Like most children, I was brought up reading short stories and poetry books. First, my mother read me Three Billy Goats Gruff, then The Story of Ferdinand—a kind bull interested in smelling flowers, not fighting matadors, then The Pony Club series. Sometime after that my interest in reading dropped off a cliff. I was not like my sister, who finished new Harry Potter Books in a day. Thankfully, towards the end of high school I found a new love for reading that has carried into adulthood.
But how did my parents create a book lover in my sister and not in me?
According to the Educational Testing Service, the more reading material that are in the home, the higher the child’s reading proficiency. Similarly, children who do more reading at home also have higher math scores (this may explain my deep disdain for math). My sister seemed to always excel in school, whereas I was less intrigued. But, there are many things parents can do to ensure their child will continue to enjoy reading.
- Start early – The National Center for Education Statistics found that children who are read to frequently at home have an advantage for remembering their name, counting, and reading. During the first year children are excited about the physicality of books, so it is important to pick books with many pictures, colors, and things they can touch. It is also important to be an active participant in the story—make silly noises, use gestures and different voices. Use this reading time as an opportunity to spend quality fun time with your child.
- Start a library just for your child – Between ages one and two, children begin understanding concepts in the books and can answer the questions you pose about the story. They will take more of a role in the reading process and begin to have favorite books, ones they will probably carry around the house. It is great to have a designated library for children, a place where they can go to find a book they are interested in. They will enjoy having their own space for their books and it will encourage them to turn to their library when they want to be entertained.
- Have them set reading goals – once they get into elementary school they begin reading on their own and hopefully they will have a few genres that they really enjoy. Try getting them into a series to generate excitement about completing one book and moving onto the next in the series. Set goals for how many books they should complete in a school year or during the summer.
- Take them to the library – many libraries have a children’s library with book readings, activities, fun chairs, and new books. This is great for getting your child comfortable with reading and excited about using their local library. Set them up with their own library card to give them a feeling of independence and responsibility. If your local library doesn’t have the most exciting atmosphere, check your surrounding towns—some will let you open a card regardless of where you live. It is also important that your child see you reading. You can both take a trip to the library or your local Barnes and Noble, sit in a comfy chair, and read for an hour.
- Help them experience different authors – your child may know the types of books they enjoy to read, but do they which authors they enjoy? You can research different authors within your child’s favorite genres and have them read a few different books. You can also look up the year’s Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) book awards and have your child explore those authors.