Helping your children enjoy reading is one of the most important things you can do as a parent and it’s well worth the investment of your time and energy. Kids will learn reading skills in school, but often they come to associate reading with work, not pleasure. As a result, they lose their desire to read. And it is that desire—the curiosity and interest—that is the cornerstone to using reading and related skills successfully.
By far the most effective way to encourage your children to love books and reading is to read aloud to them, and the earlier you start, the better. Even a baby of a few months can see pictures, listen to your voice, and turn cardboard pages.
Make this time together a special time when you hold your kids and share the pleasure of a story without the distractions of TV or telephones. You may be surprised to find that a well-written children’s book is often as big a delight to you as it is to the kids.
And don’t stop taking the time to read aloud once your children have learned to read for themselves. At this stage, encourage them to read to you some of the time. This shared enjoyment will continue to strengthen your children’s interest and appreciation.
Simply having books, magazines, and newspapers around your home will help children view them as part of daily life. And your example of reading frequently and enjoying it will reinforce that view.
While your children are still very small, it’s a good idea to start a home library for them, even if it’s just a shelf or two. Be sure to keep some books for little children to handle freely.
Include specially made, extra-durable books for infants, and pick paperbacks and plastic covers for kids who are older but still not quite ready for expensive hardbacks. Allowing little children to touch, smell, and even taste books will help them develop strong attachments.
How you handle books will eventually influence how your kids treat them. Children imitate, so if they see that you enjoy reading and treat books gently and with respect, it is likely that they will do the same.
When you read aloud together, choose books that you both like. If a book seems dull, put it down and find one that is appealing.
If you are not familiar with the library, don’t hesitate to ask for help. The children’s librarian is trained to help you locate specific books, books that are good for reading aloud, and books on a particular subject recommended for a particular age group.
And there’s nothing like just browsing through the many books available at your library until you find ones that appeal to you and your kids.
If your children are school-aged, keep in mind that the school library is an excellent source for a wide variety of materials and the school librarian is knowledgeable about children’s literature. Encourage your kids to bring home books from their school library for pleasure as well as for their studies.