We know how important it is for kids to spend time reading. No workbook or computer app can make up for the vocabulary, comprehension skills, and fluency development gained reading.
Getting children to regularly choose to read can be tricky, but there are things parents can do to pave the path towards lifelong reading.
1. Feed their interests
My parents still cut out newspaper stories and mail them to me. I am not suggesting you go to those extremes (actual newspapers? post office?), but help your child hunt down reading materials that match their hobbies or passion.
Is your child into trucks? Head over to the library to load up. Fascinated by fly fishing? Subscribe to a magazine. Obsessed with horses? Find some blogs about raising horses. (Yup, these exist.) Source some weird news articles or gather some graphic novels or comics.
Make sure the reading material is not too hard for your child. Most of us don't pick up a graduate level textbook just for fun. If the reading is too challenging it's unlikely to be motivating.
Don't stress too much about WHAT your child is reading. If it is age appropriate, and your child wants to read it, consider that a win. Once you have a regular reader on your hands, it is easier to suggest a wider range of materials.
I got to be a VERY motivated young reader when I figured out that the library would let me check out ANY book I wanted. In elementary school we used to pass around the names of the really good books, books that taught me what "first base" really meant and how to get bigger boobs. (Spoiler alert: it didn't work.)
I promise, I read other books too. My reading career may have had a bit of a salacious start, but I became a reader in the end.
2. Hook them with a series
So you find a great book at your child's level that your child just LOVES. Yay! And then she finishes the book, and you are back to square one. UNLESS you get your kid hooked on a series.
I taught so many kids that were one good series away from being readers. They had the ability to decode and comprehend text, and seemed to enjoy reading some but they just didn't read enough. Fluency lagged and vocabulary wasn't expanding fast enough. If I could help these kiddos find a series they loved, the problem was solved.
Series books also provide readers with a lot of support. The characters, setting and plot are often similar from book to book, so it is easier to dive right in.
I have a Pinterest Board with some of my favorite series titles. Let me know if you have any to add!
3. Litter your lives with reading materials
The more accessible books and articles are, the more likely they are to get read. Put small book baskets or piles of books in different rooms, tuck a few in the toy bin, stick several in the seat back pocket of your car, and decorate with piles of books. Tape a good article to your daughter's mirror, or text her a link. It is much easier to squeeze in a few minutes of reading when the book or article is right in front of you. All of those minutes add up.
4. Make sure they see you reading
Of course, children are more likely to mimic our behavior than listen to our suggestions. I realized recently that my children don't SEE me read very often because I usually read on my phone or tablet, or I do it when they are asleep. I don't have a great solution for this except to verbalize what I am doing. I use the "Mommy is reading!" phrase/excuse quite often. My son has totally called me out on this. "But Mom, that's facebook". It's not my fault all the news is on facebook! This one is a work in progress for me, but I am hoping it will get easier when my children are a bit older.
That's my road map to raising readers. What works for you?