There’s nothing quite like seeing your child pick up a book and read it to himself for the first time. And even though we’ve been known to tell our kids to putdownthatbookrightnow! when we’re trying to get them out the door for school, we secretly love that kind of reading obsession. Even if your kid isn’t paging through Moby Dick—or even Mo Willems—yet, you can foster that love of learning early.
So we’ve put together some of our top tips to help make reading fun, so your pre-reader will be on their way to becoming a serious book lover.
1. Read to kids at bedtime.
You’ve heard the advice read to your kids a million times, and for good reason. It works. Science is showing that talking to our babies in all kinds of ways increases brain development. The trick, of course, is that this is a prime chance for sneaky kids to stretch out that bedtime routine.
Our tip: keep a small stack of books next to the bed with only short, bedtime-approved stories on it, and let each kid select one book. One book. (Knowing very well we’ll probably give in and get to a second or third. Sigh.)
2. Enlist friends and family to help build your library
Take advantage of any gift-giving occasion to add a book to your child’s personal library at home. Birthdays, Christmas, Hanukkah, and the end of the school year are obvious options. But think about other times that present opportunities to learn from books —Thanksgiving, Easter, Fourth of July, the change of seasons. The first lost tooth. A move to a new school.
Any new milestone, think books!
3. Create a cozy reading nook.
If kids have a place that’s all theirs, they’ll use it. So set aside an educational, cozy, and fun space for your child to sit and read. This chair from P’kolino is pretty enough to keep in a common space–I kind of like seeing the looks of pride on my kids faces when they sound out a new word. Or let them set the space up in their bedroom, where they can rearrange the furniture, choose the books that go there, or read to their dolls and stuffed animals.
Be sure not to load up the space with too much though, or they’ll get overwhelmed and move on to the next thing.
4. Give kids their own kid-sized reading chair.
Even if you don’t have space for an entire reading nook in your home, you can find a great chair for your kids that’s just their size. Look for one comfy and sturdy, but lightweight enough that kids can move it around themselves. They’re not hard to keep clean (phew). Also, it’s nice not to feel like you live in a preschool classroom, and the P’kolino chairs are modern enough to fit in with the adult furniture.
5. Put the books where kids can reach them.
This may sound obvious, but our homes are rarely kid-ready when we actually have kids! Find a low bookshelf with bright colors that kids know without a doubt is theirs. Then let them organize it the way they want to with their favorite books, stuffed animals — whatever makes it feel fun and comfortable to them. To keep things interesting, we like to stock up on some plastic bins and rotate the books we keep on the shelves every month or so.
6. Choose books on your child’s reading level.
There are thousands of great children’s books out there, aaaaand…thousands of not-so-great ones. Reading with Babies, Toddlers, and Twos is a great resource for helping you choose books your kids will fall in love with. Of course our site is a great resource for our favorite children’s books.
7. Let them wear their love for books on their sleeves. Or their chests.
Support your child’s love for reading beyond books. There are so many cool literary tees for kids that show the world that reading is where it’s at. And we love to give those just-because gifts that inspire reading, like bookmarks, bookish tote bags, book plates, writing journals…they all help to remind our kids that books are important to us, too.
8. Get kids their own library cards!
Take a visit down to the library for story time or the puppet show, and check in at the circulation desk. Most libraries will issue children their own library card, which is incredibly cool to a kid. Don’t you remember having your own first card and how special and grown-up you felt?
Giving your kids ownership of their reading process is key to them becoming book lovers. And be sure teach them to keep track of their card and how to check out books with it. They’ll be hooked.
9. Don’t limit their books to your own favorites.
As much as it may pain you to let your kid bring home that one annoying book that feels less like literature than oh, say, commercial merchandising, don’t be too critical of a child’s selections. If it gets them excited about reading, then it’s all good!
That said, we like to encourage our kids to pick at least one challenge book that will push them up to the next level. There’s nothing like seeing the pride in their eyes when they realize they can move up to their very first chapter books. But you know, don’t keep pushing if they’re not interested. There’s a balance.
10. Make sure your kids see you reading too!
Keep a book with you in the carpool line, at the park, or just take some me time on the couch to read while they play. (We know, sometimes it’s hard for us put down our favorite iPhone games too.) Tell your kids what you like about the story, and ask them what they like about what they’re reading.
The more they see that you value reading in your own free time, the more they’ll want to do it too.