Today we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss, one of the most beloved children’s book authors of all time. His books are colorful, fun, and engaging and his popularity has spanned the test of time. In honor of his birthday, the National Education Association coined March 2nd as Read Across America Day as a way to promote and celebrate reading for all ages!
Now, if your child is anything like mine, you probably don’t need a special day to celebrate reading. My ten year old son loves to read! So much so that he once snuck his Lego Club magazine into the shower and was quite proud that he used water to stick it to the wall so he could read hands free! He has also been known to hide multiple books under his pillow at night. Yep, you read that right. We sometimes have to confiscate MULTIPLE books and flashlights past bedtime. We love his enthusiasm but sleep is important too!
We are lucky that reading is enjoyable for our son, however, this is sometimes not the case for other kids. So whether your child struggles with reading, enthusiasm has waned, or maybe your little one hasn’t started to read independently yet, here is a list of tips to help you encourage reading at ALL ages!
1. Seek out community resources.
Local libraries are hidden gems! Besides being a place to RENT BOOKS FOR FREE, they offer story times for little ones, summer reading programs for school aged children, book clubs for teens, and many have used book sales if you are looking to stock up your home library. FYI: kids can get their own library card too! My son LOVES the cool factor of using his own card to check out books.
2. Encourage a love of words at an early age.
Research shows that integrating rhyming and silly word games into daily life can help lay the groundwork for reading and may help children catch on to reading at an earlier age. Flashcards and word puzzles are great options too! FYI: Dr. Seuss’s mom used to sing him to sleep with rhyming silly-word songs and he credits his writing style to her bedtime songs!
3. Set a good example.
I know, easier said than done, right? But life is busy, but I’m too tired, but the dishes need to be done. If we model “excuse-making” behavior, our kids are more likely to repeat the pattern. So start today and establish a family reading routine. Set aside ten minutes (or more!) and take a reading break. For our family, we found that bedtime was always best and helped to settle my son down but do whatever works best for your family! FYI: Older siblings can be a great asset to read to younger ones. The oldest get more reading practice, the youngest get a good role model, and parents get a little reprieve. Win-win-win!
4. Be engaged in their reading.
When they are young, read everything with them – road signs, menus, food labels – make them aware that reading is everywhere! With older kids, engage in discussions with them. Ask them questions about the book, share real world connections with them, and have them share their predictions or opinions. FYI: Even after they can read fluently on their own, don’t be afraid to keep reading with them. My son loved reading Harry Potter together when we would alternate chapters to read out loud.
5. Make reading FUN!
Some of my favorite ideas for little kids are: reading in silly voices, using puppets or stuffed animals, or acting the story out (costumes optional). Just remember, it doesn’t take much to MAKE IT FUN! Reading a book that involves a boat? Make a boat out of the couch cushions and grab some oars (spatulas) from the kitchen! For older kids, sometimes drawing pictures to go with the story is a big hit. And if all else fails, just remember reading is 100% more fun when hiding out in a homemade blanket fort! FYI: During warmer months, take advantage of nature and read on a blanket in the backyard or a local park.
6. Make books readily available.
I found that my son was more likely to read when books were readily available. Consider keeping books separate from other toys, so that when your kids are in that particular room, the books become the only item they reach for. Be sure to keep books in your car, purse, diaper bag, etc. so wherever you are a book is available and ready to be read! FYI: Kids are not immune to car sickness so be sure to avoid reading in the car if they get motion sickness!
7. Tailor reading to their interests.
Your kids will appreciate if you take the time to seek out books with specific topics of interest. Have a child that loves dinosaurs? There are a ton of stories with dinosaurs as the characters! Lego Fanatic? Consider signing them up for a Lego Club magazine subscription. Science lover? National Geographic has an amazing line of books for kids of all ages! FYI: For struggling readers in the chapter book stage, graphic novels can be a great option to maintain interest.
8. Turn off distractions.
Research shows our brains are unable to multi-task as good as we think we can, and young minds are easily distracted. Especially by the flashing lights and sounds of screens. Your best chance for success is mandating reading time as ‘distraction free’. FYI: While reading on a kindle or tablet is still better than not reading at all, good old-fashioned books are much better for little eyes!
9. Give the gift of reading.
One of my favorite traditions we started with my son was gifting him a curated collection of books. Each year, we gift him a couple books that are considered classics or were carefully selected for his interests. In each book, I write a little note on the inside cover reflecting why we chose this particular book. These books have become his prized possessions and I hope someday he will pass them on (and this tradition) to his kids!! FYI: A fun spin on a gift is a bookstore gift card where kids can browse and select their own books!
10. Don’t stress and don’t compare.
This is a hard one, but we have to remind ourselves that each and every child is unique and all have their own learning patterns. Reading, just like anything else, will come naturally to some and a struggle for others. Don’t get discouraged if your child isn’t where you think they should be. It will eventually click for them when the time is right. If they are struggling as they move through school, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Many schools have learning resource centers available, and there are lots of great tutoring options within the Metro Detroit Community