Books are a wonderland to me! Storybooks, in particular. I love embarking on a little adventure every time I sit down with one. An old favorite classic, or a brand new and unknown tale, the joy I find in read is one of the most important things I want to be able to give my children.
We already have a few voracious little bookworms in the house, and it’s one of the ways we connect most as a family. Here a some of the main things I do to help inspire my kids to read on!
I read out loud to them!
Parents are encouraged to “read to the kids” so often that it can become like white noise. But don’t ignore this advice, it pays off big time!
But it’s not just about the words they hear, I believe it makes an enormous difference who is reading to my children. While a story can be wonderful from anyone, when I myself am reading to me children, it becomes more than just a story. It’s a connection with me. It’s way to show them I love them, and it means more when we share a story together!
We also listen to lots of audio books together. This is special in another way, and can show them different styles of storytelling. I LOVE Audible.com and we try to listen to at least one book every month on Audible. We just finished “Babe” and before that “Mary Poppins”, “Little Women” and “Anne of Green Gables”.
Quality always matters
Not all books are worth reading. There, I said it! As someone who loves good literature, I’m quite picky about the books that we read and let our kids read. There are seemingly endless resources for wonderful books, so don’t settle for dumbed down ones.
Super simple books are sometimes my favorites. But sadly many books are only produced to make money, and are not well written, don’t have engaging characters or story lines, and have pages filled with words yet no real substance.
I’m particularly thinking of stories that are re-tellings of movies or about TV characters. Many of these books count on the cover to sell the book, and are not really worth reading.
Sometimes my kids will pick up one of these stories, read a bit and say “This is dull.” I agree. And then they go back to reading Frog and Toad books, which may be to easy for their reading level but are ever so clever, and certainly worth another read.
Read new things and re-read old things
We have a wonderful collections of favorite books, and we are always re-reading them. We also are always looking for new adventures on pages. We love both, we need both.
Re-reading old favorites is a wonderful way for my children to develop their story telling skills, because they are not at all concerned about following the storyline or stumbling through new vocabulary. Many of our best books they have nearly have memorized, and they can just focus on enjoying the story!
Engage with the story together!
We love to talk about the story after it’s done and often even when there has been a significant plot change or a character has done something notable.
I ask questions like “Why did he say that mean thing to his friend?” or “Do you think he is going to make it on time if he does that?” or “Is this a good plan?”
My kids LOVE engaging with the story like this. It keeps them hungry for more and eagerly reading on to see what happens!
If the story is one they already know, they love pointing out when the characters make a vital mistake or noticing details that are going to be a major plot point later in the story.
Re-tell the story!
This doesn’t come naturally to all children, but it’s such an important part of learning to enjoy reading! Stories and interesting things we read aren’t just a momentary pleasure, they are a memory that can be recalled over and over again, and enjoyed some more.
My kids can hardly wait to re-tell the stories they heard or read to their Dad, or anyone who will listen. In fact, my seven year old will often disappear with a book for an hour then come back and give the FULL very detail account of everything that just happened to his characters (he is currently reading one of the best series, The Boxcar Children.)
Even the books that I am reading, though they are out of my children’s interest level right now, are very interesting to me and they often ask me what it is that I’m reading about. I LOVE giving them a synopsis and my thoughts on characters or subject matter.
Teach them to read as soon as they are ready
My kids have all been ready to learn to read at about age 4-5. This was the age that they had developed the skill to concentrate and apply themselves to learning phonics.
It takes work and I wanted to be careful that I did not press them into learning before they were ready. There is no hurry, if they love books and stories, they will be ready to read soon enough.
My kids have learned to read from my favorite phonics book, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I cannot recommend this book highly enough! I will definitely do a full review soon, but let me just say, it works! In 100 lessons, my kids were reading at a solid 2nd grade level, and enjoying it! And it has a follow-along script for parents as they teach, so it can truly work for anyone, even if you do not think you are a gifted teacher.
In the mean time, toddlerhood is really where the love of reading starts. Both my husband and I read out loud to all our kids, everyday. We read fiction, history, Bible, poetry, or books that helps us learn about other things we are interested in, like cooking, gardening, farming and all of it!
Get them books about things they are interested in!
My kids are much more likely to want to read books that are about the things they love. My oldest is a horse lover like myself, so all books about horses are welcome! She is currently reading my childhood favorite, “King of the Wind.” Some of my other favorite horse books are “Misty of Chincoteague” and “Black Beauty”, and of course “The Horse and His Boy”.
My littler kids do love all books, but my girl is particularly interested in ballerinas or thing of a fancy nature! She loves the classic editions of “Angelina Ballerina” (and the illustrations are some of my all time favorites). And my little boys cannot get enough of the critters in Mercer Meyers books. (“Just Go To Bed!” is my favorite!) The drawings are hilarious beyond description, I can’t get enough of them either! And we all love the poor old Henry the Duck in “Henry’s Awful Mistake”.
Keep required reading short and sweet!
Since my children are homeschooled, I do require them to read every day. My favorite school readers are the “Pathway Readers”. I highly recommend these wonderful books! They start at the basic phonics level and go all the way up through 8th grade level. They follow many of the same characters, and they have excellent companion workbooks.
However, weather my kids are reading Pathway or something thing else for their assigned reading, it’s always just about one chapter, or about 10-15 minutes of reading per day, and I won’t push it past that for the time being. They almost always end up reading more one their own, but I am quite careful to make sure that reading stays primarily about pleasure, and not about work.
If my kids are struggling with reading level of a book, I will often read a paragraph, then have them read the following one, and we switch on and off. This helps the story keep moving along quickly, and helps them not to get frustrated.
If we are doing a phonics lesson, I help them sound out words and practice them. BUT, if we are reading strictly for fun, I don’t make them stop if they pronounce a word wrong, or if they ask what a difficult word is, I just say it and we move ahead with the story. I never pause int he middle of a sentence to practice phonics. Cause that is a killjoy. Yes it is.
Have them read out loud every day
While my kids do enjoy just reading to themselves, it’s also really important for them to practice reading out loud. One of the ways we practice this is to have the bigger kids read story books to the younger kids. Of course, the little kids love this so much, and it helps them bond as siblings too!
Because both my husband and I read out loud to our kids everyday, they are willing and eager to read out loud themselves. In fact, if they read something particularly interesting (or about a character that is particularly shocking) they can hardly wait to read it out to us!
Reading out loud is about sharing a pleasure, so if my children do read something out loud, I’m careful to truly engage with it and let them know that I enjoyed what they shared with me!
Always acknowledge their efforts!
I love to praise my children, but I’m careful to do so in an honest way. Rather than telling them that they are the best readers in the whole wide world (flattery) I let them know that I noticed how much faster they are reading these days (genuine observation).
I also let them know that I am proud of their progress, however small that may be. I have guided their progress, but it’s really they who put in the hours of work. That is no small feat, and it deserves praise!
Build up skills, slowly and steadily
This is about laying a foundation, not about cramming as many books into their heads as possible, or checking off achievement boxes.
If this all seems overwhelming, do not fear. It takes time to build a genuine love of books and a culture of delight around the written word. Start small, a book or two a day, a poem here and there, and Bible story before bed are a wonderful place to begin.
Some children may never turn into books worms, but that doesn’t mean they can develop a genuine joy in reading and telling stories, and connecting with their family in this wonderful way!
Never stop reading to them…ever!
Even when the going gets tough, through good times and bad, I have never stopped reading out loud to my children. True, sometimes I would read out loud because I was to sick or tired to do anything else. But I’ll always be reading out loud to my kids, in every season, about all subject matter. Some serious, some humorous, some packed with helpful information, and some pure frivolity.
I truly believe that the number one reason my children love to read is because both myself and my husband love to read. They see how much we enjoy reading, and they are eager to have that joy for themselves, and share it with their family.
Did you grow up in a reading family, and do you want the same for yours? My parents read out loud to me and my siblings very frequently, and our whole family still shares a love of literature. I’d love to hear how you and your family enjoy books, and if you feel it brings you closer together (I know it does for this family!)