We feel fortunate that The Munchkin developed a “taste” (har, har) for books quite early in life. Some parents, however, are not so lucky.
For those parents, I thought I’d offer a few ideas to help kids get excited about reading.
- Start early. We bought cloth books & books with large photographic pictures & few words for her to look at, & pointed to & explained the words to her as a baby. We also started bedtime storytime before she could even sit up on her own. The visual & auditory stimulation, as well as the comforting sensation of cuddling while reading, created a positive association. She still jumps into our laps to read. I think this is why the NEA established Read Across America Day (don’t forget, it’s tomorrow!) — to associate reading time with bonding time.
- Find their interests. If your child loves trucks, get books about trucks. Kids are born to love to learn, but sometimes we have to meet them on their terms. I love penguins, so before she was even born, The Munchkin had lots of penguin-related reading material.
- Even books based on movies are still books. The point is to get them excited about reading, right? So if they love a certain movie or TV show, find spinoff books of that show! The Munchkin is kind of obsessed with Elmo. Lucky for us, the Target Dollar Spot almost always has cheap Sesame Street books. While they’re not as intellectually stimulating as, say, the encyclopedia, she loves when we read them, & that’s what matters. The same applies to older kids. When I was in late elementary & early middle school, I read a lot of Star Wars fan fiction books. It’s not great writing by any means, but I was reading! You can also turn it the other direction: so many movies are out now (like the Chronicles of Narnia series) that are based on great books. If your child loved the movie, offer to read the book with him!
- Keep it fresh. Kids can get bored of reading the same books over & over. The library is an amazing place — take advantage of it! Many libraries have children’s sections with comfy chairs, puzzles, & even storytime. Look up your local library to see what resources they have to offer, & then make it a weekly trip! The Munchkin loves picking out 2 new books every time we go, & we appreciate the new material too!
- Make it a positive experience. As I mentioned in #1, reading time has positive associations, so The Munchkin loves it. But for some kids who may struggle with learning disabilities or trouble reading, reading time isn’t fun, but frustrating. Positive encouragement, learning games, & finding reading material they’re interested in can help reading time be fun again.
- For older kids, when in doubt, bribery does work. When I was in middle school, my grandma offered to pay $20 to each grandkid who finished a certain book by the end of the summer. I was the youngest to participate & the first to finish. Bribery (or “incentivizing,” if that makes you feel better) works!
How have you helped your kids develop a “taste” for reading?