Reading is so important in your child’s development. Not only is it critical in language development, but it also helps build social skills, communication skills, stimulates creativity, sparks their imagination, improves focus, and introduces problem-solving skills.
Reading is also an opportunity for your child to expand their world views. Remember, your child’s world is so relatively small compared to yours. With reading, they can explore different continents, cultures, social circles, hobbies, and more!
Starting with good reading habits can also help your child do better in school. This is because it helps improve their listening skills, attention span, and literacy skills.
But what if your child is not naturally interested in reading?
11 Ideas for Getting Your Child Excited About Reading
Few children develop a love of reading all on their own (here’s looking at you, Matilda). For most, a genuine love of reading starts with conscientious efforts at home. Here are some tips to help your child get excited about reading.
1. Start reading aloud early
Start reading with your child early by reading aloud with them. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, “Children need to be exposed to good literature, and they need to have daily experiences with fluent, oral reading.” Not only does this encourage solo reading in future years, but this is a wonderful time to bond. And it’s never too early to start: reading with children starting in infancy gives a lasting literacy boost.
2. Engage as you read
Reading the same book over and over until you have it memorized is dreary–trust us, we know. But it’s important for you to stay engaged and present during reading time instead of letting your mind drift off.
Your child can sense when you’re interested and when you’re not, so set a good example by being engaged in the story. Using funny voices, using actions with the book (having the book “chomp” if it talks about a monster chomping, using the little finger puppet in Little Fish to tickle your baby’s tummy), or responding to the story with “Oh no!” or cheers (even if it’s the 80th time reading it), can help your child feel more engaged during storytime.
3. Pick a book that interests them
Try picking books that interest them. If you see that your tyke is particularly interested in dinosaurs, pick a good book that gives them a peek into the Jurassic period. If they like robots, superheroes, animals, pick something that appeals to their tastes. You can share your likes, too! Pick some books to read together with topics that interest you.
4. Let them choose the books
This one’s important. Letting your child choose which books to read makes them much less likely to put up a fight when storytime comes around. Yes, this tip remains the same even if your child picks the same three books over and over. If you can’t stand their story choices anymore, try letting them choose two books and letting you choose one.
5. Make up stories together
If your child flat out refuses to sit down and read a book with you, try making up a story instead. Next time you’re driving in the car with your little one, suggest you take turns making up stories. This won’t have quite the same literacy benefits that reading from a book will have for your child, but it can get them into the routine of enjoying having stories told to them. You may even be able to slip in an “I can’t think of my own made-up story today; can I read you a story with one of the most amazing boys I’ve ever heard of who goes to a jungle and tames wild things that try to eat him?”
6. Read to their stuffed animals
If, after all that, your child still isn’t showing interest in reading with you, try reading to their stuffed animals or to a pet. In a no-pressure environment, bring a book or two out near where your child is playing and sit down with your pet or stuffed animal. Ask the animal, “Are you ready for me to read to you? This is one of my favorite books about how nobody wants a teddy bear because his overalls are broken, so he sets out to find his lost button.” Your child might just be curious enough to come and join you.
7. Let them read to you
Even in the early learning stages, it’s important to celebrate your child’s excitement about reading. Once they start reading their little trainers, give them the opportunity to read to you! Show as much enthusiasm and engagement as you can. Remember, they’re not just trying to show off their skills; they’re trying to share with you the same enjoyment you give them when they read to you.
8. Keep “no pressure” books around the house
Make sure you have plenty of age-appropriate books around the house for when the reading mood strikes. Keep these in a small pile on the coffee table or near the kitchen table, on a low bookshelf in the office, and keep plenty next to a comfy chair or beanbag in your child’s room. When you read with your child, take books from these different areas so your child learns that they are free game.
9. Go to the library often
Regular trips to the library are important for your child. Try to go once every week or two, and let your child pick out their own books. The autonomy of letting them choose their own books is often motivation enough to read. Ask them if they want to “try out” their books before heading home, then snuggle up into a comfy library seat and start reading together. Make a “keep” and “return” pile that your child has full control over.
10. Set a good example
Your child does their best to emulate you. If they don’t see you regularly reading by yourself, they will most likely lack the motivation to do so as well. While reading aloud to your child is a great and important part of their development, you also want to make sure they develop the motivation to read on their own as well. Choose 10-15 minutes a day to read out in the open where your child can see. Keep this as “no pressure” time where you don’t force them to grab their own book and read next to you as this can deter them from reading on their own. Remember, this is to be a positive role model, not to start a battle. Try to choose a time when your child doesn’t expect your attention, such as when they are occupied by playing with siblings or friends.
11. Make an event out of it
Remember read-a-thons in elementary school? Set up a pillow and blanket fort in your house and break out the snacks. If your child isn’t excited by the idea, you can do this in a “no pressure” way by setting up the readathon area for yourself without mentioning it to your child. Wait for your child to show interest, then explain that you’re having a read-a-thon where you get to get snuggly and eat treats while you read. They may just observe you the first time, or they may join you–but chances are, the second time you pull out the blanket fort, they’ll be eager to join.