How to rear an avid reader

kids reading

// by Shannon Beckham

Most parents and educators would agree that it’s not just important for kids to learn to read, it’s also just as important for kids to enjoy reading. Unfortunately, a love of reading doesn't always happen automatically. It needs to be nurtured and encouraged until the child grows into a well-read adult. It doesn’t matter if you have babies or teenagers—it’s never too late to get your kids hooked on books.

Just Do It
This is the tip that parents hear most, but reading to your kids doesn’t mean only little kids. Lots of parents stop reading to their children once they can read on their own, but big kids love to be read to also. Michelle Stinson, first grade teacher at Finnegan Elementary, tells parents to “get excited about reading, as it directly promotes your child’s excitement.” Once your children learn to read you can also partner-read with them. Allow your child to read a paragraph or chapter, and then you read a paragraph or chapter. When you’re reading to them it’s the perfect time to ask questions about the story and have them make predictions about what might happen next.

Love Your Library
Jacksonville has great libraries and some amazing children’s librarians. Not only do they offer story time programs for kids of all ages, but they are also a wonderful resource when it comes to helping your child find books they will love. Plus, everyone in your family, even little kids, can get a library card for free.

Let Them Read What They Want
Parents sometimes have a preconceived notion about what types of books their kids should be reading. But if you want your children to love to read, then you need to let them choose their own books. Does your child love horses or fairies? There’s a book for that. Looking for some gross toilet humor? There’s a whole series about that. If your child only wants to read comic books, let them. Stinson recommends that parents “Expose children to both fiction and nonfiction books. They love reading both.” Reading is reading, and if children are interested and engaged in what they are reading, they will want more of it.

Embrace the Series
When your child does find a particular series, author or genre that they love, be prepared to run with it. Elisha Carr, reading specialist at Seabreeze Elementary, says, “Kids often get wrapped up in a funny or adventurous series because it grabs their attention and they see the story unfold into more layers.” There is great satisfaction that can come from reading an entire series of books. That hunger for the next book can spark a love for reading that will edure.

Never Use Reading as a Punishment
This is a really tough rule that some parents may find themselves doing unintentionally. “Reading as a punishment kills any chance of that child reading just for fun,” Carr says. If you want your kids to love to read, then it should never be punitive, Carr goes on to add. “This sends a message that reading is not for enjoyment, it’s a consequence.”

Turn Off Electronics
If given the choice between watching tv, playing video games and reading, most kids would not choose to pick up a book. In our digital world, books aren’t always able to compete with the latest games and movies. Limiting screen time is just one way to encourage kids to find adventure in literature.

Make Time for Reading
In addition to turning off electronics, it’s important to make time for reading every day. For most families, this typically occurs in the evenings when the kids need to wind down. Carr urges parents, “Even after a long day at school and extra curricular activities, squeeze in that chapter a night or 10 minutes a day of reading.” Setting aside time for reading shows your kids that it is a priority for the family.

Make Books Part of your Family Culture
Books should be celebrated and cherished in your home. Encourage family and friends to give your kids books for holidays and birthdays. Likewise, Stinson recommends that parents “categorize books for different events like holidays and special times of year.” By making books part of your family values kids will learn to respect and value them. When it comes down to it, there are some kids who love to read and some who will need extra encouragement. However, the more kids read, the better readers they become. And that’s a lesson that will last a lifetime.