Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Isn't reading fun? Tips for raising a child who loves to read

The other day baby bookworm says to me after she finished "reading" a book (from memory):

 "That was a good book.  Isn't reading fun?"  

It was a moment I really wished I had caught on video.  It was a moment that made me feel like all my efforts over the past two years have paid off.

I have a toddler who thinks reading is fun.
Sister Bear from The Berenstain
Bears The Excuse Note - she
has a book with her everywhere
she goes!

Of course, I know I can't take all the credit for baby bookworm's love affair with books because there are some kids who just happen to be drawn to the act of sitting down and reading a book, and others who are not.  It is part of their individual temperament.

Whatever your child's temperament though - I think that getting children under the age of three interested in books and storytime is essential (any why I am devoted to blogging about it). Not only is it important for early literacy development, but it helps young children avoid becoming "reluctant readers" as they grow older.

If your child doesn't seem interested in shared reading experiences, I think as a parent then you have your work cut out for you.  And it is. hard. work.

What it is NOT is a convenient excuse to avoid storytime all together.

But, even though it is hard work, let me break it down for you in an easy way:
Any learning or educational situation will have conditions, methods, and outcomes.  You have to ask yourself what is the best method that I can use, given my conditions, to achieve my desired outcome.  A child's disinterest in books is a condition that needs to be aligned with the appropriate methods to help him build a love of books and reading, which is your ultimate goal!

Here are some tips that can help you raise a child who enjoys reading.

1. Begin reading to your child as early as possible.  I know it may sound crazy, but there has even been research conducted on pregnant women that has suggested that newborns can recognize stories that were read to them in utero. IN UTERO.  The point is, if a fetus is listening - a newborn is, too.  I offer some tips for reading with young children in my How To series.

2. Tailor your book selections to your child's interests.  I mention this all the time, but it's worth saying again.  You know your child best.  Don't choose books off of the best selling list if they won't interest your child.

3. Tailor your book selections to your child's abilities.  When selecting books, flip through the pages to see whether the language and number of words used matches your child's ability (not necessarily his age).  Moreover, if your child is active...find active books (like pop ups or lift the flap). If your child is social...find books with interesting characters.  If your child is musical...find sing-songy rhyming books.

4. Let your child "succeed".  Give your child a read aloud experience that he will want to repeat.  Provide praise where appropriate to allow your child to associate accomplishment with the act of reading.

5. Give your child a little control.  Let your child select a book or two to read together.  Giving a child a choice will send the message to him that his opinion is valued, and it will let him discover his own interests.

6. Be engaging.  Read those pages with passion!  If you seem excited and curious about the story, you will be more likely to elicit this same response in your child.  Emotions can be contagious, and young children are keen observers.  If they see how you react to reading with them, they will model your behavior.

7. Be sensitive to your child's cues.  Know when your child has had enough.  You want the shared reading experience to be positive - so if your child is rubbing his eyes, it might be time to call it a night.

8. Read and repeat.  If you've found a book and a reading situation that "works" for your child - do it again. Children learn through repetition; moreover, repeated exposure to the same book will increase the child's familiarity with it, which may help motivate him to read the next time!

Is your child a resistant reader?  If so, he might display some of the following behaviors.

  • consistent refusal to participate in shared reading experiences 
  • rarely or never initiating a shared reading experience 
  • tearing or marking the pages of books, hiding them, or throwing them away
  • crying, hitting, or screaming when a familiar adult tries to get him to engage in a shared reading experience
Has baby bookworm never torn or defaced a book?  Of course not!  In fact, I hate to admit this, but she threw this very Berenstain Bear book into the toilet today in an attempt to get my attention.  YIKES.

What you want to look for, however, is a consistent pattern of behaviors.  

It may take some true dedication if your child resists reading with you, but a love for reading and learning is one of the best (and most useful) gifts you can give him.


  1. Great list!!!!Reading in FUN places is motivating too! We brought farm books to the farm and snuggled in with my 2 year old next to a cow and read the cow book after book.

    1. That is a good suggestion, too! We have a "special" garden we like to read in that feels like a storybook itself! How great to be able to read about cows and have one right there!

  2. it so hard to understand a child who won't read, but sadly, there are kids out there who struggle! another tactic is to try audiobooks that indicate when to turn the page. Down by the Station is one of my faves.

    also try comic books!

    1. We love audio books! In fact, I have a post coming up on our favorites, although we generally use them in the car after having read the book together. I'll have to check that one out.


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