Everyone knows that children benefit from reading. But as with eating broccoli and taking naps, picking up a book is often at the bottom of a child’s to-do list. Now that the summer reading program at the West Bend Community Memorial Library has come to an end, this task may seem even less appealing. Nonetheless, these thirteen simple suggestions can keep your child interested in books all year round.
1. Read to them… This might sound like a no-brainer, but the impact of reading aloud to your child (even if they can read on their own) can’t be understated. In babies, it facilitates early language development, forms social bonds, and teaches basic speaking skills; in older children, it expedites the process of learning to read, aids comprehension, and forms life-long reading habits. In other words, if you want your child to enjoy reading on their own, you should read to them first. And of course, go all out with the silly voices.
2. ...or have them read to you. Not only does reading out loud improve comprehension and memory, but it also helps children to better connect with the story they’re ‘telling.’ When you ask your child to read to you (or one of their siblings, or friends, or a therapy dog) you’re making reading an interactive experience that directly involves them.
3. Set goals together. To improve a child’s learning abilities, it’s always good to challenge them. Set accessible but ambitious reading goals daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly. For instance, their goal could be to read a chapter a day, or two books every month; just make sure it’s is appropriate for their reading level so that it doesn’t feel impossible to complete. Once they set their goal, write it down, and celebrate when they reach it. (The library's 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program, with its easy-to-use mobile app, is a great way to track your child's reading goals.) For an extra show of support, you could even set goals right alongside them. In doing so, you’ll teach your child to regard reading as a fun, exciting challenge, rather than a chore.
4. Talk about what they’re reading. One of the most powerful ways of showing your child support is to let them know you’re interested in their endeavors. Ask them questions about what they’re reading to promote discussion and further comprehension; apply what they’re learning to the real world, so it makes more of an impact. Most importantly, encourage them to keep reading; for children, a few uplifting words can go a long way.
5. Pick books about things they’re already interested in… Keep it simple. Does your child love insects? Find a National Geographic magazine about bugs. Do they play soccer? Pick out a sports-themed chapter book. For a reluctant reader, books that discuss their preexisting hobbies or interests are often less of a struggle to get through.
6. ...or try something new. If it’s hard to get your child to read, maybe they just haven’t found the right book yet. Try lots of different genres, like mystery, adventure, historical fiction, fantasy, poetry or (running with this year’s summer reading program theme) science fiction. If all else fails, just pick up something funny (Walter the Farting Dog is always a winner.) Try different formats, too - your child might enjoy magazines, comic books, graphic novels, or audiobooks. Expose your child to all different types of books and hopefully, you’ll find at least a few that ‘stick.’
7. Have books on hand. Another no-brainer; your child probably isn’t going to read if there’s a shortage of interesting books in the house. Pick up some cheap children’s books at the local thrift store or go to the library and stock up. It’s always a good idea to get more than you think your kid will read; embrace the tsundoku (a Japanese word for a constantly growing collection of unread books.) In surrounding your child with reading material, you’ll normalize reading as a part of their daily routine (as well as expedite your own trips back and forth to the library.) Plus, by keeping books on hand, you’ll show them that reading is an accessible, rewarding form of entertainment, as easy to access as the computer or T.V.
8. Incentivize. Never underestimate the power of a well-placed bribe. To get your child interested in reading, give them an M&M for every page they read, or a small prize for every book they finish. You could even create an at-home version of the Summer Reading Program for a more involved reward system. To do so, print off your own reading sheet, or try out a reading bingo card like this one. Once your child finishes the sheet, you could treat them to ice cream, take a trip to the dollar store, have a movie night at home, or come up with another way to reward their efforts. The library typically offers an August reading program to keep kids reading until school starts, and a winter reading program over the holiday break - check with us to see how we can help you offer reading incentives for your child.
9. Set aside time to read… Make reading a priority in your child’s life by designating a specific time each day to read. This could be after school, before bed, or right when they wake up in the morning. Most children like a routine, so consider choosing the same time every day. Doing so will make reading a habit, as well as demonstrate its importance. You could even take a page from their book and use this time to work on something from your own reading list.
10. ...and a place to read. Who wouldn’t love their own little reading nook? Make one for your child by decorating a corner of their bedroom or playroom. This area could be as detailed as a rig from Ikea, or as simple as a comfortable chair and a stack of library books. Even a pop-up children’s tent could do the trick; as long as it’s cute and cozy, your child will love having an area that’s just for them. A special reading nook will not only eliminate distractions, but it’ll make reading feel like an exciting personal getaway.
11. Lead by example. Children copy everything their parents do - so use this fact to your advantage. If your child sees you reading often (and more importantly, enjoying it,) they’re more likely to pick up a book as well.
12. Choose books that match their reading level. Giving your child books that are too hard or too easy is a surefire way to make reading an unpleasant task. A good rule of thumb for picking out an appropriate book is to have your child read a page and count how many words they don’t know. If there are only one or two, the book is too easy; if there are five or more, the book is too difficult. For a book that’s ‘just right,’ aim for three or four unknown words per page. That way, the book will challenge your child, but it won’t be frustrating to work through.
13. Come to the library! Visiting the West Bend Community Memorial Library is the perfect way to get your child excited about reading again. We offer countless free resources for children, like educational programs, story hours, and activity kits. Plus, we have hundreds of materials available for checkout, like books, audiobooks, DVDs, and CDs for children. By visiting the library regularly, you’re letting your child know that it’s a fun, inviting place to be - and hopefully, they’ll grow to view reading in the same positive light.