As big-time book lovers here, we’ve learned that a love of reading is acquired and not something kids are necessarily born with, like the color of their eyes or their uncanny inability to sleep past 6 AM on a Saturday. So we love putting together tips for parents on ways to get kids excited about reading — and ideally, keep them reading — especially now that summer is here and we all get a little more lax about things like that. Plus, our bookshelves do tend to have some stiff competition with all that extra daylight after dinner.
One of our top ideas, as always, is to simply pick the books that engage young children in the first place, and get them excited about stories and early reading. Which is why we are so happy to again be partnering with I See Me! personalized storybooks which makes such original, award-winning, personalized books for young children that our own kids have loved.
– Don’t miss a limited time offer for CMP readers below –
CMP recommended pick and New York Times bestseller, I Wish You More, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld is a lovely book made even more special with I See Me!’s personalization that weaves the child’s name throughout. Amazing gift!
As we all know by now, when a book actually features your own child, that’s a surefire way to get that book read about a zillion times within the first week. There aren’t many things cooler than being the star of your own story, right?
Hope these tips and ideas help you set your kids on the path to reading for pleasure for the rest of their lives. And in the short term, to at least keep them from saying “I’m bored!” any more than they have to before school starts up again.
1. Start early. Like, birth.
The beautifully illustrated Who Loves Me? is a sweet personalized baby gift.
We always always always suggest books for baby shower or newborn gifts, and they rank high on our list of birthday gifts at any age. When you relatives ask what your child needs for his birthday, keep books top of mind. Even for a pre-reader who can only identify the colors on the page and the sounds the animals make.
2. Make sure a book is one they’re actually interested in.
This sounds like a duh, right? But sometimes we’re so eager to get our kids reading “on level” or pushing them harder, that we can forget that when they like the book, that’s the number one reason they’re going to come back to it. Graphic novels, trivia books, picture books chapter books, biographies, knock-knock jokes — any expert will tell you it’s all good when it come to young readers. And hey, today’s picture book could be tomorrow’s eight-volume YA series. That’s also why we like the idea of personalized books in the first place. We can tell you first-hand, they really do get kids interested.
3. Give kids their own cozy reading nook
Even if they aren’t yet reading on their own, give them their own reading nook with loads of books nearby is a great way to encourage quiet reading time. An easy-to-move, lightweight play tent or comfy chair will do the trick, though any spot away from the bustle of the household is ideal. Just knowing there’s a special place in the house all for reading sends a huge message to kids.
4. Turn story time into a dress-up affair
The perfect stories ready-made for dress up? Fantasy books like My Very Own Pirate Tale personalized book or the personalized Princess book with your child’s name in the title.
Before you sit down to read together, a fun way to get creative juices flowing is by getting out costumes and props that go with the book. Fire up the printer for some free printable animal masks before you read a book about going to the zoo. Get dressed up in your very fanciest clothes and play jewelry before reading fairy tales or stories of knights and royalty. Or if you’re reading about hijinks on the high seas, do it while donning eye patches and pirate hats. It really gets you both better at expressive reading, and giving it your very best arrrrrrrr.
It’s also a way to help reinforce the story for kinesthetic learners, so they can remember it even when they are flipping through the book on their own.
5. Get stuffed friends into the action.
If you don’t want to dress up (what?), how about dressing up your child’s favorite stuffed critters? We’re sure you’ve got oh, two or three of them around somewhere who would just love to join your child for storytime. We love these free pirate printables from Alpha Mom that are also perfect for a pirate story like My Very Own Pirate Tale, or search the web for printables or scour your house for doll accessories that can bring to life any book theme at all.
6. Bring books on the road
Going on a road trip? Crayons are awesome and all, but don’t forget to bring some of their favorite story books too. We like adding in a couple of new titles to surprise kids on the plane when you start hearing cries of are we there yet? Or if you have kids who can read without getting car sick, keep them within arm’s reach in the backseat with a useful car organizer like this one we found from One Step Ahead. That way your kids can reach for a book whenever they’d like.
And hey, if you aren’t driving yourself, consider crawling into the back seat with your child and take storytime on the road, literally.
7. Read outside for a breath of fresh air.
I Can Change the World is not your ordinary personalized book – we like that it introduces the concept of charity and helping others through our own positive actions.
Whether you find a shady spot on a hammock, lay down a picnic blanket with friends, or grab a flashlight for storytime under the stars, summertime is the most perfect time to take books outside. Snuggling close for one more story will make for some pretty tender memories, and help kids associate reading for fun as an essential part of summer.
8. Change up the narrator. (No offense, Mom and Dad.)
Even old books come to life in new ways when Grandpa or Nana or your favorite high school neighborhood sitter is commanding storytime. Make sure that when you visit family — or they visit you — that reading is on the agenda for playtime with the kids. They gain so much from hearing their favorite books interpreted by others who love them; maybe Grandpa does the best voices and Grandma has the softest lap. Or their nanny gets the most animated and a big sister reads the slowest so that they can follow along. It’s a great bonding experience, too.
9. Stories by Skype. Or Facetime. Or G Chat.
If your favorite guest readers are out of town, our kids love when they get a story via video chat on our laptops or tablets. We’ve done this plenty with our own kids when we’re away on business trips, and the grandparents have been known to pull out a book for a little extra face time (in the traditional sense) when they’re missing the kids. It’s the 21st century way to connect. And it helps kids focus on the actual book, and not just their own silly faces on the webcam, as children are apt to do.
10. Combine reading books with active play
Let a favorite story springboard your kid onto greater adventures like following up a book about friendship with tea for two, or even a hilarious muddy tea party. Make some DIY instruments to accompany a book about music. Or, read a racing themed book like I See Me’s Speedster: A Day in the Life of a Race Car Driver, above, then help your kids turn a plain cardboard box into their own speedster with the wonderful Makedo Box Prop Kits.
Another great tip: After you finish reading, ask your kids how they would make the pages of the book come to life through play. You’ll be amazed what they come up with.
11. Create a reading log that grows and grows
Whether or not your kids are old enough to be reading on their own, you can still get them excited about how many books they are enjoying during the summer by creating a paper chain reading log of their favorite titles. We love this idea that we recently found at Eighteen25: Every time they add a new link to their chain they can marvel at just how many books they’ve sat down with at story time. Can they make a chain that is as tall as they are? How about one long enough to reach across their bedroom?
12. Rewards. They work.
Sometimes hitting a number of books is its own reward, and honestly we like getting kids excited to read just because reading is awesome. But if you want to create incentives, suggest going out for an ice cream cone after every 10 books. Or buying a really special toy (or another favorite book?) after 20 books. We love this free printable rewards chart by Arian Armstrong [h/t tip junkie] for your super boy or girl to help you keep track. Just add a star sticker or a checkmark for each book finished. You can also host your own readathon with a playgroup or just the kids in your family, if competition helps spur your kids.
13. Consider the library a cool-off zone in the summer.
When it’s too hot too hit the beach or go out to the park but you just have to get out of the house (we feel you), grab a book bag and skip the coffee shop; instead, head over to your air-conditioned local library. Many libraries will let any child who can write their own name get a library card, which can feel like a huge thing for preschoolers and even toddlers. And while there’s nothing like having your own book to keep forever (and yes, you can bring your own into the library), a trip there can open kids up to books they might never have thought they’d love. Also, did we mention the air conditioning?
14. Read yourself!
Finally, if you want to raise kids who love books, make sure they see you enjoying reading time too. (And, no, reading Facebook updates on your phone doesn’t count.) Keep a paperback in your handbag, next to the bed, or bring it to the beach. It’s not so much the content of the book you read but the fact that your kids see it’s an essential part of your own world that gives them the strongest impression that reading is something we never outgrow.
Thanks so much to our sponsor I See Me! which makes wonderful personalized storybooks for kids that really get them excited about reading over the summer and beyond. Depending on the book, you can customize gender, skin tone, hair color, or even have your own child’s photo and name in the story, and include a special dedication and photo of the child in the inside cover.
Extra Cool: CMP readers enjoy free shipping on all personalized books at I See Me.com through 7/8/15. Just enter coupon code SHIPFREE at checkout. Offer cannot be combined with other coupon codes. International and Canadian customers will get a $7.95 shipping credit. Yay, Canada!
I See Me! is a proud supporter of READ ALOUD, which recommends parents and caregivers read aloud 15 minutes a day every day.
Rewards… We tried that with our kindergartener. She kept up with it long enough to earn herself a Flutterby Fairy, then immediately stopped. Pretty wily, lol.
Yes, but did the Flutterby Fairy stop too? (We may have some experience with that.)
I’ve seen research that reading as its own reward is really the best way to keep kids reading. But as a way to get them to start, incentives can help. My daughter got hooked into her school readathon which helped her find the Percy Jackson series, which then created a total obsession with reading them, even after the readathon was over. That’s your best case scenario! Maybe when she’s a little older. Good luck!
Ok, the photo of the stuffed animals/dolls in pirate hats? The sweetie on the far right is a Lilyfoll – one of my old toy designs – how cool to see her hanging out on Cool Mom Picks! It’s been awhile! Thanks for reminding me of her!