Most kids love leafing through books as toddlers, looking at the pictures. But reading is hard work, and many children drop the habit as they get older.
So how can you inspire a lasting love of reading?
1. Read to your child from the earliest age.
And not just at bedtime. Buy board books and cloth books as some of your child’s first toys. Bring them with in your nappy bag, and pull them out when you need to keep your child’s attention. Make reading a part of playtime.
2. Don’t push your child to learn to read.
Your goal is not to push a child to read before they are ready, but to encourage a love of books. Teaching him to read will take all the fun out of reading. If you push him, he’ll feel put on the spot, and he’ll feel dumb. Children who are pushed to read sometimes lose all desire to read.
Some very smart children don’t learn to read until they’re over six years old. Don’t worry. They’ll quickly catch up with those who started at four or five.
3. Don’t stop reading to him once he learns to read.
Read to him every step of the way, for as long as he’ll let you. Continuing to read to him will keep him interested as his skills develop.
Parents often complain that their early readers CAN read, but just don’t seem interested in doing so. Most kids go through this stage, but you can help to keep it a brief one. The child’s problem, of course, is that he can read simple books, but his imagination craves more developed plots and characters. So keep reading exciting books.
4. Ritualize daily reading time.
Set up a reading time every day. This can be a perfect chill-out time after school, or after lunch to wind down and enjoy a book.
5. Try smart comics for reluctant readers.
Some kids get a terrific jump-start from comics, which are less intimidating to them than chapter books. Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes and the Tin Tin series, for instance, are kid-pleasers with sophisticated vocabulary and concepts.
6. Read yourself.
Role model. If they don’t see you read, why should they? Discuss what you’re all reading at the dinner table.
7. Limit technology.
Books often can’t compete with TV or iPads. Most kids, given the choice, just won’t choose the book often enough to make it a habit. Before you know it, they’ll have developed other habits for relaxing, and reading will be something other people do. Limit screen time so that kids can enjoy books.