My parents were pretty lucky with me in that for as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed reading and writing.
In pictures and videos of me as a child it would not be unusual to find a book or pen in my hand. While I found incredible joy in it, others did not. My younger brother was not and is not much of a reader, my mom is not either. Many of my friends do not read either. In fact when I went to visit my best friend who lives in New York, I insisted we stop off at a bookstore. I convinced her to buy a book she was holding and after several months, I had read about 4 books and she still hadn’t quite made it to chapter 4. (this was a few years ago and to this day I jokingly ask her if she ever got round to finishing that one book. She says she has not.)
It got me thinking of how some people love to read and others would rather do absolutely anything else.
This is not to say that if someone does not read they are horrible humans. No way! In fact, I tell non-readers it is perfectly fine not to read and get entertainment elsewhere.
But some parents I know struggle with their kids to even read their school assigned books. While the tips below have not been tested or peer-reviewed, I think these are some ways to get kids to enjoy reading and how I got into it myself.
MAKE IT ENJOYABLE FOR YOU AND YOUR CHILD
Almost every parent I know does story time before bed. I know my dad did and one of the most vivid memories I have is my dad reading me a Mickey Mouse counting book. He would read the pages and after every page, he would throw the book in the air, tickle me, make me laugh til I cried. Then, would calmly pick up the book again and read the next page.
On the other hand I visited a family and wanted to read to their kids at night. I took my time with the book, did voices, and made them laugh. The parents were too concerned with getting them to bed and asked me to hurry it along.
The key, I believe, to long-lasting love for reading is to make sure you and your child are having just as much fun reading. If the adult is annoyed, rushing or not interested, so will the child.
It is never too early for a child to start reading. Even if they cannot read on their own or hardly have a grasp on the ABC’s, reading as early as possible gets them engaged.
LET THEM DECIDE WHAT TO READ
One of the most common reasons people hate reading is because they hated the books they had to read in school. Let’s face it: very few people enjoy the assigned novels in middle and high school. They can be boring, dense and frankly very hard to understand, let alone be entertained by. While we cannot avoid those books, encouraging your child to read other books while in school or over summer break that they find interesting, it will make those assigned books let’s daunting. Think of when the Harry Potter books came out. I was a few years out of the age group for that series, but at the time I remember every kid I knew or saw had one of those books under their noses. In fact, I was a camp counselor when one of the books came out and not a single kid wanted to swim during pool time. Oh no: they wanted to keep reading Harry Potter.
Take kids to libraries and book stores. Let them explore and decide what interests them and what stories they find compelling.
We are told what to do in so many aspects of our daily lives. Having the freedom of choice is powerful and can completely change an outlook.
BE ENCOURAGING & OPEN-MINDED
Most people hate being told what to do. And even more hate being pressured. Doing either of these when it comes to reading is a bad idea. Gently encouraging is more effective, but remember that not every suggestion will stick. You may have a child who, despite trying the ideas above, simply is not a reader. And that is perfectly OK! The idea isn’t to make a child into an avid reader, but to find some pleasure in it so maybe school is not so demanding. Or going to a bookstore is not so dull. Maybe they like comics, short stories, or graphic novels.
The point of reading is to entertain and expand. If we limit the concept of reading to only novels, we miss out on other writing outlets. There is a huge variety of ways the written word is put on the page. Allow your child to decide what that variation is.