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6 simple ways to raise kids to love reading

By William Roberts & Natasha Zivanovic 3 min read
Thursday, October 01, 2020

Here are some ideas to get your family kickstarted on a brand new lease of life when it comes to reading.

Beyond reading to encourage literacy, reading also broadens a child's worldview and influences the level of education a child will attain. Now that we’re all stuck inside a little more than usual, reading is an even more vital tool for children to stay entertained, relaxed and inspired. So beyond the books themselves, how else can parents help their child learn to love reading?

Here are six simple ways to raise kids to love reading.

1. Children need books in the home to love reading

One of the biggest barriers to reading enjoyment is simply not having enough books at home. In order to keep your child’s interest piqued, it’s important to ensure they physically have enough reading material to keep them occupied—especially if they’re a fast and voracious reader.

According to Progress in International Reading Literacy, having books in the home is associated with both reading enjoyment and confidence. Of children who report having fewer than 10 books in their homes, 42 per cent say they do not like reading and only 32 per cent say they are "very confident" readers. For children who report having more than 200 books at home, only 12 per cent say they do not like reading and 73 per cent consider themselves "very confident" readers.

This doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune: Community and school libraries will lend you books completely free of charge, while charity shops and second-hand book stores can offer you some great deals.

2. Create a space for reading

Personal space is rarer than ever these days while we’re all stuck at home more than ever. However, it’s still worth trying to create a quiet, distraction-free area for your child to read in peace. It doesn’t have to be a large area, but it should be a space without any technological distractions, and could be either inside or outside.

A routine is paramount in sustaining children’s commitment to reading, and maintaining a regular, consistent space to read is one of the best ways to achieve that.

3. Interact with the text

Reading alone is great, but can be even better when complemented with a wider range of activities, such as creative writing, journaling and analysis. Encourage your child to keep a journal about what they’ve been reading.

This is also a great chance for some creative writing by asking them to continue a chapter using their own imagination, or perhaps rewrite a scene they’ve already read in their own words. There’s lots of evidence to show that reading skills are actively improved by writing, and vice versa. This is a fun, unique way to make that happen in tandem.

4. Read aloud to your kids or use an audiobook

Another great way to interact with the text is through reading aloud—whether they’re the ones talking or simply listening to someone else read the story. Reading aloud to your children doesn’t have to stop as soon as they get to a certain age: There’s no reason you can’t continue the tradition for as long as possible. Research has found that many children find this actively enjoyable and beneficial far beyond the early years.

Audiobooks are another great way to get the "read aloud" experience. Books read by professional actors or even the author themselves adds a whole new dimension, and can be listened to anywhere: In the car, during a walk or to relieve the boredom of doing chores around the house.

5. Model the love of reading 

It can be easy to forget that children learn from watching their parents. One of the best ways to encourage reading is to simply model that behaviour yourself. Make reading seem like an exciting, grown-up thing to do, and you’ll be surprised how quickly they’ll be clamouring to get a book in their hands.

By modelling good reading behaviour, you’ll be encouraging quiet time in the house, where everyone simply sits down and relaxes with their favourite story. This will no doubt have a positive trickle-down effect on your child: Even from the simple fact that reading has been shown to relieve stress better than walking, listening to music or tea drinking.

6. Challenge your child's reading comprehension

Following on from the last point around "grown-up" reading, why not challenge your child with books ever-so-slightly above their current level? If your child is getting bored with picture books, why not introduce them to the unfamiliar world of books without a single picture?

Getting the balance right is important, as you don’t want to discourage them with texts that are far too difficult. But if you can find the perfect sweet spot between challenge and enjoyment, you’ll be certain to raise a child who will have a lifelong love of reading.

In order to make the adjustment as smooth as possible, read these books with your child initially, helping them with any unfamiliar words. Eventually, they’ll be confident enough to take the challenging new book into their own hands.

William Roberts is the head of library at Waverley College and Natasha Zivanovic is Waverley College's primary literacy and innovation teacher.