Can’t figure out how to get your child to put down the video game controller and pick up a book? Many parents have concerns about how much their kids read, and it has them asking questions like:
How can I get my kid to read on their own?
What counts as “good” reading material?
What can I do to make reading enjoyable for my child?
Reading is a journey. It’s a long developmental road because it’s not just one thing – it’s a lot of things, and all of them come together in an incredibly complex way. In HelloJoey’s “Redefining Reading” kit, we explore how reading develops and how parents can support that process and encourage their kids to read by:
encouraging storytelling and sharing stories.
letting your child read what they like.
making reading fun.
Share stories to promote reading
You might think of reading as the ability to translate those squiggles we call letters into words and then put those words together to understand sentences, but at its base, reading is communication. It’s being able to connect with others by sharing stories, and no matter what the age of your child, sharing stories is an important element for promoting reading.
For pre-readers – infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergartners – storytelling helps promote early literacy. By sequencing, or breaking things into steps as you’re doing them, you teach the concept of a story having a beginning, middle, and ending. It’s as simple as describing making eggs for breakfast: explain as you crack the egg, as you swish it with the fork, as you cook it in the hot pan, as you serve it, and as your child puts it into their mouth and belly. Ta-da! You’ve developed literacy and made breakfast all before 9:00 a.m.
According to research, storytelling is just as important for older kids. Whether it’s out loud in a text or email, from an actual book, or made up on the spot, story-sharing helps kids connect with others and has been shown to increase reading comprehension. Whether your kid reads a book aloud or talks about what you did on vacation, sharing stories actually improves their skills, making them feel more confident about reading – and therefore more likely to read.
Let your kids read what they want
The Kids & Family Reading Report looked at how the concept of “fandom” can motivate kids to read. In other words, when a kid gets really get excited by a specific character, series, or author, that fandom can help to transition them from being a kid who’s interested in a character to becoming a kid who’s interested in reading.
If your child is really into Marvel movies or can’t stop watching “Anne with an ‘E,’” you can use that opportunity to introduce them to the books – or comic books – on which those stories are based. That’s right: It’s absolutely okay for your child to read comic books! Reading is the goal, and if kids aren’t interested, they’re not going to read. “Good” reading material is anything your child will actually read – including picture books, comic books and graphic novels, novellas and chapter books, audio books, ebooks on a Kindle – and even a continuing story that finds its shape on the internet.
The bottom line is that no matter how our kids consume stories, they reap benefits. While you may prefer a paper book over an ebook or wish they’d delve into the classics rather than Captain Underpants, at the end of the day, the goal is to let kids immerse themselves in different worlds and experience those worlds from another’s point of view.
Make reading fun
Sometimes parents and teachers put so much pressure on reading that, for kids, it feels like an obligation or a chore. Another way you can get your child to read – and even help your child love reading – is to make it fun.
Celebrate every single step in your child’s reading journey, whether they just read their first book or wrote their first name. Do whatever your family does when something awesome happens, and let your child know how proud you are. When kids feel encouraged instead of pushed, they feel motivated to keep on going.
You also can share your own positive experiences with reading – along with your favorite books. Get Hobbit-foot slippers for everyone in the family and create a Hobbit hole, or turn dinner into a mystery hunt, hiding clues and letting the kids play Nancy Drew. Show them how reading has taken you to other worlds and just how much fun that can be.
The more positive experiences your child has with reading, the more they’ll want to do it. By letting your kid read what they want, encouraging them to share stories, and making reading fun, you’ll help them develop an internal motivation – and they’ll read because they love it. When it comes to getting your child to read, that’s the most powerful method of all.
Want to learn more about “Redefining Reading?” Start your path to a solid parenting foundation in just 10 minutes a day. Check out the HelloJoey app.