How to Raise a READER: 6 Tips for Reading with your Kids

MJ reading to newborn Ellie, 2009

Monday is “READ Across America Day!”  good excuse to remind ourselves of the importance of reading with our children…

Read with your kids every day to MAKE a Reader!

Write these 6 simple steps on a bookmark to remind you how to get the most out of your reading time together when you pick up a book:

  1. MAKE it Fun! 
  2. MAKE it a Conversation.
  3. MAKE it a special ritual.
  4. MAKE it a starting point.
  5. MAKE the time and space.
  6. MAKE Connections!

1. Make it funDon’t be rigid, don’t force it… If your baby wants to read the book upside-down and backwards, that’s cool! If your tot wants you to read the same page or same book 10 times, do it. If your child wants to skip a page or move on to a different book, that’s ok. If you As long as they associate reading w/ good feelings, you’re on the right path…

Use voices and read with excitement…

Think outside the box: read under the covers by flashlight, build a reading fort w/ blankets, have a “library” picnic w/ all your new library books spread out on the blanket outside…

2. Make it a conversation: Story-time doesn’t have to be “quiet time”! Your child should be able to interrupt and ask questions or make comments. Reading with your child should interactive. Play “I spy” with the illustrations, leave out the final words of rhyming phrases for your child to speak, or point to words for them to sound out as they are learning to read. Try these phrases: “That reminds me of the time…”, “What do you think will happen next?”, “What would you do…”, “I wonder what that would be like..”, “I wonder what it’s like to be a….”

3. Make time and space….make it part of your routine, and do it regularly… all day long…put the books around your house – in every room, on low shelves for babies, on the kitchen table, next to your beds, in baskets next to the potty, in your purse, in the car, etc…And put the space in your day – while your child is in the high chair, read during your snuggle time, read during commercials, etc.

4. Make it a special ritual/ treat just by giving it a special name (Read more about using this technique in other parts of your parenting…

  • Breakfast books, bedtime books
  • potty poems
  • story, snack, and snuggle
  • lunch-time listening (audio stories or chapter books)
  • rest-time reading
  • supper and stories, quiet sofa reading
  • family reading time (quiet and aloud)
  • “Weading” while waiting – have a book in your car, purse, bag for when you get somewhere early, waiting at doctor, restaurant, etc…

5. Make it a starting pointBring the book to life, make it relevant by letting it spark your activities, your crafts and creations, your cooking, the places you go, the things you look up on the internet, your conversation-starters. the movies you rent, etc…

6. Make CONNECTIONs (brain/ language/ physical/ outside world)

  • Brain – Reading expands their little minds and grows their imaginations by exposing them to new ideas, world-views, interests, people, places, patterns, science, ideas, forming thousands of new neural connections…
  • Language – Exposing them to new sounds, vocabulary, inflections, and expressive reading will boost ALL their communication and pre-reading skills.
  • Physical – When you read to your child, connect with them physically as well – snuggling, sitting on your lap, leaning up against you, patting the rhythm on their body, making eye contact, and you are also building brain connections through this contact (not to mention increasing your bond). After all, connections on the outside make connections on the inside!
  • Outside World – Pause to connect the reading you’re doing with your own lives and experiences, follow your child’s passions and interests, as well as what’s going on at school and in the world with the books you choose…When you’re going about your day, refer to the books, too! Use quotes from them, tell stories from them, say “this reminds me of….”

And (here’s a bonus)Let your kids catch you “in the act”! Research shows that a child who sees his parents reading is much more likely to become a reader himself! (It may need to be a real book, magazine, or newspaper, so that when you’re reading your Kindle they know you are not just playing Angry Birds!)

Books to Inspire YouRead-Aloud Handbook by Jim TreleaseHoney for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt