As a disclaimer right up front, I am not a parent. However, I have a lot of knowledge about this topic from books I have read, videos I have watched, and podcasts that I have listened to over the years. I wanted to write this article as an additional resource for parents since I wanted to share my knowledge and resources. Also, I am very passionate about this topic and wanted to share it with others. The first part of this post are some individual tips and information and the second part is a list of resources that may help.
Why do you want your kids to love reading?
If you are not a reader yourself you may wonder why it's important for your kids to love reading. But as a reader, the answer is obvious: it's fun. Reading is a simple activity that encourages you to use your imagination, to think, to wonder, to be a better human. It transports you out of your life and into the life or lives of someone else. It's a magical thing. Loving reading is the portal to a world beyond this one. This is all besides the fact that it helps academically with test scores and achievement. However, to me, you should be a reader because you want to, not because someone else tells you to or because it makes you smarter. To me, reading should be an activity that you want to do because you are hungry for a story.
How to approach the journey of helping your kids fall in love with reading?
First of all, like I said earlier, reading should be a voluntary act. The end goal is that your kids will want to read because they love it instead of because of your or their teacher's instruction. This can be approached in many ways. Some of these ways are easier than others and some take more time than others but all will help you reach the goal.
Read aloud to your child. This is an easy activity that you can do with your child whether they are a baby or a teen. Reading aloud has so much going for it both academically and also emotionally. Reading aloud requires you to sit down and be present with your child. The memory of sharing a story is unforgettable. Academically it helps kids hear how words are supposed to be said and they hear full, grammatically correct sentences. This is important because a big culprit for falling reading comprehension is that kids accidentally skip words while reading or don't know some of the words in the text. If you are reading aloud, you can help them understand those words right when you encounter them.
Listen to audiobooks. Before you say they don't count, they 100% do. Audiobooks are a great way to fit more reading in when you otherwise couldn't, such as a car trip or if you are too busy to read aloud yourself. With audiobooks, the narrators are putting on almost like a show, since they are often times using different voices or there are multiple people for the different characters, music, sound effects. However even without these fancy extras, being able to listen to a professional read a story is really great. In the next section I will provide some resources for places to get audiobooks.
Make it a priority. The only way for reading to become a habit and enjoyable is to do it a lot. In order to do this, you need to make it a priority. This can be seen in many different ways but the root is the same: make time for reading. This can be carving out 30 minutes before bed, at the breakfast table, in the car on the way to school, an hour in the middle of the day, 15 minutes after dinner. The amount of time doesn't matter as much as the fact that you are making it a priority to do it every single day, since if you make time to do it daily, your child will see it as something that is priority and just something you do as a family. You can either pick a specific time of day to read or a certain amount of time each day, but either way you do it, it may be helpful to mark it in you calendar so you don't forget.
Utilize long trips to read. Long road trips are extensive amounts of time that could be used reading. Reading in the car can make you or your child carsick if either of you are reading but audiobooks are easy to just turn on and listen. Most audiobooks, depending on the title, are between 5 and 15 hours long which is perfect for long road trips.
Bring a book with you everywhere. This is an easy way to add reading to all the short "breaks" in the day. You know those like 5 minutes waiting in line at the grocery store or 20 minutes at the dentist or whenever. Those little chunks of time could be spent reading. I would recommend bringing shorter, easier reads since those are easier to stop suddenly than a longer narrative.
Read in front of your child. Modeling for your child is a simple way to encourage them to do something you want them to do. This is true for all aspects of parenting and is also true for reading. If you read in front of your child or just talk about books a lot during dinner or just in general, your child will pick up on it and be more interested in it since you are interested in it.
Make regular trips to the library. Going to the library is a great activity that is fun for everyone. You and your kids can pick out new books to read that week or attend a library activity. The library also has activities such as story time or crafts that are frequent events which you can attend for free. During the summer there is sometimes a kids reading challenge with prizes and free books which are always great ways to get your kids excited about books.
Avoid bribing. This is a very short term way to get kids to read and defeats the purpose of reading at all. When you bribe your child you are changing the goal of reading from enjoyment to a prize. This is not what you want. If you do choose to use bribery or you have tried everything and your child is still a reluctant reader, try using bribes that have some relationship with books. This could be something like if you read 3 books you can pick out a new book or if you read for 30 minutes every day this week we can take a trip to the bookstore for a new picture book.
Make it a family activity. Something you do as a whole family is always more fun. You could try making reading together a evening event. Either you all read your own books (if your children are able to or you use audiobooks) or you can all read aloud the same book together. This can be really fun and create long lasting memories.
Make reading an event. This requires some creativity and time but the payoff is really great. For this tip, you all read the same book, then you create an activity as simple or complex as you like that goes along with that book. Here are some ideas/example: you have decided to read the Little House on the Prairie series with your kids. When you have finished, you plan to cook a dinner inspired by what Laura ate in the book and you all dress up like settlers. After reading Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library you set up a scavenger hunt similar to the one in the book. You have just finished reading a book about different animals, then you plan to go to the zoo and try to find those same animals from the book at the zoo. These activities can be short and simple or long and extravagant but the important thing about them is that they are fun for everyone and building memories.
The number one rule
The most important, number one rule you must remember in this journey is that reading is something that is fun and shouldn't be schooled out of your child. Whether you are a home schooler or parent of a public school child, reading should be 100% fun. This means that you choose books that are fun and interest your child. It is important to keep it fun. Especially as your child starts to attend school, it is common that reading becomes less fun. Something to keep in mind is that the books should be around your child's reading level and it is okay if they read books below their reading level. Forcing your child to read books above their reading level takes away from the fun and is unnecessary. This is because if your child loves reading, they will want to expand what they read by themselves without intervention.
If you are new to the idea of letting go or are afraid that it isn't enough to just read rather than school, this is normal. However, there are lots of resources (which I will provide below) that prove that just reading is enough. As you probably know, the more you do something the better you become. The same applies with reading. The more your child reads, whether that be through family read alouds or just by themselves, the better they will be at it. Therefore, as a parent, you should make reading as enjoyable and interesting as you can because it will help them to want to read more and like I said earlier, the more they read the better they become. Also, if you are approaching reading with the goal of helping your kids love reading instead an academic activity, then the idea of success is going to be different. So, to sum it up, don't worry and if you are really worried about it, you can ease into this idea by doing a mix of academic activities and just reading.
Below is a list of books, websites, videos, and a podcast that all will help you encourage your child to read and love doing it. Many of them says similar things as this article but go into much more extensive detail.
Read Aloud Revival
This is one of the best resources there is out there. Read Aloud Revival helps you create a book club culture in your home. The website has numerous book lists for kids book recommendations. They recently added a short 2 minute quiz to help you find a personalized book recommendation quickly. It is only three questions and you are given three recommendations. They also have a podcast which I think has some of the best information. There is a podcast for every topic. On the website is also the show notes for every episode of the podcast which is very helpful since they summarize the key points in the podcast. The podcast can be found anywhere you get your podcasts. There are often guest stars such as authors or illustrators who add ideas and perspectives. I would recommend looking at the titles of all the episodes and choosing the ones that appeal to you and are relevant to you and your family. This is not the type of podcast where you need to listen to every single episode or listen to them in order. The creator of RAR also wrote and published a book in 2018 which I think has really great information. In my opinion it contains much of the same information as the podcast so you can read/listen to one or the other, however if you want as much information as possible, they complement each other well.
Here are the links!
Booklists & Quiz: https://readaloudrevival.com/recommends/
Podcast Shownotes: https://readaloudrevival.com/podcasts/
For those of you who are very serious about helping your children to love reading, they have a premium, paid subscription that is perfect for this. In Read Aloud Revival Premium you have numerous resources at your finger tips. In the "club" you get access to resources to have a book club in your home, opportunities to meet well known authors and illustrators, writing/drawing workshops for your kids, book club for you, and much more. I have never been part of this but I do think it is really cool and I know people who are part of it really love it. I do think that homeschoolers will get the most out of this membership because many of the things you get access to are for homeschool parents. However even if you are not a homeschooling parent, the other resources could still be worth the money. It costs $15 a month. For more information click here.
On the Scholastic website there are numerous resources made specifically for parents. There are pages of tips, book recommendations and more. I will just add that the books listed here will be limited since this is a publisher's website so only Scholastic books will really be highlighted. Click here to get to the page. Though the purpose of this article is not to help you improve your child's reading levels/comprehension, Scholastic does have many resources on this topic.
Here are some helpful articles I found while browsing the website.
Why Your 9-Year-Old's Love of Reading Needs Extra : Here's how to keep your child enthusiastic about books.
The Best Books for Reluctant Readers in 3rd to 5th Grade: These fun and riveting reads will engage your child and help them avoid the "decline by nine."
Groundbreaking YA Books Your Teen Will Be Into: These reads prove that this genre has way more to offer than just love triangles.
Finally I will leave you with a list of some helpful articles I found. There is some general repetition of tips among the articles. However, I wanted to provide as many resources as possible.
18 Genius Ways to Make Kids Love Reading: These tricks should get your kids reading on their own in no time!
26 Easy Ways To Encourage Your Kids To Read More: Bookstagram influencers share their tried-and-true tips for parents to use with their children.