Reading helps develop the mind, ignites the imagination, and opens up pathways to endless learning. These tips will help you with raising kids who love to read!
Reading is important. I don’t think anyone would debate that. However, knowing when and how to start down that path to teaching your kids to love reading can be confusing. It’s a topic I’ve researched quite a bit, but I’ve also taken full advantage of one of the best sources available to me- my friend, Alison. She has a BS in Elementary Education as well as a Masters in Education in Literacy. She is obviously passionate about kids and reading. I’m grateful she has shared so much of her wonderful insight with me over the past few years. It has worked so well for our family and I’m excited to share it with you today!
Let’s start with the most obvious.
Read aloud to your child.
Then read aloud some more. This is often one of the most common suggestions, but making sure you do it early and often is super important. Read to your child before you think you should. Read your child books IN THE WOMB. If you have an older child at home, you are probably doing this without realizing it. But for first time moms – read to your belly. No joke. If this is ridiculous to you or impossible, then read to your baby starting the day you get home. Every day. Make it part of your daily routine. 15-20 minutes every single day. This can be in 5 minute intervals or all in one shot. The more you read, the more they hear different words, the way you read with expression, the speed you read, and the way you speak. Vocabulary is one of the best early indicators of a child’s success in reading.
Narrate life to your child.
I’m so glad this is a suggestion because when I started doing it when Hailey was a baby, I felt like a crazy person. However, I found it would hold her attention, so I walked through life narrating my every move. Now I’m emptying the dish washer. Oh look, a fork. The fork goes in the silverware drawer over here. You get it. I sounded nuts, but kids learn vocabulary and speaking from you, so chat it up!
Let young kids “pretend read.”
When kids are young, let them make up the words to stories they may know well or just make them up by looking at the pictures. This gives them confidence and helps them use the pictures as context clues. It also can spark the joy in the adventures and stories that reading will bring to them.
Talk about letter names AND letter sounds.
I remember talking with Alison in length about this one, as she told me how important it is for kids to know sounds, maybe even before letter names. Work on naming uppercase and lowercase letters (usually starting with upper), but also concentrate on the sound they make, since that is what will help with reading. Recognizing”D” is good, but knowing it says /d/ will be essential in learning to read.
Practice pulling words apart by the sounds.
Pull apart the letter sounds in simple words, like D-O-G and then put it together to get DOG. One book I’ve used with Hailey, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, employs a technique that has really worked for us called “say it fast” and helps to take individual sounds and push them together to read a word.
Have your child take apart DOG and ask them what sounds they hear. This is phoneme segmentation and blending and being able to manipulate the sounds in words helps kids learn how to decode unknown words. You want this skill to become automatic. You want them to know the sounds and break them apart with speed AND accuracy so that decoding an unknown word while reading a text doesn’t take too long (which then impacts comprehension). Have them tell you what sounds they hear at the beginning of the word, then once they master that move to identifying the sound at the end of the word, then tackle the sound in the middle of the word. We are just talking sounds — even if they don’t know what that sound is called (the letter name) they can still tell you what they hear.
Talk about the books you read to them.
Once your kids are past infancy and are able to be more engaged in the stories, take it another level and talk about books with your kids. Discuss the who, what, why, when, where, and how. Hailey loves this “game” and will go on and on, basically retelling me the story. At Kaitlyn’s current level (2 years old), I have her point things in the book out. For example, the dog is on the ladder. Can you find the dog? Then she will point to it on the ladder, helping her to learn new words (ladder) within the context of the story.
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Listen to books.
Check your local library, as ours has a good selection of both song and story CDs for the car (which the girls LOVE), as well as CDs that come with books so kids can follow along, and finally CDs that are full of just stories, which is what we are currently listening to in our car. The one we have now is 5 CDs worth of Disney stories, but I am looking at getting this music/story combo since it’s Kaitlyn’s favorite show.
Talk about rhyming words.
In the early years, start talking about which words rhyme. Ask them: do these rhyme? Can you rhyme with this word? Can you tell me two rhyming words? Being able to segment words into single phonemes is a great predictor in the child’s ability to later decode words.
Read what interests your kids.
Get a library card and let them go crazy. Ok, not crazy, but let them decide which books interests them and read those. We do a lot of ocean and space, since Hailey is really into those topics. Oh, and plenty (and plenty and plenty) of princesses. Hailey’s hands-down favorite current book is Illustrated Fairy Tales. The stories are a little quirky, have a good amount of detail, but are short enough to make ideal bedtime stories. In fact, I am in love with all of these books since discovering them at a homeschool conference. They are so well-made, sturdy, and entertaining that I plan on ordering several more soon.
Get into series.
There are so many wonderful series available for kids. Getting kids hooked on certain characters will fuel their desire to read more. I mean, how many other people loved The Babysitters Club as much as I did?! Also, don’t discount magazines and non-fiction, which can work well for reluctant readers.
Don’t use reading as punishment.
Keep a positive connotation with reading. Make it fun and pleasurable; never enforce reading as discipline.
Let them see you read and enjoy reading.
Oh I am so anxious to have a family reading hour, but until then I try to pull out one of my books, even if it’s just for 15 minutes, while the girls play. I want them to see me enjoying books too.
A special thanks to Alison for sharing her knowledge with me and now with you. Developing reading skills and sparking excitement over books starts at home, long before school comes into play, so let’s keep pulling out those books (even that same one over and over and over!).
What has helped spark your child’s interest in reading?
What are you child’s favorite books?
I’m thinking of ordering this set for Hailey’s birthday in September.
For more on teaching kids to read, Alison recommends this book.