We love reading. You may love reading. But not everybody loves reading. Like you, we’ve got friends who almost never read for pleasure. Maybe they don’t read fast, or maybe they are too busy. Perhaps they learn better by moving about and using their hands. Everybody is different.
Virtually everyone would agree, though, that reading brings many positive benefits. And we have no doubt that you are eager to instill a love of reading in your own child. So today I wanted to share a few ideas for helping your child engage with reading and–hopefully–learn to love it.
1. Finger Pointing
The first idea is to help your children follow along by guiding their hand to point to the words as you read them. My grandma taught me this one. When I was young, I used to sit by her at church each Sunday. At the beginning and end of the service, the congregation would all sing together. I remember that for me, a very new reader, I had difficulty keeping up with the speed of the song. I wasn’t fast enough with reading yet. I could easily have become frustrated and chosen not to bother with the singing.
But grandmothers are smart. I don’t know if my grandma could tell I was becoming disinterested in the songs or not, but she began to hold my hand and help me guide my finger along the words as we sang. This didn’t necessarily improve my speed, but it helped. I didn’t get frustrated trying to keep up with the song.
Finger pointing is simple, but for me, it helped me to be engaged with the reading and to feel more a part of it. This same practice can be applied for any reading with children. I have seen the wonder and fascination of children–even those too early to know how to read–as their hand is guided along while a parent or older sibling reads. They begin to see that there is a connection between the words you are saying and the words on the page you are helping them point to.
2. Trying to say one of the words
This second practice, letting children repeat some of the words, comes quite naturally as children grow, but it makes a huge difference. So much of learning reading is about familiarity. Children become familiar with sounds and letters first, and eventually words. One of the simplest ways to give children practice with sound familiarity is by asking them to repeat a word or a sound after you’ve read it.
In addition, repeating words or sounds helps reading become an active, formative activity rather than a passive experience. Like finger pointing, repeating helps children understand where the words you are saying come from. And it helps them to have confidence that they can learn to read.
Animal noises or–in the case of my newphew, truck noises–are some of the funnest repeating opportunities. Parents can add an extra bit of fun to reading by going “all in” on these and inviting children to do the same. I’ve never been so good at mooing as I am when I read to a little one.
Variety is the third tool to help children learn to love reading. Children will be much more excited about reading when they have a wide selection of books to chose from. They will always have favorites, but, partly for the sanity of parents, I’d suggest adding a bit of variety. I mean, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is great, but it can get a bit old if that’s the only book you read for two weeks.
Variety helps boost creativity, and I think we all want our children to be creative. Variety helps children make mental connections. Maybe they will recognize a similiar theme or character in two different books. Maybe they learn their colors easier by seeing recognizable colors in different books.
Variety is one of the reasons we started bookroo, actually. We wanted to figure out a meaningful, fun way to help parents invest in the future of their children by slowly building a small library of great books. We wanted to help children see reading as a gift. With bookroo, parents and children look forward eagerly to the next month of new books.
The fourth idea, consistency, is probably the most impactful, but also the most difficult for many of us.
For our children to learn to love reading, we have to make reading a habit. As an adult, I know that one of the most important practices in my own reading is to check out or buy my next book right when I return or finish the last one. Too often, I finish a book and return it in a rush without checking out a new one. When that happens, I sometimes go weeks before make it back to the bookstore. (Another reason bookroo helps!) With that sort of system, reading can become sporadic.
My advice for consistency is to establish a “bare minimum” for reading. Set a specific time each day that you will read to your child. I say bare minimum, because you have to read then, but you can also read more often if it works out. Maybe it’s after lunch as they are getting ready for an afternoon nap. Or perhaps it’s at bedtime. Figure out what works for you and your little one and then stick to it.
Do you have other tips that have helped your child to learn to love reading? Please comment below or share @bookroo_love!