Reading can introduce a child to a wealth of ideas and experiences, new worlds, both real and imagined, and characters.
But what if your child finds reading a challenge or has no interest?
Bethany Hoglund, head of Youth Services at Bellingham Public Library, offers 10 tips for parents to help encourage their child to read and keep reading. The tips, she said, are in no particular order.
Allow and encourage your child to choose what they want to read. Children who have control over the stories and information they are read tend to be more willing and enthusiastic about spending time reading. Ask your child what they are interested in learning about or what type of story they want to read. Give them time to browse books and select ones that interest and appeal to them.
Get a public library card and visit the library. The public library has thousands of books in multiple formats (including e-books and downloadable audiobooks), genres and at different reading levels. At school, your child likely needs to read what a teacher assigns and the public library can be your child’s place of personal choice and exploration.
Try a variety of books: graphic novels (stories told in comic book format), non-fiction (anything your child is interested in, there is likely a book about it), biographies, picture books and more. Giving kids variety and choices helps them discover what they enjoy reading, and what they don’t enjoy.
Listen to stories. This can be starting a family read-aloud or listening to an audiobook. Children often get stuck on decoding words and lose comprehension skills. Read aloud often, listen to stories and talk about stories together to help build comprehension and an appreciation for the power and delight of stories.
Connect with stories. We all love stories and have stories. Talk to each other about the types of stories you and your child enjoy and what you each liked or didn’t like about a story. Share experiences about how you connected with the characters and/or story. This is also a great opportunity for parent child bonding and relationship building.
Make reading fun, rather than a chore or obligation. Read a book made into a movie then watch the movie. Which did your child enjoy better, and why? Or make a recipe featured in a story, or a craft project that supports the story.
For older readers, start listening to a story and have the reader finish reading it.
If you suspect that your child might have difficulty reading due to a vision or other reading issue, speak with your child’s teacher and/or doctor.
Ultimately, a child needs to think of themselves as a reader. We are all readers in our own ways. Perhaps your child enjoys reading the cereal box at breakfast, or a favorite magazine or catalog – fantastic! That is reading. Encourage and acknowledge reading in little bits to build self-confidence.
Ask your public library staff for reading recommendation assistance. Librarians love talking with children and parents about what stories they’d like to read, what things in the world they are interested in, what they are in the mood for, etc., all in the goal of matching books and stories to readers.