Americans don’t crack open enough books. According to a 2019 survey by Pew Research Center, about one out of four Americans (27 percent) hasn’t read a single book in a year. Parents or caregivers who don’t read could be unintentionally showing children that reading isn’t fun or entertaining. Children learn by example, after all.
Parents who are trying to help their child learn to read or to become better readers might need to start looking at their own relationships with books. Here’s how to improve your child’s reading skills by starting your own reading habit.
Create a Reading Schedule
There could be a million reasons why we fall out of the reading habit. Time is precious, and most adults—parents and caregivers especially—just don’t seem to have enough time to do everything. Trying to develop a reading habit after falling away from books can be a challenge…and a big change.
So how can busy adults find time to read? The answer is pretty simple. When we encourage children to read, this could be a good time for adults to read, too. If children normally read at night before bed, perhaps the family can gather together in the living room or rec area and have family reading time.
Parents may still read to children. If this is the case, then when do adults read? Before bed might be a good time. Wait for kids to fall asleep and then pull out a book. Many adults may play on their phones, watch television or engage in other screen time at night. The blue light from devices can actually throw the body’s circadian rhythm out of whack. Reading, though, could have a positive effect on sleep. According to the Sleep Advisor, reading before bed has many benefits: it helps zap stress, it boosts creativity, it can improve your mind (new information!), provides a sense of peace…and much more!
Drop the devices, and crack open a book!
Choose a Book You Love
One of the tips that are often given to help children learn to like reading is to let them choose their own books (within reason, of course). For adults, the same advice should apply, too. To get into the reading habit, figure out what type of subjects are interesting.
Make a list of authors that you know you’ve read (and liked), subjects that you want to explore and other general interests. Maybe there are some literary classics you’ve always wanted to read. Make a list! Then go online to the local library and reserve a few books. Don’t have a library membership? Contact the library in your area and find out how to become a member!
If money is tight, think about buying books at thrift stores or secondhand bookstores. You might find some great titles at low prices!
Set a Goal…But Be Realistic
Parents or teachers may encourage children to set a reading goal. Adults can do the same. Maybe the goal is based on minutes, pages or chapters. Setting a goal could help with accountability.
Try not to go overboard with goals, though. While setting big goals is admirable, don’t make them unreasonable. If it’s been years since a book was opened, you might need to start off lighter. Every reader is different. Some of us read slowly, others can fly through books. Concentration could be an issue, and it’s ok to go back and reread. Figure out what works, but be kind to you! Remember…reading is fun. Don’t make it a job!
How in the world do you accessorize a book? Bookmarks! Little things can boost the mood. Think about walking through a park and spotting that first spring flower. Or seeing a rainbow after a big storm. Create a little happiness and design a bookmark to keep track of the pages. Or go buy one.
Yes, you could grab a paperclip, but creating a bookmark is a nice little nod to childhood. Get artsy. Have fun. And let the kids join you. So how do you make a bookmark? It’s simple, and you can buy supplies cheap (dollar stores!). You’ll need:
- Construction Paper
Bookmarks can be created by simply cutting a piece of construction paper into strips. Typically, a pad or pack of construction paper includes many hues. Choose your favorite color, and let kids do the same. Then design your bookmark! Maybe it includes your name, monogram or just a crazy design! Have fun!
Read Childhood Favorites
Want to ease into reading again? Start by going backwards…all the way back to childhood. Many of us had favorite books from elementary school that stuck with us decades later. Maybe it was a popular series or just a classic book.
No matter the age, it’s ok to reread literature from our childhood. And, actually, it might be emotionally soothing. There’s something comforting about reading a book or re-experiencing something from childhood. Who says you can’t go back? Books are a window to different worlds, but they also may help transport us back to younger, simpler times.
Hunt down the old favorites!
Create a Family Book Club
Motivate a reading habit in the whole family by starting a family book club. Choose books at a level that everyone in the family can read.
Plan to meet to discuss book options and select several titles for the family to vote. Adults might consider choosing books that also have been adapted into movies. Why? It’s fun to watch how the book plays out as a movie, and the family can compare the two as part of the book discussion. Wait until after everyone finishes the book to watch the movie, though.
Adults can set reading goals for children for finishing the book. The ‘club’ could meet once or twice a week to discuss chapters and the plot. This could be the ideal time to get children to talk about what they’ve read and to discern if they are having any problems reading the book.
Looking for books that have been turned into movies? Imagination Soup offers a fairly comprehensive list of children’s books that have made it to the screen.
What About Yearly Goals?
If about a fourth of American adults haven’t read a single book during the course of the year, how many books should be a yearly goal? Setting a yearly reading goal by aiming to read a set number of books for the year can be a great way to boost reading, too.
Again, though, everyone reads at their pace. And time could be limited. Maybe aim for a book a month? If the book is incredibly long (perhaps 1,000 pages), opt for a little more time…and don’t stress! Twelve books for the year is still a great number. After reading for several months, the pace may quicken and reading could become a beloved habit.
When the Book is…Not Interesting
Sometimes even adults pick a book, read a few chapters and just can’t go on. Do you push through it? Do you opt for something else?
Some books just aren’t what we expect. Not every story, character or plot may resonate. Obviously if a book offends or is simply too much for whatever reason, adults don’t need anyone’s permission to put it down.
Depending on why the story doesn’t resonate may impact if you continue to read it or not. Don’t stress either way. Remember…reading should be fun. This isn’t an assignment!
Fiction or Nonfiction?
Want to keep the literacy journey interesting? Try mixing up fiction and nonfiction books. One month pick a favorite fiction author, the next month pick a book exploring a destination or topic of interest.
Have you always wondered about ancient Egypt? Maybe you wanted to read about a famous person? Grab a biography or choose a book that highlights a destination.
When kids see adults reading a variety of books, it may make them more curious about the world, too! And they may begin to explore their world by reading more books. Start a habit of reading exploration, see where it takes you, and invite kids to go on their own journey!
How Does Your Reading Improve Your Child’s Reading Skills?
Reading can be beneficial to all ages. But how does a parent’s reading habit help improve a child’s reading habit? When parents start reading more or even begin reading daily, this habit could show children that reading is fun and a form of entertainment.
When parents read, perhaps kids begin to simply see the habit as something everyone does. Of course, when children see their parents reading, they also can’t throw back at them: “Why should I read? You don’t read.” Parents of older children might have heard these words.
Parents who begin to adopt a reading habit also may be able to share reading tips. Or maybe parents can share their own struggles and how they overcame those struggles. This could open up conversations about re-reading or chunking text…and how every reader may need to find their own strategies.
Reading also may bridge a gap between generations. Reading the same book can give kids and parents a fun commonality. Parents also can recommend books to their child; maybe rereading a book from childhood makes parents realize that their own child would love the story.
Whether it’s been years or a decade since you opened up a book, now is a great time to peek at the bookshelf, visit the library and hunt down some favorite books. Start your own reading journey and help children discover why reading is so much fun!