Have you ever thought about how many things a day you read? Pause for a moment and review your day. I’m guessing you’ll find that you are reading something different all of the time. Maybe not a book, but reading anything from words scrolling across the screen of your favorite morning news show to the signs around town as you run your daily errands. From the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed, being able to read is an integral part of your day.
Being a reader is so important that it is one of the main focuses of early elementary school. Starting in kindergarten, you learn the sounds that letters make, begin to blend those sounds together to read words, and start to have a pretty large set of sight words that you can read just by looking at them. As you go on to other early elementary grades, you’ll begin to read more for comprehension and understanding. You will practice reading sentences and passages out loud fluently, or as if you were smoothly talking. As your learning progresses, you eventually learn to read all types of texts and begin to use books as a tool for learning new things. Once you are an established reader, it is then that you begin to read books that you enjoy for fun.
You can begin this stage earlier though. One does not have to be a fully sophisticated reader to be able to read for enjoyment. Here are five secrets to encouraging your child to be an avid reader and to encourage them to read for pure fun:
5 Secrets for Raising Avid Readers
1. Choose topics that interest them
From the very first stages of reading, children pick books based on the illustrations they see. If they like puppies, they will find a book that has a puppy on the cover or somewhere within the pictures. Helping your child choose books that they are truly interested in is one of the best ways to keep them motivated to read. Any topic they like is fair game. I once had a student who was curious about how toilets worked, and our librarian helped him find a nonfiction book about just that! Whatever topic it takes to get their nose in a book, go with it.
2. Try different genres
In regards to other nonfiction books NOT about toilets, share with your child that not all books they read have to be fiction picture books. Some of the best and most interesting books for children are nonfiction texts. Children love to see real photographs and close-ups of things like insects and animals. They are curious about how things work and why something is the way it is. Reading nonfiction books with them will open up their mind to new ideas about things like science, art, and history. Finding a variety of nonfiction books for your child to read will spark their curiosity and make them excited to read.
3. Don’t be afraid of a challenge
Once your child is a fluent reader, have them start reading longer books. Chapter books might be something they are excited about. If they are able to read well, encourage them to choose books with less pictures. Creating their own picture of what is happening in the story in their own mind is something children love to do. Their imagination can go wild when they don’t have a picture or illustration in front of them. Being able to stretch their imagination as far as it will take them will help your child want to sit and read for longer periods of time. They’ll want to see how the story ends and if it all comes out like it did in their head.
4. Don’t overwhelm them
Be careful though. When young readers begin reading longer chapter books too early, they are not able to really comprehend what’s going on in the story. This will backfire. Instead of becoming more interested in reading, they will become frustrated, confused, or disinterested. It’s one thing to just read a book, but it’s a whole other thing to really understand what you are reading. If you don’t understand what you’re reading and can’t retell any of the details, then you will eventually just stop reading whatever it is. I know I did that plenty in college. I could read Shakespeare for my Humanities class just fine, but did I really know and understand what I was reading? Not really. I gave up and just began to skim the books instead, which got me nowhere. There was no enjoyment in it for me.
5. Be a reader yourself
Finally, the best, number one secret to helping your child become an avid reader is for them to see YOU reading! Witnessing adults reading around them will help set the example that yes, you don’t need to have a cell phone in your hand or an iPad by your side in order to have fun. When they see you reading actual books, newspapers, or magazines and not just electronic texts, they also will want to read them.
Sitting down in a comfy chair with a good book is a wonderful way for your body and mind to have some quiet time. Children need this quiet time as well. There is no better way for them to practice being sustainable readers than to be away from social media and video games. Picking up a book they are truly interested in and sitting down to read it can be a game changer for not just them, but for you, as well. You’ll find over time that the more they see you reading, the better attitude they’ll have about books and many other things in their lives.
Keep these secrets in mind the next time your child is struggling with a reading assignment or is griping about being bored. Take a trip to your local public library or nearest bookstore and start them on the path to being an avid reader for life. While you’re there, don’t forget to pick up a good book for yourself, too!
Need more ideas? We’ve got you covered! For more suggestions on what parents can do to raise strong readers, click here!