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Tips & Advice

4 Ways to Help Grandparents Start Their Own Reading Traditions with Their Grandkids

by Tom Burns

Photo credit: KidStock, Blend Images/Getty Images

Parents shouldn’t be the sole reading influence in the lives of their children. As parents, it’s our job to not only read with our kids, but to also encourage them to explore other enriching reading experiences with other enriching readers. But who are these “other” people our kids should be reading with? There are some obvious answers — friends, teachers, librarians — but, in my experience, when it comes to reading, there’s one group that stands tall above the rest …


Grandparents make amazing readers. They’re patient, they’re affectionate, they don’t suffer fools, and they’ve spent YEARS perfecting their reading prowess on children from earlier generations (i.e. YOU).

So if your kid is lucky enough to have grandparents in their life, how do you encourage them to start their own reading traditions? Here are some suggestions to get you started:

1. Make Certain Books “Grandparent Exclusives”
It’s always a good idea to leave some of your kid’s favorite books at their grandparents’ house. But one common mistake parents make is that they leave copies, and copies … well, copies aren’t special. If your kid can just read the book at home, what’s special about reading it at Grandma’s house? Find some books that your kid truly loves and make them “grandparent exclusives” — you only have one copy and it stays over there. Embrace the concept of delayed gratification. It keeps the books special and gives your kid even more reason to anticipate their next visit.

2. Give Grandma and Grandpa Some Easy Wins
This was a hard one for me to accept, but I have to admit, it’s been effective. If your kid has a book series that they’ve wanted to read forever — Narnia, Harry Potter, Inkheart, etc. — why not let their grandparents introduce them to those fictional worlds? It stinks for the parents because, ugh, it feels like WE should be the ones walking them through that magical wardrobe for the first time, but letting loved ones share that role of “reading gatekeeper” just expands your child’s reading community and creates some wonderful bonding moments with their grandparents.

3. Let the Kids Carve Out a Place of Their Own
You know how it’s a big deal when you’re dating someone and you give them their own shelf or a drawer at your place? A similar principle works for kids and grandparents. If possible, it’s great if your kid can have their own dedicated reading area at their grandparents’ house. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy — a specific chair, maybe a shelf for their books — but it gives them a sense of ownership and just makes them more comfortable identifying Grandpa’s house as a place for reading.

4. Find Books That Are Relevant to Their Grandparents
By which I do NOT mean find books about old people. Tomie dePaola’s Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs is a truly brilliant book, but not every kids’ book about grandparents has to prepare your children for their eventual passing. What I mean is — if your kid’s grandmother was a doctor, find some cool kids’ books about doctors. If Grandpa was a sailor, find some award-winning picture books about the sea. One of the best things about reading with children is how it can inspire discussion. If you can find books that have some relevancy to your child’s grandparents, you can give those grandparents a tool to start conversations — conversations that can afford them some amazing opportunities to share more about their lives with their beloved grandkids.