Sometimes we unintentionally discourage our kids from reading.
I know. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Here’s what not to do — and why.
1. Having the Wrong Books
If you only have Steinbeck or The New Yorker as reading options, your kids will be discouraged from reading. It’s highly unlikely your children will read unless they have access to books at their reading level and books about things in which they are interested. Get your dog lovers books about dogs and your Lego fans books about Legos.
2. Having Limited Access to Books
Books encourage kids to read. No books = no reading. Borrow lots of books from the library. Not just one or two books — borrow thirty. Flood your house with books. Then leave them in different rooms and piles so they’re easily accessible. (This works. Trust me.)
3. Only Reading Aloud to Our Littles
We sometimes forget that our older kids need us to read aloud to them as well. As you probably already know, research shows that reading aloud to kids is the best thing you can do to improve their literacy skills, not to mention that it motivates them to read on their own. Plus, you’ll get the opportunity to read amazing chapter books that can inspire discussion and bonding.
4. Not Letting Them Choose Their Books
Kids want to read books that they get to pick out themselves. That’s not to say you can’t advise on picking a good book, show them how to pick a just-right book, or even model reading the back cover or jacket flap of a book — but being able to actually choose the book themselves predisposes them to want to read that book. Let kids pick from a selection if that works best for you, but let them be in charge of the final decision. As Maya Angelou said, “Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.”
5. Offering Nonsense Easy Reader Books
Warning: This is my pet peeve and is somewhat controversial. Okay, here goes … Many early readers are asked to read easy phonics books that are mind-numbingly boring. Boring because these books have no plot thread whatsoever. So the kid sits and strings words together, missing the whole point of reading: the narrative and exposition. Not only that, the child becomes uninterested and frustrated. So try to find easy readers that actually make sense. Tug the Pup and Bob Books are two good book series that have both decodable text and narrative meaning. Climbing off the soapbox now.
6. Making Reading Punitive
If you subscribe to the Love and Logic parenting method, which I generally do, we’re not supposed to punish (“You didn’t read, you don’t get screen time.”) or bribe (“I’ll give you screen time IF you read.”) but rather reward for positive behavior (“Wow, you spent so much time reading, I’d like to treat you to 30 minutes of screen time.”). I think this is hard and tricky and it totally makes my head want to explode, but I bring it up so you can think about it. We don’t want reading to become something dreadful or punitive. We want reading to be lovely and fun and rainbows and unicorns. Consider how you can reward for reading, not punish.
7. Not Reading Yourself
Your kids are watching your every move. Plus they copy you. So they need to see you reading regularly. The experts say this is good modeling. (I use this as my justification for reading all the time, especially when I should be making dinner or doing some other job around the house. Feel free to borrow this most excellent reasoning, too.)
8. Not Having Any Time to Read
If our kids are too scheduled with activities, they’ll have no time to read. I know this makes sense, but it’s something we need to think about carefully. What is your daily schedule like? Do you have time for reading? It’s critical that kids have unscheduled time every day for reading as well as relaxing.