As a kid, books were my outlet. I used to come home from school, pile my favorites in the bathtub, (I don't know, I was a weird kid) and sit in the middle of them reading. I don't know if my mom researched ways to raise a future bookworm or if my love was just genetic, but I was head over heels for books.
Now that I'm a mom, I'm so excited that my daughter has the literature bug, too. She's not even two, but she's totally obsessed with any and all books. This morning, in fact, I found her with a copy of Jimmy Carter's biography in my office. If there's a book on the bookshelf, she wants it, and she wants to read it. The book store is a toy store to her, and I can't say I disagree. I love that we share this interest in books and that reading is such a fundamental part of her childhood.
Because we all know how important reading is, right? Not only is it helping their imagination grow and giving them serious literary skills, but studies have shown that reading does a number on your child's brain. According to CNN, one study found that the regions of the brain activated when a child hears a story or reads are the areas involved in understanding the world, concepts, and their memory.
So there's no better time to turn your kid into a bookworm than March 3, World Book Day. With these 25 ways to raise a future reader, you'll be able to grow your child's love of reading, and embrace your own bookish ways all over again.
1. Read To Your Child
A no-brainer, but super important. Read books, magazines, the back of a cereal box, everything. The Reading Is Fundamental organization notes that not only does reading to your child stimulate their imagination, but it also makes your older children want to improve their reading skills and encourages them to hit the books, too.
2. Buy Age Appropriate Books
I know that you can't wait to read Little Women to your daughter, but at two, she may not be able to sit through it. Go ahead and buy those copies of Harry Potter, but encourage your child to read with age appropriate books, even if it's just a board book full of three word sentences and pictures.
3. Take Them To The Library
When your children see how many books there are and how accessible they are, they'll be even more excited to pick up a story or two. I absolutely loved going to the library as a kid, especially when I was let loose in the children's section and allowed to take home as many as I wanted. It felt just like Matilda.
4. Make A Designated Time For Reading Each Day
Like rest time, screen time, and snack time, reading should have its own designated time of the day. Maybe it's after they wake up from a nap, or early in the morning when you're still cuddling in bed. But a designated time means your kids will look forward to it and know that there won't be any interruptions or huffy sighs from you because you're too busy.
5. Have Your Child's Books Accessible To Them
My daughter has a basket in every room full of books, plus bookshelves she can reach herself. When the books are accessible, you'll find that your child is drawn more to them and will pull them out on their own to read.
6. Tell Stories Even Without A Book
Kids love to hear stories and they love to learn. Make it a point to tell stories even if there's no book present, like in the car or while you're making coffee in the morning. They'll want to pick out books just to keep hearing stories.
7. Let Them Choose Their Own Books
I know you have a list of books you want them to read, but let your kids take the lead on this one. Little kids have so little control over their lives that it's easy for them to feel like they don't get a say in anything. Let their books be their choice, even if it's Madeline and you wish they'd pick Eloise.
8. Read Books In Front Of Them
Actions speak louder than words, right? Put your phone down, turn off the TV, and put away the laptop. Pull out a book when you're all doing your own thing, and you may find that your kid wants to read too, simply because you're doing it.
9. Ask Them Their Opinions On Books
Talk to your kids about the books they've read. Did they like it? Why not? What was their favorite part? What made the characters good or bad? A book doesn't have to end once the last page is turned, so keep the conversation going. Maybe you can encourage your child to find a new book they liked better, or one in the same genre if they loved it.
10. Make Reading An Experience
Do voices. Point out butterflies, cows, and colors on each page. Pretend you're on stage performing a play. Reading can be so exciting when you get into your role as narrator, and your kids will be begging for just one more chapter.
11. Introduce Your Favorites
Kids love to hear about what you were like when you were younger, so use that to your advantage. Talk to your kids about the books you loved when you were little, and what they meant to you. Especially for kids who are on the fence about reading, this action may propel them to choose the same ones you did because they trust your opinion.
12. Don't Make Reading A Chore
Reading should never be a punishment or a chore. That's a very fast way to make your kid hate books and reading.
13. Create A Space Made Only For Reading
Remember the reading areas in elementary school? Ours were full of twinkle lights, big soft places to sit, blankets, and even tents. Create a reading spot in your home, but make sure it's reserved only for reading. No tablets or iPods or Netflix allowed in the reading space.
14. Don't Force It
If your kid's not feeling like reading that day, don't force it. You can still encourage them by saying things like, "maybe later we can read this story, because it's about pirates and I know you love them!" But don't panic if your kid's not into the idea right then or would prefer to do something else. Also make sure not to force your book choices down your kid's throat — let them take the lead.
15. Choose Books Based On Your Kids' Interests
This is especially great for reluctant readers, but it helps for even the avid bookworm. If you know your kid is really into space, pick out books about NASA, the planets, or stories featuring a character with the same interest. Nobody wants to read a book if they're not invested, not even kids.
16. Don't Make Books A Treat
Books should be available any time, any where for your kid. They're not just a treat to be enjoyed when you say so. Everyone is busy and can't read to their kids every time they ask, but make sure you don't use it as a bargaining tool for your kid to do something.
17. Read Everywhere You Go
Read street signs, read magazines at the doctor's office, read labels at the grocery store. It won't take your kids long to realize that words and reading are literally everywhere.
18. Give Non-Engaged Kids An Activity
Sometimes your kid wants to hear a story, but it's hard for them to focus or stay engaged. Give them an activity that goes along with the story. If you're reading an adventure book, have them draw out illustrations while you read. Let them act out your words or build a craft that goes with the story.
19. Encourage Them To Write
Reading is fun, but so is writing your own stories. Talk to your children about creating their own books, and let them have a blast making up stories, drawing illustrations and even bounding their work together into a book. They'll be excited to read other books and encourage their love of writing at the same time.
20. Make Reading Part Of Your Bedtime Routine
It's late, you had a rough day at work, and you're exhausted. But reading at bedtime should be as routine as brushing your kid's teeth. It's the perfect way to wind down, and it gives them lots of snuggle time with you, along with an added dose of imagination before dreaming.
21. Let Your Child Read Out Loud
Even when your kid is old enough to read, let them read out loud to you. They'll gain confidence, and they'll love picking books that they're excited to read to you.
22. Don't Put Pressure On Reading
Some kids aren't great at reading, and when there's added pressure to be awesome at it, they shut down. Keep reading a light, fun, encouraged activity and I promise, they'll come around. Practice makes perfect, and all of these tips can help build their confidence as a reader, too.
23. Watch 'Reading Rainbow'
The classic Reading Rainbow series is available on Netflix and is still a great program to get your kids interested in reading. I mean, LeVar Burton made reading sound so cool to us when we were little, why can't he do the same for your reluctant reader?
24. Introduce Their Favorite Movies As Books
Some of your kids' favorite movies are based off books, like Harry Potter and Matilda, and even some children's flicks are turned into books. Disney has been known to turn movies like Toy Story into Little Golden Books, so jump at the opportunity to show your kids the book versions of their favorite stories.
25. Celebrate World Book Day
Schools across the world are celebrating World Book Day with kids dressed as favorite characters, bringing new books into the classroom, and more. Celebrate with your family in your own way. Take them to the bookstore, make green eggs and ham for dinner, or let them dress up as their favorite characters. But make sure to read as many books as you can!