In honor of our January “Education” issue, we’re looking back at some of our favorite educational articles from the archives. This article was first published in August 2013, but the advice is timeless.
Some kids pull the old flashlight-under-the-covers trick to read just one more chapter every night; other kids wouldn’t touch a book if it were made of piping hot pizza. How do you inspire your kids to love reading? We did a little reading ourselves and consulted GayMarie Kurdi, English teacher at St. Mark’s School of Texas, for tips on how to raise a reader. We can’t guarantee that your kids will become avid bibliophiles, but these 11 ideas may give your kids a positive attitude towards the written word.
Model the behavior
“I think the best thing to do to get kids to read is to model it for your kids,” Kurdi says. “If you read often and enjoy talking about what you read, they will pick up on your enthusiasm and want to emulate it.” After all, she adds, “what kid doesn’t want to be just like his parent?”
Do it together
Reading aloud as a family adds the element of shared experience to reading. It also demonstrates to your child that you think reading is a worthwhile activity. As you read, discuss the characters and what you think may happen in the story. Show your kids that you’re invested in the book, in hopes that they will become invested too.
Let your child choose
Your child may resist reading because at school (or at home) she is told which books to read. Take your child to a bookstore or the library and let her pick out books she wants to read (within reason, of course). Having ownership over her reading material will make her feel more involved in the activity from the outset.
Ask the experts
“Local librarians are vast sources of knowledge and are always so eager to help young (and old) find appropriate titles,” Kurdi says. She also recommends that parents peruse children’s book reviews on NPR and in The New York Times to find new material.
Your child may or may not be into the hip series all her friends are reading. Try older books, newer books, books from various genres. Venture into non-fiction if fiction isn’t sparking her interest – the life cycle of ladybugs might be more exciting to her than the travails of fictional school kids.
Watch the movie first
You may have heard the sage advice “Don’t judge a book by its movie,” but the storyline and characters on screen could inspire your child to pick up the print version. (This writer discovered Harry Potter because she was forced to watch the first cinematic installment – and has never looked back.)
Reading programs at the library usually offer prizes for logging hours or pages, and you can replicate the system at home. Keep a chart of your child’s reading endeavors and offer prizes that will motivate him to keep at it. When her two daughters were younger, Kurdi gave them $5 per book during the summertime (with age-appropriate guidelines). “It kept them motivated to put down the gadgets!” she adds.
Subscribe to a magazine
Children’s magazines feature shorter pieces geared towards young readers, interspersed with activities, comics and puzzles to keep them occupied until the next issue. Choose a generic title like Muse or Highlights or cater to your child’s interests with the likes of Ask (science), ChopChop (food), Ranger Rick (nature) or Cricket (culture).
Start a series
Embarking on a series ensures future reading material, Kurdi explains, whether the books have a compelling continuing storyline or offer many standalone adventures in a style your child enjoys.
Try comic books
Some kids respond better to the dynamic layout of graphic novels than to a page full of words. But of course comic books have words too: That’s the beauty.
Encourage your kids to tell you about what they’re reading – and really listen to the answers. “I always used those times to ask probing questions, questions that might encourage inference and analysis,” Kurdi says about her own kids. “I pushed them to think about what they read so they would see that literature teaches us about ourselves in its own way.”