A New Zealand study that surveyed 6,000 children found that children who read for fun also are more likely to be involved in sports and other activities, too. Unfortunately, not all children in the U.S. like to read for fun.
Literacy might be taught differently across the globe, and some school districts in the U.S. assign reading as homework. This can zap the fun out of reading, and make children push against books. However, children can learn to like and even love reading. Here’s how to encourage children to read for fun and help them read more, too:
- Let them guide the journey
- Choose books at their level
- Let them listen and read
- Understand that reading is reading
- Help them discover their interests
- Don’t force feed books
- Stop timing the minutes
- Model good reading habits
- Let them re-read
- Discover a book series
Children Should Lead the Journey
While the New Zealand study correlated reading for fun with more involvement in sports and other activities, there’s another more obvious benefit to reading for fun. Children will want to read more, and reading frequency could boost reading confidence and proficiency.
One easy way that parents can encourage children to want to read more is to let children lead their own reading journey. What does this mean? Parents should let children choose their books.
If parents want children to read for fun, that book shouldn’t be yet another assignment. Take children to the library and let them choose what they want to read. This freedom of choice can let children discover their own book interests and find authors that they like.
Parents also should let children know that it’s ok to dislike a story or book. Not every book is going to be a ‘winner’ for every reader. That’s ok.
Choose Books at Their Level
Reading can be frustrating if children select books that are simply too difficult for them. Yes, they might really want to read the same book as an older sibling. However, if the context is too mature, they might not understand it.
Let children choose their own books, but try to make sure that the books fall within the child’s recommended reading level. If parents don’t know their child’s reading level, they can drop an email to their child’s teacher. Typically, teachers will provide a Lexile range that denotes the best reading level for each child.
Let Them Listen and Read
Reading independently is important to help children grow as readers. However, some children like to listen to audiobooks; these auditory resources could help children better understand what they are reading.
Listening to the story might improve a child’s understanding of a character’s emotions or help them pick up other details, too. In addition, listening to stories also could help children learn new words and expand their vocabulary knowledge.
Parents can find audiobooks at their local library. Audiobooks also can be purchased via a book reader app on a smartphone. Prices could vary, though.
Understand that Reading is Reading
All reading is beneficial. If a child wants to read a comic book, magazine or an instruction manual, let them. Reading doesn’t have to involve a traditional book. Any material that helps children love reading can be important to their reading journey.
Embrace and accept nontraditional reading materials. Let children explore magazines, newspapers and even graphic novels. Good Housekeeping compiled a list of the best graphic novels for children of all ages. Parents can scroll through the list to find recommendations that are appropriate for their child.
Help Children Discover Their Interests
Children might not love reading because they don’t know what they want to read. Perhaps they are used to having parents or teachers choose a book for them. While choice is an important part of helping children carve out their own reading journey, some children simply don’t know what book they want to read.
Help children discover their interests by encouraging them to create an interest list. Tell them to write down anything that they want to read about; the list should include people, places, ideas, etc. Once they create a list, visit the library to find books about these interests and topics.
Don’t Force Feed Books
While it might seem like a wonderful idea to push children to read books that have been nominated for awards like the Caldecott Medal, assigning books to children might discourage them from reading. In addition, this force feeding of reading might make them constantly perceive those books as a chore.
Parents might have their own opinions about what they want their child to read, but, again, it’s important for children to choose their own reading adventure. Resist force reading.
Stop Timing the Minutes
Not all reading minutes need to be set to the clock. While the teacher might stipulate that children should read 30 minutes a day, these minutes don’t have to be broken down in 30 minute daily sessions. If children are reading for an hour, let them continue reading. Don’t make it a habit to set a timer, as children could focus more on the time than on the book.
It’s important that children read regularly and that they abide by their teacher’s instructions, but parents can time those sessions without being obvious with the clock.
Model Good Reading Habits
How can parents expect children to read for fun if parents never open a book? Children might perceive reading to be entertainment if they see parents reading for fun.
It’s important for parents to read regularly, too. Visit the library with children and check out a good book. Read when children are reading.
Let Them Re-Read
Adults could have a favorite book that they have read several times. Children might enjoy re-reading books, too. This habit could help children pick up new details from the book that they missed when they read it the first time. It’s ok if children want to re-read books that they love.
Discover a Book Series
A book series could consist of three or more books that continue the story of a character or group of characters. The series of books could get children hooked on a story and interested in reading.
Not every series resonates with every child, but parents can let children explore a series that interests them and is at their reading level. Younger children could enjoy the adventures of Ramona Quimby and her sister, Beezus. Older children might enjoy Harry Potter.
There are many tips for helping children like reading and, ideally, love reading for fun. When children have grown to loathe reading time and treat the book like another assignment, it’s time for parents to help change the narrative of those books. Ditch the timer, let children choose their own books and encourage children to explore different types of reading materials.
Children also could listen to books as they follow along. Listening to stories could help children learn new words and understand emotions in stories. In addition, parents also should remember that reading starts with them—parents should read regularly, too. When parents enjoy reading, children might correlate books with fun and enjoyment. While changing a child’s attitude towards reading could be a challenge, it’s never too late for children to begin to appreciate the joy of reading.