Raising a Reader

Instill a love of reading in your child.

In our technology-driven world, screen time and gadgets can be tough competition for reading. But there’s no doubt that reading is an important lifelong skill. Reading is fundamental to the basic activities of life. Reading is necessary for most jobs and helps us navigate the world. Reading helps us to become critical thinkers; it develops the mind and spurs imagination and creativity. Furthermore, reading is pleasurable. So, how do we convince a generation of kids to set aside the video games and pick up a book?

Start Early

Language development begins from day one, and it’s never too early to build a love of reading. Though your children may not utter their first words until about the age of one, rest assured they are hanging on every single one of your words. Reading begins with listening—thus, reading aloud to our kids is the first building block in raising a reader. Reading, writing, speaking, and listening are all connected.

Read aloud. Do it early and do it often. Your child needs to hear your intonation, engage his/her imagination, and enjoy the pleasure of the inevitable cuddling that comes with reading aloud.

Build a Language-Rich Environment

Make language, words, songs, rhymes, and riddles a fun, engaging part of your world. Research has shown that reading success is strongly correlated with the vocabulary level a child has at age four. How do you build vocabulary? Simple—talk to your child. A lot.

There are countless ways to build vocabulary without making it a chore. Sing the alphabet song. Play rhyming games in the car. Put labels on things in your environment—chair, table, shelf, mirror, etc. Finger paint the alphabet. Take turns telling stories—ask your child to look at a picture and tell you a story about it. In short, make it fun to engage in conversation.

Support the Stages of Reading

Reading unfolds in stages and it’s best to trust the process rather than trying to push the river. All kids learn differently. If your child has a good vocabulary (and eyesight) and is showing an interest in books, let the process unfold.

Often, the first step in learning to read is learning to write, though that may seem backwards. In fact, emergent writing indicates that a child is making a connection to letters and words and developing an understanding that words have meaning. Resist the urge to correct spelling and simply revel in the natural emergent writing process. It means you’ll have a reader on your hands in no time.

In addition, many kids will “pretend read.” This is perfectly normal and in fact, encouraged. Again, it shows an understanding that letters form words and words form sentences and sentences convey meaning.

Reading, Reading, and More Reading

Once your child has shown an interest in reading, your job is to support that interest in any way possible. Continue to read aloud. Talk to your child about the stories in books to assess comprehension. Provide access to books. Limit access to television. And perhaps most important—be a role model and let your child see you reading.

If you suspect a reading disability, first have your child’s eyesight checked. Next, consult a professional for additional support.

Below are some healthy reading habits:

  • Read aloud every day. Set aside a sacred reading time and adhere to it.
  • Visit the library each week. Children who have the privilege of choosing a variety of books each week tend to have more interest in reading.
  • Create a special reading zone in your home.
  • Visit local story hours.
  • Share reading. Once your child starts to read, take turns reading aloud.
  • Model reading. Kids do what their parents do.
  • Limit television and video games.
  • Encourage writing. Reading and writing are strongly linked. Involve your child in a number of writing activities—from making grocery lists to writing thank-you notes. Don’t worry about spelling; the process is what matters.
  • Have a “read-in.” Create a fun, family event and declare one evening a month a “read-in.” Make special treats. Set up special, cozy reading areas. Build forts. Gather a stack of books or magazines. The whole family reads.
  • “Publish” your kids’ books. If your child writes a story, consider binding it or publishing it in some way that makes it special. Create a bookshelf full of books written by family members.