We live in a world where entertainment is as close as the nearest screen. Even I, the crazy book lady, can fall prey to a serious case of Netflix binging.
I’ve noticed that a lot of kids would rather play video games or apps or watch cartoons than open a book. Reading is not exactly an instant gratification type of media.
So we have a job ahead of us as mamas. We have to start our kids on books early. We have to show them that reading is fun. And we have to help them learn how to enjoy the slower, truer gratification of reading a good book.
I may be dating myself here, but when I was a kid we didn’t have PCs, we didn’t have cell phones, and Atari was as good as it got as far as home entertainment systems were concerned. So it was easy for me to get hooked on stories at a very young age. Because my parents were both readers, I was surrounded by books from birth. My parents read all the time–for themselves and for me and my siblings.
I had good examples when it came time to introduce my own boys to books. Read in front of them. Read to them. Make sure they have access to books at all times. Take them to the library.
My library science education and years as a librarian taught me even more about engaging children in the world of books. I’m grateful for the knowledge and for the way it helped me enjoy books with my boys even more. I am not making it up when I say that I have utilized everything I’ve learned over the years with my own littles, and I truly believe my knowledge can help you.
So how can you make reading so fun in your own home that your kids won’t mind putting down their screens?
Start them young
Don’t wait until you think your kiddo can understand what you’re reading. Babies learn language by hearing language, and you can’t beat the correct grammar and speech they’ll hear in books. Also, your voice soothes your baby more than any other sound in the world.
I’ve said it before, but seriously, I began reading aloud to my boys the minute I knew they existed. I didn’t wait till they were born, didn’t wait till they could talk, didn’t wait till they could turn the pages themselves… I read to them from the womb.
By the time they were old enough to process what reading is, they were already in love with stories.
If it’s too late now to start reading in the womb, start reading to your littles no matter what their age. Better late than never. Read.
Cater to their interests
Every little is obsessed with something. Is it trains? Horses? Cats? Bugs? Whatever your littles love, there’s a book about that. Middle is heavy into Greek Mythology, so I’m always snatching up whatever books I find that have Greek gods or myths in them. Littlest loves zombies. And there are tons of zombie books out there right now.
It doesn’t matter if it’s picture books or chapter books, find books that are about topics your kids love. Then it will be fun.
Create a cool reading nook
Sure, you can read anywhere. That’s one of the many glorious things about reading. But if you create an inviting spot for your littles to curl up in, they are much more likely to enjoy themselves.
Find a comfy chair or a pile of bright, soft cushions and arrange them in a corner. Add a plush, pretty rug. Add some shelves to the wall to hold spare books and a soft blanket to cuddle in. Maybe hang a reading canopy to make it even cozier and some fairy lights… But also a light that will illuminate books well without hurting little eyes.
I mean, okay, y’all, I’m totally daydreaming here. I would love to have just such a nook. Or maybe one with a daybed in it.
Even just an oversized chair near a bookshelf where you and your little can read together counts for a cool reading nook. Just make sure they have a special place that they know is for reading.
Keep Reading Aloud
Even when they get old enough to read to themselves, keep reading aloud. Do the voices. Add the drama. Let your littles Hear You enjoying the story. You’ve probably heard me say before that we still read aloud every day in our homeschool. My boys read plenty on their own, but our reading class consists of me reading aloud while they follow along in their own copies of the book. They’re 12 and 14. We will do this till they graduate.
Why? Because even I still like to be read to. And your littles still love to hear your voice. And when they see you having fun reading a book, they will know it is fun for them to read.
Don’t be embarrassed or worry if you’re getting the accents wrong. Just read.
And invest in audiobooks
Audiobooks will never take the place of your voice, but they are amazing for long car rides or to listen to while you’re doing crafts or cooking. Live Oak Media has a superb collection of amazing audiobooks, both picture and chapter, that I am swooning over right now.
And let them read aloud
In order for reading to become second nature, it has to be done often. So your kids should be reading aloud as well as reading alone. When the boys were young and just starting chapter books we took turns, each of us reading a page alternately so that no one got overwhelmed but we all got used to reading with feeling. It is much more fun to read when you know how to read with feeling from the beginning.
Promise a family movie night
Kids movies are based on books more often than not. So when you hear about an awesome new film coming out that is based on a book, promise your kids to go see the film or to rent it for a family Dinner and a Movie. The caveat? They have to read the book first. Need some ideas? Check out
- Dinner and a Movie: The Water Horse
- Dinner and a Movie: Middle School
- Dinner and a Movie: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
- Dinner and a Movie: Alice Through the Looking Glass
- Dinner and a Movie: How the Grinch Stole Christmas
- Dinner and a Movie: Squanto-A Warrior’s Tale
And remember, there’s a new Dinner and a Movie right here on the first Friday of every month. Because I love ya.
Hold a book club
It doesn’t matter if the members are neighborhood kids or just your own family, getting everybody involved in reading the same book can spark interest and engagement quite quickly. If you’re unsure how to start a book club, don’t worry–you know I got you. Read all about it here.
Use activities to make reading engaging
If you’ve ever seen one of my Story Times, you know I crush hard on creating activities to go with picture books (it’s the librarian in me). Doing crafts and science projects, making a recipe, or learning some cool facts about the creatures that live in the story–all those things enhance the reading experience and make it fun. If you have a reluctant reader, engaging her in activities that make the book come alive may be just the thing to get her excited about reading. So have some fun.
Because that’s how reading is supposed to be.
Need some ideas for fun reading activities? Take a look at