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How to Raise Kids Who Love to Read

Woman reading to a young child using a flashlight under a sheet fort
Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock

Looking to pass your love of reading on to your children (or perhaps foster a new appreciation for reading together)? Here’s how to raise a household of book lovers.

Why Raise Readers?

If you take a moment to dig into them, there are quite a few sobering statistics about literacy in the United States. More than 30 million adults in the United States cannot read, write, or do math problems above third-grade levels. Studies show that children who have parents with low literacy levels have a 72 percent chance of reading at lower levels, too, according to Concordia University.

In addition to enhancing life skills, regular reading habits may contribute to a longer life. Researchers at Yale discovered that individuals who spent 30 minutes a day reading over several years lived an average of two years longer than those who didn’t read at all.

Other reading benefits include:

  • More empathy and emotional intelligence
  • Stress relief
  • Better sleep
  • Better memory skills
  • Increased vocabulary
  • It’s fun!

While educational television shows can keep your little ones entertained, they can make it harder for them to develop longer attention spans, and remove the social experience of reading (particularly with younger kids who rely on a parent or older sibling to read to them).

The odds are that if you’re taking the time to read this, you already know the benefits of reading. Now, it’s time to help your little ones find a love for the hobby. Here are a few ways you can help create a passion for reading in your children.

Read to Your Child

Spending as little as 15 to 20 minutes reading to your younger children can help improve their vocabulary and attention spans. Plus, reading is the perfect time to get those snuggles in. While books on tape are a great option, reading from a physical book ensures you’re both involved in the story, and the tactile experience of turning a page has added benefits.

When your child learns to read for themselves, you should continue reading to them. Many people stop reading to kids as soon as they are old enough to read on their own, but the benefits of reading aloud to kids extend well beyond early childhood. Just like in early childhood, you can read books that are challenging and beyond their current abilities. Further, it demonstrates a continuing appreciation for reading and models that reading is a fun and enjoyable activity.

Not sure what to read? Jim Trelease’s iconic The Read-Aloud Handbook is a fantastic book that includes extensive reading lists grouped by age.

Talk About What You’re Reading

On a related note, make sure to let your kids ask questions about the story or vocabulary words they might not understand. You can also ask questions about the story to make sure they understand what’s going on, and find out what they think could happen.

Book read-aloud sessions are a time-honored way to engage in conversations with kids and help them develop critical thinking skills and ask questions about the world around themselves.

Keep Books Accessible

Little ones can turn books into fire kindling faster than a toupee vanishing in a hurricane, so stick with books that are, from a durability standpoint, age appropriate. Many stores sell soft books and cardboard books for young children. Keep books at their level so they can grab a book to read or look at easily. Here, you can steal a trick from bookstores and libraries: place some of the books facing out, so the covers capture their attention.

As your kids get older, you can introduce more delicate books, again, placing them in more accessible places.

Let Them See You Read

One of the easiest ways to foster a reading environment is to lead by example. Did you know that 24 percent of adult Americans admitted they hadn’t read a single book (whole or part) in the last year? If your kids see that you enjoy reading, they’re more likely to follow in your footsteps.

Reading for enjoyment is just as important as reading educational materials, so don’t shy away from Harry Potter or Twilight if that’s what you enjoy. Kids aren’t going to judge the literary merit of what you enjoy reading; they’re just going to imitate your reading habit.

Take Your Kids to the Library

Want cheap entertainment? Head to your local library. You can check out books, magazines, CDs (yes, they still exist), and DVDs for free!

Libraries are a little hipper than they used to be. Most host activities for kids and teens and many feature comfortable reading nooks to make your visit more relaxing. The library is a great way to help your child explore their reading interests, too. If they don’t finish a book or hate a story, they can take it back, and you don’t have to feel like you wasted money.

Create a Set Reading Time

Have a specific time set aside each night (or even a few days per week), where family members can snuggle down in a common area and read together quietly. Try always to have the reading time scheduled at the same time, so it’s a little harder to skip.

Try Audiobooks

Going on a trip? Pick out a book and listen to it while you ride. Listening to a book in the car can make traveling more fun (and encourage kids to spend less time on their electronics). Toss on a book while the kids do their chores or during quiet time. Some kids may enjoy reading better if they can doodle or work on a craft while they listen to a story.

Your children may not ever turn into total book nerds, but you can encourage an appreciation, and even enjoyment, of reading by making it a fun activity you do together from a young age.

Angela Brown Angela Brown
Angela has 14 years of writing and editing experience, including as a reporter and copy editor for two newspapers. Angela has a Bachelor's in communication with minors in creative and technical writing from BYU-Idaho. She works closely with real-estate and financial industry clients. Read Full Bio »
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