Experts have long bemoaned the lack of access to quality reading materials, and with good reason. Research tells us that when children are presented with a wide selection of books, and are able to choose what they read, it increases both their ability and their enjoyment of the act.

Emphasis at school

But having access means more than making sure bookshelves are overflowing. It means stocking them with materials that reflect the diversity of the reader. It means making time to explore the written word.

It means creating a culture in which reading is encouraged, celebrated and, above all else, valued.

Ideally, students of all ages get this in school. But with high-stakes assessment so prevalent, many educators allot less time for such pursuits — not more. The older the child, the lower the priority.

“...studies tell us that read-alouds benefit kids of all ages — yes, even teenagers.”

Reading at home

This places even more responsibility on busy families to foster a love of reading, which is not necessarily a bad thing, considering how crucial a role primary caregivers play in raising literate children. Notice I said “literate children,” not “children who read.” Reading is only part of the equation. Literacy encompasses so much more — writing, yes, but also speaking, listening and critical thinking.

So, what can families do to create a literacy-rich environment in their homes? To begin with, provide children with access to quality reading materials. Take advantage of your local libraries, or check out thrift stores and yard sales. That’s how many teachers build their classroom collections without breaking the bank.

Keeping them engaged

Next up, seek diverse books that reflect the reader. It’s both a powerful and profound experience to recognize yourself on the page. This is as true for the youngest of children as it is for adults. Also: model good reading habits. Young children naturally emulate the behaviors they observe. If you want them to prioritize reading, you need to as well.

You can put this into practice by making reading a family activity. The American Academy of Pediatrics made headlines in 2014 by recommending parents start reading to children from birth. But studies tell us that read-alouds benefit kids of all ages — yes, even teenagers. Practice other literacy skills regularly. Talk to your children about what they’re reading. Ask them to tell you a story. Encourage them to write — even handwritten thank-you notes help.

Creating a culture of literacy within the home doesn’t need to be daunting. Start small and build from there. Remember, every little thing you do goes a long way.