A common concern we hear from parents is that their child doesn’t read enough. Some children dislike reading because they find it tough; others find it boring or pointless. No matter the reason, if this goes on for many years, “non-readers” end up at a huge disadvantage compared to avid readers. How do we go about igniting passion for reading?
The key is finding books, authors, and genres that a child is drawn to. It can take some trial and error, but everyone can find books they’ll fall in love with. Librarians and independent book store employees are especially good at figuring out “just the book” to engage a reader – and then the next book and the next book once they’re hooked! Visit the library often, and show your child different genres: memoirs, novels, non-fiction, poetry, and graphic novels. Check out more books than they’ll be able to read so that they always have one to explore. At home put books on end tables, on shelves, in bathrooms, and on desks.
This may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s also important to help your child learn when to abandon books. Kids who are just becoming readers tend to spend too much time struggling through a book they don’t enjoy. People who love reading seldom do this because there are just too many other books out there! If your child doesn’t like a book after the first few chapters, encourage them to give it a pass and pick up something else.
Remember that they need to see you read. We teach by example. Make sure your child sees you reading for pleasure before bed or with your morning coffee. Get in the habit of carrying reading material with you for those little moments you can “steal” at the doctor’s office or while waiting for soccer practice to end. Talking about what you’re reading is also powerful. An informal conversation about books at dinner or a scheduled book club meeting at the coffee shop are fun ways to establish a family culture of reading!
If you’re concerned that your child’s struggle to read is ability-based, talk with their teacher. It’s extremely important to address any issues as early as possible. As your child works on improving their skills, provide them with high-interest but easily accessible books so that they associate reading with enjoyment and learning.
When children develop a passion for reading, they also become more thoughtful learners and critical thinkers. It’s wonderful to watch their interests expand, their vocabulary grow, and even their writing improve!