Bridget Badore/Romper

How One Mom Makes Reading A Fun, Engaging Activity For Her Kids

By Kate Delany

When it comes to the ups and downs of motherhood, Ilana Wiles knows how you feel. As the creator behind the popular parenting blog "Mommy Shorts," Wiles is no stranger to sharing her current parenting challenges and triumphs — one of those challenges being to get her two daughters, 9-year-old Mazzy and 6-year-old Harlow, excited about reading.

"I loved reading as a kid. My head was always buried in a book," Wiles tells Romper, while noting that her daughters haven't quite found the same excitement for reading that she held at their age. For her youngest daughter in particular, Wiles is working to help her see reading as the fun activity it is, and hopefully make it feel like less of a chore.

"She loves the idea of reading, but finds actually learning to read words herself difficult," Wiles says. "Reading has just not really clicked for her yet, but I know once it does, she'll love it."

Since Wiles is far from the only parent to experience this challenge, Romper teamed up with Lunchables to find out how she's working to strike a balance between helping Harlow learn the importance of reading, while also having plenty of fun with it. Here, she shares a few helpful tips from her daughters' reading journeys — plus one or two that didn't work for them, but may be helpful to your family!

First, Recognize That Each Reader Is Unique

Bridget Badore/Romper

Wiles acknowledges that she and her daughters each have their own attitude toward reading — these days, Wiles loves getting lost in a book whenever the opportunity is available, but her daughters don't share the same outlook.

One thing that's helped her navigate their differing opinions? Tuning into their individual needs and interests. For Mazzy, that means giving her the space to explore her newfound love of graphic novels which, it turns out, can be really beneficial for building reading skills.

"[Building skills] is more important than what books your kid is reading," says Wiles. "I let Mazzy read what she wanted, and eventually that started to include chapter books. Now she’s the kid who tries to sneak books to the dinner table."

For younger daughter Harlow, Wiles has learned that a confidence boost can take her youngest a long way. "She’s a really smart kid, with a great vocabulary, and I don’t think she likes us to see her struggle." So Wiles lets Harlow "read" the picture books she's already memorized and just enjoy herself.

Try A New Approach To Required Reading

Once Wiles' girls started school, things got more complicated as at-home required reading became a part of their days, which neither daughter was initially receptive of.

"I wanted to enforce their skills, but still make it fun for them," says Wiles, who admits she isn't afraid to let her kids off the hook for at-home reading, and instead, read to them. "I prefer to keep the major lessons at school and just reinforce at home. I don’t want them to associate reading with mom with a struggle."

Switch Up Your Bedtime Story Lineup

Wiles lets her daughters choose their bedtime stories each night, and their evening line-up includes both picture books that provide a short, fun read, as well as longer chapter books.

"There is something really special about spreading a longer book out over a few nights or weeks. A real appreciation for reading develops even when the kids aren’t the ones reading the book," says Wiles, who values how longer reads help her daughters understand the evolution of ideas, characters, and stories.

Take Fun Breaks Along The Way

Bridget Badore/Romper

Creating a fun learning environment can go a long way for your kid's reading skills, which is why Wiles likes to stop for snack breaks during Harlow's reading lessons — and she's mastered how to walk the line between getting Harlow excited to read while also not feeding her too many sweets. "I've tried to figure out snack options that I feel good about," says Wiles. "I love that Lunchables Natural Turkey and Cheddar feels like a fun snack, but it's also a good source of protein and can double as lunch!" The meat and cheese in Lunchables Natural are also made without artificial ingredients, making it a solid option you and your kid can feel good about.

Encourage Non-Conventional Reading Practice

By watching her girls come into their own as readers, Wiles learned that the right learning environment wasn't necessarily the same for each of them. Harlow, for example, is doing well with reading street signs and advertisements around their neighborhood.

"I think Harlow feels less pressure reading random signs when we are walking around the neighborhood or riding on the bus, than when I sit her down with a whole book at home," says Wiles.

Remember: "Sooner" Does Not Necessarily Mean "Better"

For Wiles, her priority was making sure reading remained an activity that could be enjoyed solo or shared. As for advice to other moms whose kids might not be into books yet? Don't feel the need to add undue pressure that may result in negative associations with reading.

"Kids often develop at different speeds, and what is easy for one kid might be hard for another. Just because a kid is slow to start reading doesn’t mean that they will be a bad reader," says Wiles, using her oldest daughter as an example. "Mazzy was one of the last kids to read in her grade, but is now reading above grade level. It’s been really helpful to have had that experience as we work on Harlow’s slowly developing reading skills."

To learn more about Wiles, her daughter Harlow, and how they're working to find their own balance with learning to read, check out our video below!

This post is sponsored by Lunchables.