There are few things sweeter than seeing your children curl up with a book. Like most good habits, a love for reading needs to be encouraged and rarely just happens on its own. A few children will naturally gravitate toward books; most will need some extra nudging. Wherever your child lands, its never too late nor too early to guide him to a love for good books. Here are some ways to instill a love for reading in your child.
1. Read aloud.
Little children love to have someone read to them! They learn to listen and focus more with each new book. Gradually, the books and the read aloud times grow longer. And you don’t have to stop once they can read on their own. Reading books aloud that are above their own reading ability increases vocabulary and encourages young ones to increase their reading skills. It can also provide a time for family memories and may even spark some interesting discussions.
2. Read good books.
Charlotte Mason, an English educator from the late 1800’s, advocated the reading of what she called living books because they enlivened the mind. Living books are written on any number of subjects but always by a single author, who obviously has a great love and passion for his subject. Living books inspire virtuous character and promote noble thoughts that quickly draw the reader into the story. How can you tell if you have a living book? Try reading a bit to your children. If they beg for more, you know you have a good one!
3. Limit twaddle.
Another term borrowed from Charlotte Mason is the concept of twaddle. Some books are just uninspiring. They’re not necessarily bad, but they just don’t captivate the imagination, engage the heart and mind, or delight with lovely illustrations. While it’s okay to have some twaddle, try using the 80/20 rule: 80% good books and 20% light or twaddle books. Overall, keep plenty of books on the shelf that you believe are truly worthy of your child’s reading time.
4. Read yourself.
Try challenging yourself to read one good book you’ve been meaning to read. Give yourself a time limit, such as a month or the summer, to complete your book. Then carve out time to accomplish your goal. As your children see you enjoying a good story, it will be a great example for them.
5. Create an atmosphere.
Set a lamp beside your child’s bed to encourage some reading before going to sleep. Limit electronic games, devices, and TV. Carve out some time in the evenings for family reading. Light a fire in the fireplace, pop some popcorn and enjoy a cozy night together. When children get too old for naps, try giving them some quiet time with a small stack of books.
6. Give a reason to read.
God communicates to us through a Book, telling us how much He loves us in written words. And He reveals His plan to bring people into a relationship with Him in the Bible. What a wonderful reason to read! Listen to how Pastor John Piper describes it, “When God contemplated all the possible ways that existed for him as an infinite, omnipotent, all-wise God to transmit and preserve his revelation to the world, he chose a book. And that is simply astonishing. We have no other authoritative access to the knowledge of God and the way of salvation and how to live a life pleasing to the Lord than through this book — either directly by reading it or indirectly from others who have read it.”
7. Learn more about the author.
Knowing why an author wrote his book often inspires us to read his story. Did you know Robert Louis Stevenson of Treasure Island fame wrote beautiful poetry for children? He dedicated his collection of poetry, A Child’s Garden of Verses, to his nurse who cared for him and read to him during his frequent childhood illnesses. We’ve also enjoyed learning more about Beatrix Potter, whose tales have delighted children for generations. What a treat it was to see her beloved countryside in the movie, Miss Potter!
8. Watch the movie.
Sometimes we’re inspired to read the book after we’ve watched the movie and vice versa! Watching the movie can give a new appreciation for the book, and we love discussing the similarities and differences between the two. Children almost always say they like the book better and oftentimes want to read more from the same author.
9. Listen to the audio.
There are wonderful books on CD. We have enjoyed long car trips listening to The Odyssey and also Wolf The Saxon, by G.A.Henty. The book is not just read to you; it is performed. The actors are gifted and the music and sound effects fill the imagination. Listening to the book on CD often leads to reading the book itself or others by the same author.
10. Visit the library.
Where else can you get so many wonderful books for free? Just remember to return or renew them on time as the late fees can quickly add up. In addition to the public library, be sure to check out the library at your church or school. Have a plan before going with your younger children, allowing them to choose half of the books and you choose the other half. That way they read a variety of good books and twaddle type books are limited.
How do you encourage your young reader? Please share in the comments below.