Kai from Fiction State of Mind is hosting a week-long event called the Family Reading Challenge. Her goal is to encourage and inspire families to read more this summer. She asked me to write a guest post about how my reading habits developed and how I encourage my own children to read. I hope you enjoy this post because I had a lot of fun writing it.
I didn’t become a reader because I was interested in stories. I became a reader because my parents encouraged my interest in it. When I was in kindergarten I had a hard time learning to read. At that age, most kids are beginners but for some reason I just couldn’t get it. I stumbled over word after word and everyone, (including myself), hated it when I was picked to read aloud. Reading became something to dread.
Everything changed the summer after kindergarten. At that time my father was a stay-at-home dad who tirelessly spent hours teaching me how to read while taking care of my brother and me. My mother bought me book after book though we couldn’t afford it. My parents saw that I was determined to learn and they did everything that they could to help. Their encouragement is one of the many things that have stayed with me over the years. I look at their example to help guide my own parenting.
As a single mother, now it’s my turn to focus that same attention on my children. Here’s a few that I’ve learned over to years to encourage my children to read. Even if you’re not a big reader, there are still ways to get your children and maybe even you to pick up a book this summer and help stop summer slide in its tracks.
- Be open to your child’s interests. My children have been interested in everything from science to bugs to cookbooks. If my children are interested in it, we read about it. One of my kids may be the next James Beard, Marie Claire, or Zora Neal Hurston. Their interests are my interests. It’s just that simple.
- The easiest way to get your reluctant reader to read a book is to read one yourself. There are several books I’ve tried urging my kids to read to no avail. It was only when I read the book and the kids seen me laughing that they became interested. You can’t expect your children to read if it’s not a behavior you model.
- Books are cheap! My mother taught me that as a child. She used to buy my books from thrift stores. More than twenty years later, you can still find me in the book sections of nearby thrift stores scouring for books for my family. I also buy books from my local library that are usually a dollar or less each. Check your local library and see how often they sell books from their collections or donations. Some of the bigger library systems in my area hold sales once a month where patrons can buy a bag full of books for $10. There’s used bookstores where you can trade old books in for new-to-you ones. You can also find children’s books in .99¢ stores and yard sales.
- Get a library card! As long as you live in the area that you’re getting a library card, most library cards are free.
- Ask your children’s librarian for recommendations. It’s okay if you don’t know where to start. That’s what they’re there for.
- Summer reading club! Besides the warm weather and the end of school, my kids know that it’s summer when our library hosts its annual summer reading club. The program is always simple plus prizes are given out along with an end-of-summer party. When I sign my kids up for the program, I sign up for it too. Most libraries also have a summer reading program for adults.
- Bedtime reading. Though rain, shine, or migraine I read to my children every night. It’s a way for us to wind down and spend time together.
- The power of a good narrator. Audio books are a great way to get reluctant readers interested in books. My kids and I check out audio books along with a print copy that they can listen to at anytime. Audio books are also good for young children who don’t know how to read.
- Graphic novels. Sometimes adults miss the value of comic books by thinking that it’s a format that’s “too easy” to read. The best graphic novels are books that show the best of art and words. This is a format that offers a lot of excellent reads for people of all ages especially children.
- Books-to-movies. When my children and I decided to host our own family reading club years ago, one of the ways I encouraged reading was to read a book and then watch the movie version. Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, and others played across our TV screens as we watched and discussed which was better: the movie or the book.
That’s my take on encouraging children to read more. Is there anything you think I left out?
Recommended reads for parents:
The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
100 Best Books for Children by Anita Silvey
The Rights of the Reader by Daniel Pennac