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Literacy in America

How to Make Reading Joyful for Kids

Lin Oliver

Executive Director, The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

Done wrong, reading can seem like a chore for children. How can we encourage our children to love reading?

Reading fluency comes with practice. The more you read, the better you get at it. All educators know this, which is why teachers, parents, and experts in childhood learning are so emphatic about children doing a lot of reading. But sometimes this emphasis can have the opposite effect — it can make reading seem like a chore and drive children away, rather than entice and draw them in. How, then, can we get our kids to practice and love reading?

A daily ritual

First, read with your children daily, and make story time fun. For small children, bring out your funny voices, dramatic skills, puppets, and toys. Make the read-aloud experience lively and animated.

You can share the reading experience with your older kids, too. Read a longer book aloud to each other, alternating pages and chapters between you and your child. Even sitting together while you each read your own books is comforting and an important shared experience.

Discuss the book your child is reading during meals or in the car. Engage yourself in the story, asking questions and letting them tell you their thoughts. When reading is interactive, it comes alive and feels good.

Reading choices

In my opinion, it doesn’t matter what your child reads, as long as they are reading. (Within reason, of course. You don’t want your child reading inappropriate, violent, or hate-filled material.)

Nothing is wrong with reading comics or superhero books if that’s what they like. Graphic novels with a lot of illustration are fun and fast moving. Reading the text on roleplaying video games is great practice. Reading magazines, doing word puzzles on devices, and reading appropriate websites with good and educational content are all great reading practices. Reading on screens works, too — as long as the screen time doesn’t exceed your family’s standards.

Think about how you read: on screens, on books, for information, for fun, for directions, or for educational purposes. Children are no different. Their reading should be relevant to them and most of all, joyful. It should amplify their natural curiosity and reflect their own interests. They should have a say in what they read. Seeing your child read for pleasure is a satisfying sight. As the adults in their lives, we can lead them down that path, opening up their minds and hearts to the many and diverse worlds and experiences that books deliver.     

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