One of the greatest gifts we can give our children, beyond keeping them safe, healthy, and loved, is to instill in them a love of reading. Learning to read can be tricky for some, yes, but along with stimulating their imagination, strong reading skills are also the basis for learning all other subjects they come across.
If you start reading to your children at an early age, they will develop better communication skills, and be able to concentrate and focus with more ease later in life. In the first six years of their lives, children learn at a much faster rate than at any other time in their lives. When a young child is taught to read, it has a profound impact on the function and development of their brain. Really, there's no time to waste when it comes to reading!
Believe it or not, storytelling isn't just reserved for bedtime. It's a great way to bond with one another and relax after a day at school. It also isn't just for little kids. Bigger kids also enjoy being read to or reading out aloud to their parents. However, we need to keep in mind that not every kid loves to read. For some parents, it's a struggle to get their child to pick up a book.
Some children are reluctant to read because they don't read so well or because, quite simply, they haven't yet learned to appreciate how great books really are. Maybe they just haven't stumbled upon the right book yet. Sadly, there's no magic potion to get your kids to start reading, but what you can do is check out our six tips on how to make reading more fun!
1. Let Them Pick Out What They Want to Read
As tempting as it may be to try to encourage your child to read a book that you think they should be reading, let them decide. Reading should be fun and not a chore. It's incredibly important to start fostering their love of reading at an early age, so don't sweat it if your child picks a book that you think is silly, boring, or too basic. As long as they're enjoying it, then it doesn't matter.
Children don't have to learn something every time they read a book. While kids are learning to read, they could—and should—also just read for fun, even if they're just looking at the pictures. It should become second nature to them. So, whether it's a comic book, a chapter book, a picture book, an instruction manual, or a recipe, don't judge or discourage them, just let them enjoy the experience.
Once they see their peers reading, you'll soon find them naturally gravitating towards more "age-appropriate" material. What's more, if a book is too challenging or not interesting enough to them, they might lost their confidence, which will put them off reading altogether. So, follow their pace, let them read what they want (as long as it's not inappropriate!) and remember that every child learns at different speeds and has different interests, but they all get there in the end.
When my son was in the first grade, he would literally take 10 books out of the library at a time. His choice would range from chapter books like Diary Of A Wimpy Kid and Big Nate, to picture books such as, well, anything by Mo Willems. At first I couldn't understand why, despite being a very competent reader, he kept choosing "baby" books. I was tempted to dissuade him from reading them,but then I started to appreciate their appeal.
He loved reading, but he also loved drawing and found the adorable pictures in the Mo Willems' books fun to look at and a challenge to copy. Not to mention that the stories were so sweet,innocent, and endearingly simplistic that they were a pleasure to read (and I used to enjoy him reading them to me way more than I enjoyed hearing about badly behaved middle school kids). I'm glad I didn't interfere with his book choices. It certainly didn't affect his reading ability. He's now in the fifth grade and still walks around with 10 books—no more Mo Willems, though.
2. Engage Your Kids by Reading to Them
Kids love being read to. Choose a book they're interested in, put on your best storytelling voice, snuggle up comfortably, and just start reading. Have fun with it and be playful. Engage your children by using different voices for different characters. It doesn't need to be an Oscar-winning performance, it just needs to be fun.
Take the time to look at the pictures and talk about what's happening in the images and how it relates to the story. Ask them open-ended questions, such as what they think is going to happen next, and maybe take turns reading.
3. Help Them Learn Sight Words through Scavenger Hunts
Picking up sight words plays a huge role in your child’s process of learning how to read. A great way to help your child with their sight words is to use flashcards or make a scavenger hunt.
Write out the sight words of your choice on brightly-colored post-it notes, and hide them on walls around the house (in places that are not too hard to find, if you don’t want your kid to lose interest!). Call out a word and have your child hunt it down. See how many words your child can find in a set amount of time. It's a game you can play time and time again.
4. Don’t Forget to Rinse and Repeat
Before you throw a book at the wall in frustration after reading it for the 100th time in a month , remind yourself that young children learn through repetition. They love hearing familiar stories and it's comforting to them.
A 2011 study showed that kids who were read the same book over and over again were able to remember and retain the meaning of new words better than the children who were read different books each time. Try letting them tell you the story (if they can't or don't want to read it to you). Look at the images and let them recount what happened. It'll make it fun for your child and save your sanity.
5. Take Your Stories Outside for More Fun
Reading about the Mad Hatter’s tea party? Why not make your own? Is your story set in a forest? Pack up a picnic and head down to your nearest forest (or park) and read your story there. Set the scene of your book by trying to replicate what you can—whether you find a special place or dress up as a certain character, bring the book to life. Create those special memories for your child and you'll soon find that that might become their new favorite book!
6. Make Sure to Be as Creative as Possible
If your child is into dinosaurs, borrow a book from the library about dinosaurs, get out their favorite dinos, and act out the story. If your child enjoys horseback riding, find a story about horses, and see if they can relate to it. If your child loves cookies, get out a cookbook, read the recipe together, and start baking! Don't forget to send them to the Get Qurious HQ for us to taste!