Reading is good for you—and we’re not just saying that because we’re in the book business.
Seriously! Not only are books good escapist fun, but lifelong reading habits are linked to all sorts of wonderful literacy-based skills, including grammar, vocabulary, comprehension, and writing ability.
Studies show that avid readers enjoy benefits like boosted intelligence, more accurate memories, and increased empathy. Bookworms tend to do better in school as well, and test higher on standardized tests like the SATs.
Plus, reading is good for your health as well as your mind.
Research indicates that exercising your brain through activities like reading, puzzles, and chess can decrease your chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Reading acts as a serious stress reliever as well, and can even help you sleep if you read before bed.
As you can see, there are tons of reasons why you should get your kids hooked on reading today—but unfortunately, it’s not always easy.
How to Get Kids to Read
I myself was a bookworm from Day One.
I treasured my family’s weekly trips to the library, and I always rode home with a stack of books higher than my head. I looked forward to long car trips (good reading time) and even got myself a private reading lamp for such occasions (streetlamps make for spotty reading lights). I would race through my homework every night just for the chance to dive back into my favorite book.
Needless to say, not all kids are like that.
In fact, when I was young, a lot of my friends hated reading. And even in the age of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, there are still tons of unmotivated young readers out there for one reason or another.
Some kids find reading too difficult. Others don’t think reading is “cool.” Still others just don’t seem to enjoy it—or are distracted by other activities in their lives. Not to mention that smartphones and laptops and other devices are quickly replacing the book as a source of entertainment for all age groups, kids included.
7 Techniques to Get Kids Hooked on Reading
But even if the kids in your life are reluctant readers, there are still ways to change their minds—and turn them on to the wonderful magic of books. For you parents and teachers—or aunts and uncles or occasional babysitters or whoever—reading along at home, here are 7 dynamite techniques you can use to encourage kids to read.
1. Start Young
A reading habit is just that—a habit. And habits form when kids are little.
Introduce your children to the magic of reading when they’re young and impressionable. If books are a fun part of their lives from an early age, they’ll be much more likely to continue seeking out books as they grow older and their lives get busier.
2. Read to Your Kids
Make a habit of reading aloud to your children—often. Not only will this raise their interest in books, but these shared reading sessions are an excellent chance to bond with your kids. Even a reluctant reader can get something out of listening to a chapter or two of a great book—and the more you read to them, the more likely they’ll be to seek out books on their own.
In some cases, audiobooks can take the place of reading aloud, especially on long car trips with the family.
Also, read-aloud time doesn’t have to stop as a child grows older. Even teenagers can enjoy being read to—just so long as you age up the material for a more mature audience.
Editor’s Note: For added read-aloud fun, many modern picture books—like David Ezra Stein’s Interrupting Chicken or the Pigeon Who… series—inject their stories with a healthy helping of comedy and snark, which can be particularly engaging for young readers. Reading these aloud to your kids can turn bedtime into quite a performance, especially if you give the characters the silly voices they deserve.
3. Read What They Like
Don’t despair if your children say that reading is “boring”—that might just mean you haven’t found books that ignite their imagination yet.
Consider your child’s interests. If your son can’t stop talking about that family trip to the amusement park, get him a book about roller coasters. If your daughter’s into the macabre, find her something from the creepier side of the fiction spectrum.
And once you’ve narrowed down what your kids like to read, help them discover more books in that particular genre. Lots of libraries have “Reads-Like” programs to help readers find similar books to their favorites, and your local librarian would be more than happy to make recommendations as well.
And don’t think you have to limit your child’s reading to just books either! Graphic novels, comic books, magazines, blogs, and newspapers are all acceptable reading material, and reading them can be just as good for their development as books in many cases.
4. Talk About Books
The magic of books shouldn’t stop after the story is over.
Turn the act of reading into a shared experience between you and your child. If you’ve got a chapter book you’re working through as a bedtime story, talk about what you read the night before. Ask about your children’s favorite characters or what they think will happen next in the story.
Not only will this further engage your kids in their reading life, but it encourages them to think closely about what they read, helping them learn from their reading experiences—and retain what they learn. See? Reading equals life skills!
5. Read the Book, See the Movie
Turning books into blockbuster movies is big business these days, and you can use this trend to encourage your kids’ budding interest in reading.
For instance: When my parents decided I was old enough to watch the Lord of the Rings movies, they first dug their old copies of J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous trilogy out of storage. It was only after I’d read all three books that we sat down to watch the movies together, and afterwards we discussed all the differences between what I’d read and what I’d seen.
Reward your child’s reading by taking them to the movie version of a story they loved—or conversely, show them a movie, then get them the book it’s based on.
Tell them how much more story content a book can contain than a film. Discuss the differences between different versions of the same story. If your child likes a movie based on a book, get them more books by that same author.
Use film as a way to expand your child’s hunger for narrative—then feed it with books.
6. Make Time for Reading
We lead busy lives, and our kids are no exception.
Between school, homework, extracurricular activities, chores, and social obligations, kids these days don’t actually have a whole lot of “down time.” So when your children don’t want to read for pleasure, it might simply be because they’d rather spend their few moments of free time doing something else.
This highlights the need for a structured reading time during each day. At school, this often takes the form of a Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) session, but at home this can be nightly bedtime stories or simply a daily “reading hour.”
Consider making the hour before bedtime a “no screens” time—not only will limiting your children’s screen time help them wind down for sleep, but it will encourage them to look to books as an alternate source of entertainment.
7. Be a Reading Role Model
Urging your children to read is all well and good, but if they don’t see you reading, your advice is bound to ring hollow.
Lead by example. Make reading a part of your routine if you want it to be a part of theirs. If your child is assigned a book to read at school, read it with her, then discuss it together. Take an interest in what your child is reading, and talk about whatever books you’re reading at the time as well.
Create a “book-friendly” house. Keep your bookshelves stocked, and keep appropriate books on shelves your child can reach. Make a cozy “reading nook” somewhere in your home that both you and your child can use.
Your children look up to you—if they know how much you love reading, they’ll be much more likely to share your enthusiasm. And if you make books a part of your everyday life, you’ll get all the sweet benefits of a regular reading habit that your child will.
Do you have a reluctant reader in your home? What are some techniques you’ve used to foster a love of learning in your kids? Tell your story in the comments section below.