How To Raise A Reader

By far, the most asked question on my blog is ‘how do you get your children to read?’ How do they choose a book? ‘How do you inspire them to pick up a book instead of playing video games?’

Let me start by saying, there is no magic formula or some big trade secret. Countless articles lay the importance of reading to your child when they are a baby. So I will say that, yes, we started very early! In fact reading paves the way to college! Read more about that here. But if you didn’t start reading with your child early on, no worries. Today I will share with you some things I did with my kids and perhaps you will find these helpful with yours as well. 

Reacquaint yourself with reading.

Children learn by seeing. If you are sitting with your phone, while you tell your child to read, he will likely not jump at the opportunity to grab a book. Have you picked up a book recently? Now is the time to reacquaint yourself with reading. Rearrange your bookshelves and pick out books for yourself and your children.
Children look up to us and model behavior. Chances are if they see you reading, they are more likely to pick up a book.

This cartoon depicts this scenario perfectly. Credit: Twitter Julie Woodard


Expose them to diverse books

I think perhaps one of the most difficult aspects is finding a genre that your child will like. Well, here is the thing with that. Until, they are exposed to different genres, and styles of writing, they will not know what is out there. Helping them explore different authors and stories, will help gauge their interests and spark their curiosity, specially for the reluctant reader. One child may like mysteries, while the other may enjoy coming of age stories. Some children prefer shorter stories, while others prefer books that are part of a series. At the same time, children may take interest in non-fiction books, and perhaps graphic novels. In fact, some recent contemporary graphic novels offer good stories and topics of conversation. A good starting point is asking your child to read the blurb, and see if that is something that will pique his curiosity. 

Read with them. Even if they are independent readers. 

As children get older and become independent readers, most parents leave the child to read on their own. I think from time to time, it is good to read with your child, even if it is a chapter or two. Children need to develop a love for story telling, as opposed to reading text from a book. This is where parents and grandparents come in! Take turns reading with your child. Alternate reading chapters or pages. This allows them to enjoy the story telling aspect, and fuels a desire to read more.
A couple of years ago, I wanted to introduce my kids to stories of immigrant children written for middle grades. Though they read on their own, I sat with them and talked through some of the parts. This helps children develop a better understanding and appreciation of an important topic. This also helps them progress to much more complex books. 

Art Installation showing the impact of a book by Mexican media artist Jorge Mendez Blake.

Do not make reading a punishment

This is crucial. You do not want to treat reading as a chore. Avoid saying, ‘If you read for 30 minutes, you can play video games for an hour.”
Maybe even better treat is as a reward! ‘Today I’ll let you read 30 minutes past your bedtime!’ I think the narrative you use with reading is very important.

Avail all resources

Keeping books fresh and introducing new material is essential. You want to keep the flow of books coming and going. With that in mind, try using all resources to gather up your books! We are blessed to be able to live in a world where reading has many resources. Use them all! Go to your local library, and make sure your child has a library card. This is perhaps one of the best places to borrow books that you are not sure whether your child will enjoy or not. Explore different authors and genres and let your child select what interests them. Buy from second hand books sales. These are well discounted, and pre-loved books, that will help build your child’s own little library! Borrowing books from your friends children is another great resource. This way, your child can even discuss the book with them and perhaps even start their very own book club. When a child finds a friend who reads the same books as them, it is a game changer. Bookstores and online retailers often have great membership deals on books. The newly released books may be steep in prices, but if your child is keen on a book, it is an investment. 

Keep books everywhere

Books belong everywhere! Keep them within easy access for your children. Definitely have book shelves to keep it organized, and to foster a collection. But sometimes when a book is tucked away in a bookshelf, it stays there. 
Keep books and kids magazines on coffee tables, their nightstands and in the family room. Also keep some short stories or other reading material in the bathroom. Yes, everyone reads there! Perhaps even keep a book that they may have enjoyed in the bathroom, so they can go over their favorite parts. If you are going out and will be in the car for even a short 20 minutes, tell your kids to take a book! These are small pockets of time that they can read in and of course there is always bedtime reading! 

El Deafo by Cece Bell

The only way to become a better reader is to Read. Read. Read.

Stay tuned for the second part of this post coming soon, where I will talk about how to choose books for your children. 

I hope you found this guide helpful. Please share with me and my other readers on my blog, ways you have instilled the love of reading for your children. 

Since this post was published I have a second part that talks about Book Lists for Raising Readers.

With all my love.

19 thoughts on “How To Raise A Reader

  1. Pingback: Book Lists for Raising Readers | an introverted blogger

  2. My mother disapproved of my reading for pleasure, she thought fiction was a waste of time and that I should only be reading the Bible or doing school work. I may be reading constantly now to make up for all I missed out on as a child 😉


  3. I read with all three of my kids. I read them bedtime stories for years. They always see me with a book and come into book shops with me. Only one will read, the other two are not interested. Shame as I would have loved them to be readers.


  4. I love all these. As a children’s librarian, I would also add to let them read that they want. Don’t tell them a graphic novel or comic book isn’t reading.


  5. This was very helpful. I stared reading with my kids when they were little. And every time we went to Costco they were always allowed to choose one book. But as they got older I just relied on them to keep up the practice and that was a big mistake. Will definitely try reading with them.


  6. This is an insightful read, Nadia. I like the suggestion of encouraging children to read a variety of genres. The kind of genres kids and really each of us likes change over time, so might as well tr reading a genre or any kind of story and see if we like it – and if not, we can move on to the next one.


  7. Loved reading this Nadia – when my children were babies I used to read to them, even now I try to be with them when they are reading and we alternate chapters, but sometimes my elder one (9yrs)finds it just too boring to sit with a book and read. She prefers going through Guinness world record books or almanac , the Who was series or Rebel girls – basically more non fiction, factual books. I try pushing her to pick a famous five book or Nancy drew clue crew types but the interest is short lived – is it more age related?

    Looking forward to your blog’s part 2. Please do recommend age relevant books as well


  8. If I ever have a kid I’d read to them from when they were a baby. And encourage in them a love a stories, however, if they are interested in other things I’ll always encourage that and there are books on everything so I’ll always offer that to them.


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