reading.
Reading shouldn’t be a chore. While it seems to be the one steady homework assignment my fifth grader has had since kindergarten (read every day in both languages), that doesn’t mean it has to be a mundane task every night. Leave books around the house so even if they read in five-minute increments throughout the day, it adds up to their required reading time.
There are so many different types of books, formats of books and endless subject material – get out there and explore how vast and interesting reading can be! It'll help your child develop a healthy habit they’ll carry with them throughout their life. And who knows—it just might inspire you to crack open a great book too!
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