Teaching your Child to Love Reading

This headline probably caught your eye because you have a child that is struggling to read. Then, who am I to barge in to tell you that your child can truly learn to love reading?

Remember that kids love the stories, not the act of reading - they won't be picking up the Wall Street Journal anytime soon - but they will want to keep up with Jack & Annie's adventures. Once our kids know how to read, it opens up a whole new world for their imagination to flourish. We hear from other moms about that "aha moment" and how little Lucy can't get enough of the Tree House Magic books - this mother simply can't keep up with the supply of books for the devouring her daughter is doing to them.

So, if you're in the camp of mothers who just want to throttle little Lucy's mom for making it all sound so easy, listen up. It's not that easy. Learning to read is like any other skill - it has to be learned. Little Lucy will have struggled at one point too. We have different aptitudes towards learning and it will take some of our kids longer to learn to read than others. Rest assured, they will all know how to read by the second grade and by then a new world of "reading to learn" will open up to them.

So how do you get your reluctant reader to knuckle down to get to that "aha moment"? Here are some pointers that may work for you:

Be patient

Pick a time of day when your child is alert and well rested to suggest you sit down to read a book. Don't suggest you sit down after soccer practice and a full day of school. Also, be patient with the reading material you pick. If your child picks out a picture book you believe is too easy, let them read this book. To a certain extent, let your child dictate the level of difficulty, but within reason. If she picks up the same book for the 20th time, it may be time to suggest a different book.

Little and often

Don't overdo it. Little and often is the name of the game. Young kids have difficulty sitting down for any stretches of time, so don't force them to read for a full half-hour. This is not a race, but a marathon. A few minutes per day will go a long way to helping your kid learn to read.

Be regular

Many parents often read to their kids at night and it becomes a routine. As your child gets older, let them participate more in the story - get them to point out things in pictures, get them to point out words and let them read segments of the story. Introduce the reading slowly and don't make the bedtime reading into a reading session for the child alone. Take turns reading sentences and make the story reading a more collaborative effort.

Let them pick the subject

There are books and magazines that cover pretty much any topic. So if it's Star Wars, bugs, rocks or fairies that have captured your kid's imagination for the moment - let them read about it. It doesn't have to be a chapter book with lots of words and few pictures. In fact, those are intimidating. Perhaps consider a magazine, picture book or comic book instead. You can always aim for harder reading materials once your child is ready.

Find the right reading material

We all struggle with finding books that will expand our child's interest in reading. So ask around. Parents, teachers, librarians are good places to start. I've found parents a great source for book recommendations - often they have kids the same age as yours, or have just been through that age-range, and their kids will most likely have similar interests to yours.

Create the right atmosphere

We're lucky that our young kids still want to spend time with us. Making reading a special occasion will leave him or her with a positive impression. Just like you make popcorn and roll up in cozy blankets in front of a movie, next time swap that movie for a good book. Read it together - take turns, let them spot words they know and help them spell out difficult words. Take your time, give lots of praise and enjoy the moment - your child certainly will.

At arm's reach

Make books and magazines available for your child in easy to reach bookcases in your family room and in your child's bedroom. Your child is more likely to pick up a book if they have access to it. Associating books with toys and games will help him or her think of reading as a fun activity.

Expand your child's reading environment

There are some great reading programs in our communities that aim to help kids read regularly. Libraries and community centres often run reading programs where the kids enter the books they're reading in ledgers and receive stickers and medals for progress through, and completing, the programs.

No need for bribery

We all respond well to incentives and rewards, so it won't be a surprise that your child will too. You probably already use rewards in other aspects on your child's upbringing, so extend that to their reading behaviour too. Some of you may reward them for independently picking up a book, others for reading a certain amount of time every week - do what works best for your child. However, don't go overboard and start bribing your child. Giving them a cookie so they'll do some reading is not the aim of the game.

Find new ways to look up information

I know we want to leave our kids with the impression that we're fountains of knowledge, but I, for one, am not. Next time they ask about a topic you don't know much about, look up those facts together - it's a great learning experience: reading leads to knowledge.

Set the example

We all read and we read the things we like to read. For some of us it's magazines, for others it's books, scientific journals, newspapers, comics, recipes, craft patterns - you name it. You lead by example by showing your child that you enjoy reading, so let them see you actively take time out to sit down with your favourite reading material. Perhaps they'll curl up in your lap and start reading with you.

No matter how many of these tips you take on board, showing a positive attitude towards reading is the first step to teaching your child a love of reading.

Written by Asa Zanatta of K5 Learning, for Hybrid Mom