Reading with our kids can be challenging. On a wintery day ten years ago, I sat on my bouncing couch as my son jumped, rolled, hung upside down, and did laps around the living room as we learned about letters and sounds. Jump jump, “mmmm,” run run, “eeee,” and then an upside-down “mmeeee.” Each day he would burn hundreds of calories as he read little stories that would eventually open the world to him. This very active child, now fifteen, developed into a very good reader who can sit for chapters and chapters with his favorite books.
As a four- and five-year-old, my oldest daughter would choose to sit in the coop holding chickens over reading any day. I would have to check the coop or the sandbox or perhaps the creek to find her for reading practice. Today she has a good life balance—she reads outside by the creek with her dog close by.
As I taught each of my children to read, I learned that each of us learns in different ways. What is most important is that we work together honoring the child and the learning process. Here are some takeaways, as a homeschooling mother of nine with a degree in education, that I hope will help you inspire a love of reading in your home.
Read Aloud Early and Often.
Read aloud with your kids starting from infancy. I have wonderful memories of piling on my mom’s bed with all my siblings and listening as my mom read us stories. She was a fantastic reader, giving the characters voices and pulling us into the story with her excitement and warmth (both in her voice and in the covers). I, in turn, have read to my kids wherever we are—in the car, by the fire, on the comfy couch, sitting on their not-so-comfy floor, and, yes, in my bed as well. My husband is a great partner in this, even reading the entire Lord of the Rings to our children. Childhood is a time to share a little story every day, so our children hear the rhythm and richness of language as well as feel our warmth and love. Who doesn’t like a bedtime cuddle and story? As my kids have grown, they even read bedtime stories to my husband and me. And must confess: sometimes their voices are so soothing that we fall asleep to a story.
Let Your Children Learn in Their Own Way.
It’s fine to let them be wiggly. I’m convinced that my youngest son would have hated reading if he’d had to sit still to do it. I would have been fighting with a force of nature, and neither of us would have had any fun. As you practice reading at home, take breaks, try different places inside and outside. Be creative. You could read in a cave (sheets hung over couches and chairs), take a picnic and read by a lake, or have reading parties and invite friends. There is more than simply making it fun though. Be in tune with your child, and if they are struggling, make a change. Perhaps they need a different program or additional help. Reach out to specialists and adapt to your child’s way of learning. Remember that readers develop a little at a time.
The most important factor in learning most anything is consistency. Whether you are simply enjoying a story with your two-year-old, teaching an emergent reader phonics, or reading chapter books with your tween, doing a little bit each day is most effective. Being consistent creates a habit and a rhythm in your day. That’s great whether you are four or forty.
Make Reading Fun (and Perhaps Yummy Too).
I totally believe in bribery. Okay, perhaps I should say incentives. Sticker charts or small treats add fun and goal-setting to the adventure. When my children finished a set of books, we would celebrate with a simple outing for ice cream or a trip to the park. Sometimes I’d place a few smarties on the table and we would eat one after an exercise was completed. You can celebrate finishing a lesson or learning new sounds and reading patterns with a simple high-five or a hug. Sometimes we would celebrate by reading to our dog or going out by the creek to relax. Creating moments of fun and celebration make reading, or any new skill, feel exciting.
Everyone learns at a different pace. With one child you may celebrate reading a whole book weekly, with another you may celebrate mastering a new sound. My oldest daughter became a good reader by the beginning of second grade. This was later than I had planned, but it was her perfect time. She really took off when she was ready, not when I planned. There are studies that suggest children’s eyes need time to develop before they learn to read. Some suggest waiting until your child is at least seven. I’ve seen kids (and adults) learn to read and learn to love reading, at different ages. It’s okay—kids who are later in learning become wonderful readers too. I’ve loved watching my kids as reading begins to click. Whatever age that is. As they become fluent, they are excited to turn the page and see what happens next. And hopefully, they have felt loved and supported along the way.
Let Your Kids Catch You Reading.
The last thing I’ll suggest is really just a lifestyle. Be sure your child catches you reading for enjoyment. It really doesn’t matter what is in your hands, just that you are taking time to read just for yourself. This example shows kids that reading is a lifelong habit, and you actually like to do it. Maybe if we treated math this way, more kids would hide under their covers and do math problems! When your child sees that you enjoy reading, they will be more likely to want to become a good reader as well. Plus, you’ll have some peace and quiet as they sit down with a book.
If you look around my house, you will find books and magazines in every room. They sit on tables, in shelves, on the couch, and on the kitchen table. And often they are held in a child’s hand! You can inspire a love of reading in your home, too, as you encourage your children to read in their own way, be consistent in taking time to read, make reading fun, teach with patience, and let your kids catch you with a good book. Have a good read!
Michele loves hiking new trails with her family and settling down with a good read-aloud. She lives in CA with her rambunctious children, amazing hubby, and a cat who puts up with all of their noise.