Not every kid comes out of the womb loving reading. (Or, even comes out of preschool loving reading.) No matter how much you read to your kids or encourage reading, sometimes it just doesn’t click right away. And that’s okay!
After years of writing about this — let alone raising a whole lot of kids between us — we wanted to share some of the expert tips we’ve picked up on, the help kids who may be struggling with basic reading skills, or reluctant to read on their own.
Because when kids are excited about reading, they read more. And we all know how important that is, right?
We’re particularly thrilled to present this to you on behalf of our sponsor, Duolingo ABC. Yes, it sounds familiar, because this free (free!) new literacy app, which you can learn more about over on Cool Mom Tech, for kids 3-7 is brought to you by the experts behind the most popular language-learning app around the globe. And it happens to be pretty amazing.
Keeping reading skills fun? That’s a win right there.
8 expert ways to get kids excited about reading
1. Read with kids from the minute they’re born
Well, maybe not the very minute, seeing as how you’ll have other things on your mind then. But a 2017 study from an NYU pediatrics department researcher has shown that reading to your kids soon after they’re born has boosted their reading and vocabulary skills four years later, before elementary school starts.
Reading in infancy also boosts a kid’s brain power and introduces them to colors, shapes, people, and places. And when reading is a part of their regular routine, they’ll quickly realize that it’s fun — and that there’s always a new adventure when you read a new book.
And what could be more exciting than that?
2. Have lots of books around the house…and other things they can read
Growing up in a house of books is a huge boost to literacy, according to lots of studies, including this one that saw correlations in 31 different countries! So keep your bookcases full, and reading materials within easy reach for kids, whether in bookcases, on the living room table, stacked on the kitchen counter, or in the back seat of the car — provided they don’t get car sick!
But it’s not just books that kids need to have around.
We chatted with linguistic expert Dr. Cindy Blanco of Duolingo ABC for our latest episode of Spawned, and she confirmed what we’ve always known: that anything at all kids are reading is good! Posters, t-shirts in their drawer, comics, greeting cards, catalogues, the sides of cereal boxes — reading is not just about books.
This is backed up by research from the Educational Testing Service that determined that the kids most proficient in reading are those with an endless supply of reading material at home. As well as previous literary research that looked at 42 nations around the world, and determined a “strong, clear, statistically significant” correlation between reading material at home and test scores.
3. Let kids read whatever interests them
Sometimes we’re so excited to push our kids to read, that we pick the books we think they should be reading, instead of the books they actually are interested in. Tons of research, like this study from Scholastic, indicates that kids’ favorite books are overwhelmingly ones they’ve picked out themselves.
Kids aren’t shy about sharing what they like — if they’re into dinosaurs, robots, princesses or superhero dinosaurs princesses, you’ll know it. Encouraging your children’s interests is so important, an idea supported by research from authors and experts like Katie Hurley. There’s a correlation between your enthusiasm for their passions, and their own success.
In other words, if they like sports, if they like bugs, if they like ghosts, if they like talking puppies…it’s all good. No need to be all, “but Shakespearean sonnets!” with your early readers. They’ll get there eventually.
4. …and know that those interests will change. A lot.
Get ready to turn on a dime when your kid is suddenly over tigers and onto narwhals. Kids move onto new interests so quickly, for all kinds of interesting reasons, and their choice of books will reflect that.
It’s our job to adapt, even if we are sad about saying goodbye to a beloved bedtime story — or the “Favorite Animated Character From TV Goes Shopping” book they begged for and we reluctantly bought.
Hey, that’s kids for you.
.A positive way to think of it: you can learn about their new interests together.
5. Show kids you like reading, too
Know what interests young kids? The things that interest you. Psychologists and adolescent therapists describe all the reasons it’s good to share hobbies with your kids, and that a includes reading.
Think of it this way: the same way we model good behavior when it comes to eating vegetables, saying thank you, and putting our phone down during dinner (well, we’re supposed to at least), we need to model reading as something we do for fun. So make sure your kids see you read!
6. Get help from educational apps. It’s okay!
Even if you feel like you’re “doing everything right” (whatever that means for parents), some kids just struggle with certain reading skills, and research shows that lack of confidence creates frustration, and frustration leads to giving up.
For years we’ve recommended hundreds of educational apps on Cool Mom Tech to help with all kinds of skills, and the best ones are those that give kids little wins along the way, and make learning feel like fun — or to use a cliche, “kids won’t even know they’re learning!”
That’s why we honestly love everything about Duolingo ABC. It’s a truly easy way for kids master those important basics like phonics, ABCs, even reading and writing their own names, all in five-minute, lessons that are fun, interactive, and above all, rewarding in a way that a worksheet just isn’t. The successes build confidence that keeps kids enthusiastic and inspires them to continue reading.
And if you already have an early reader on your hands, there are 50 more complex lessons just for them in the app. But hey, they’re still fun.
It also helps that Duolingo ABC is free from the App Store — which means you can save your money for actual books they like. (Which can be another reward, by the way!)
7. Ease up on the pressure
Research in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics has shown that even well-meaning “parental control” can backfire. In other words, parents who set realistic goals without piling on the pressure to succeed, have the children who are most motivated to learn all kinds of skills. And that of course includes reading.
Let kids read at their own pace, pick the books that are at their level — whatever their age — and end when they’re tired.
You don’t have to “just finish this chapter” when their attention wanders or they’re getting fidgety or tired. Just stop where you are and pick it up again tomorrow.
8. Keep reading out loud with your kids…even when you think they’ve outgrown it.
Experts always encourage reading aloud to your kids, and that includes older kids who are perfectly capable of reading not heir own. Hearing a book read out loud helps kids with comprehension and vocabulary, and hey, it’s also a great opportunity to spend some quality time together and reinforce the idea that reading is an enjoyable activity, and “something we do in our family.”
We’ve loved cuddling up and reading the original Wizard of Oz series or Harry Potter with our early readers, or new classics like Wonder as they got a little older. And now that we have teens? Wow, do we miss it. So enjoy reading together as long as you can.
Not just for your kids but for you too.