New Year’s is a time to start fresh, a time for resolutions and goal setting. Easier said than done, right? It’s hard enough to set resolutions for ourselves, let alone for our kids. Yet many of us would like our children to read more this year. So how can we make that happen … and make sure it’s still happening come April?
Focus on what’s doable. Start by finding your child’s age group below. Then pick out an action that seems reasonable to you to help facilitate their literary growth. I promise, it’ll be way more fun than that “get in shape” resolution.
Baby/Toddler (0 - 2)
This is a fun age of grabbing books, figuring out how to turn pages, and learning about stories. What can you do to provide a solid reading foundation for your baby bookworm?
- Talk with your child. Words are very important in a child’s reading life. Conversations with your child give them new vocabulary, one of the most significant predictors of reading success.
- Read bedtime stories. Now is the time to start a bedtime story ritual. You’ll want to continue this as long as you can — maybe until the teenage years? (If they’ll let you.)
Pre-K (3 - 5)
You’ve got books and you’re reading them together. What else can you do?
- Read the title and the author. This is important. When you sit down to read a story, first read the title and the author. This develops a child’s awareness of how the title connects to the story as well as how an author, a person, made up the story.
- Use your fingers. Point to the words as you read them. This shows your kids that the black letters are words that you’re reading. Pointing to the words as you read is called tracking.
- Make up stories with your books. Using any book, encourage your child to tell the story using the pictures. This helps children see the importance of the illustrations and begin to understand beginning, middle, and end. Clearly you don’t need books to tell stories, so extend this activity into making up stories together. Think of a character with a problem and go for it.
- Visit the library. Go to storytime. Try visiting different libraries to see what storytimes and play areas you like best. Of course, check out lots of books for your home. The more books you have available to your kids, the better.
- Notice letters. When you’re in the car or at home, play “I Spy” or “The Alphabet Game” to notice letters, colors, shapes, and numbers.
Growing Reader (6 - 8)
Now your child is actually learning to read. What an exciting (and sometimes overwhelming) time of growth. How can you help your child learn to read fluently?
- Create a reading nook. Your goal is to make reading pleasant and enjoyable. Creating a lovely space with pillows and books will help.
- Under-schedule. Just like adults, kids need margins in their lives so they have time to read. Try not to schedule a lot of extra activities. Prioritize reading time.
- Try a reading app. Technology can be motivating. Let your child spend some time reading on the computer or a tablet. You might like one of our favorite reading apps.
- Download audiobooks. These are great for car rides! When listening, your child can comprehend more difficult books than they can read. Need suggestions? Try these books.
- Hoard books. You don’t want to skimp on books at this crucial age. If your child likes a book, buy the entire series if possible. Or get them from the library. Give your child every opportunity to find and read good books.
Tween (9 - 12)
It’s amazing to see your child reading but you want to keep up the momentum and growth. See if these ideas help.
- Be a reading role model. Model reading and be excited about the books you’re reading. Talk about your favorite parts, what you predict, connections to real life, or connections to other books. This is the time when you can get back into your own books and not feel guilty!
- Talk about books. Let your child share about their books like you do about yours. Be intentional about books spilling over into your daily conversations.
- Start a book club. Depending on your child’s interest and personality, give a family book club or a peer-group book club a try. Kids love the social aspect of book clubs and reading a new book is icing on the cake.
- Book incentives. Would you, could you … use books as incentives for reading? What about giving rewards such as: a bookstore date with Mom or Dad with $10 to spend, new decorations for the reading nook, a special magazine subscription, getting to stay up late to read in bed, or money earmarked for book orders?
Teens read less than any other age group of child so it’s really an important time to keep them reading.
- eBooks. Download the Kindle app on your teen’s phone (or tablet) so they can buy or check out eBooks. As we know, this age group lives on their phones so this might just get them reading. (A Kindle works, too, but I’ve found my daughter doesn’t like carrying around another device besides her tablet and phone.)
- Share a favorite book. I’ve been reading books to my kids at breakfast and dinner. Some are nonfiction books on topics like confidence while others are memoirs that I know my kids wouldn’t read on their own. Generally we read one chapter and then talk about it. It’s been an enriching activity for all of us.
- Invent a yearly reading challenge. Have you seen Modern Mrs. Darcy’s yearly reading challenges? It’s a yearly goal-setting read-a-thon and a creative way to find and read good books. Take her idea and make it your own. Let your teen invent a reading challenge for your family or for themselves.
Didn’t I tell you this would be better than a diet?
Here’s to a year filled with lots of reading!