How to Encourage Your Child to Love Reading

Overview: We all want our kids to love reading. Teaching them to read is not enough; we must provide an environment that encourages them to enjoy books. Here's how!

If there were a 12-step program for reading addiction, I would be in it. “Hi, my name is Ann, and I am a read-aholic.” I can't remember a time when I didn't love reading. Characters in books are my friends, and I have to reacquaint myself with their lives over and over again.

Frankly, I would rather read than be a responsible adult; and if I am behind in my housework, it is because I stole a few extra minutes to finish the chapter I was on. (And maybe snuck in another complete chapter — or two.)

We all want our kids to love reading. Teaching them to read is not enough; we must provide an environment that encourages them to enjoy books. Here's how!

So I am really glad that all my children love reading, too. When we come home from the library, a quiet settles over the house, because we've all grabbed a new book and hunkered down somewhere. Nobody is pestering to get on the computer or watch a movie, because there are new stories to be savored.

It is a no-brainer that reading develops many faculties in a child. A larger vocabulary, better grammar and spelling, writing skill – all of these are positively affected the more a child reads. Children learn from what they are exposed to; so the more the immersion in great stories, the better their language skills will be.

It's important to realize, though, that it's not enough just to teach our children TO read – we must encourage them to LOVE to read. Obviously this can't be forced, and I'm sure there are exceptions to what I'm about to say; but I believe most children will learn to love reading if we practice just a few habits in the home.

10 Tips to Encourage Your Kids to Love Reading

1) Set an example.  This is the obvious first step.  If your children don't see you reading, they will see no reason to read for themselves. Some people claim they don't have time to read.  I confess that I've never understood that.  I can ALWAYS find time to read, y'all.  If I were on the Titanic, and it was sinking, I'd be reading on the life boat.

But seriously, if there is time for watching TV, there is time to read.  If there is time for Facebook, there is time to read. Your children need to see you reading your own books for your own pleasure, if they are going to want to do the same.

2) Read aloud.  I think every parent knows the importance of this one, especially when the kids are too young to read for themselves.  That time spent reading a bedtime story is so beneficial on so many levels, and most of us do put it into practice.  It's also good to continue the practice when they're older, even as a family group sometimes.  Then each of  the ones that can read can take a turn being the speaker, as well as mom and dad.  What better way to encourage them to love reading than to build a fun family time around it?

3) Teach respect for books.  The things we value are the things we treat carefully.  That goes in reverse, too.  If we teach our children to take good care of books, they will see them as having value.  Obviously this would be done in an age-appropriate manner. No writing in a book, avoid folding down the pages, be careful around food, etc.

4) Make library visits a priority.  We go to the library every two weeks, and the library workers have become friends. Going to the library regularly means there is a constant influx of new stories in our home. There is also access to many types of books about many different subjects. This encourages the children to explore their interests and realize they can learn lots just by reading.

5) Have LOTS of books in your home.  A child won't learn to love reading if there are few books handy.  There are many sources for inexpensive books, so cost does not need to be an issue.  When a child claims to be bored, you can send him to the bookshelf.  Encourage reading as something to do for fun.  This is easier when there is a plentiful supply to choose from.  Your child will begin to find his favorites, and then he will encounter the joys of re-reading, seeing new things the second and third time around, and making fictional friends.  (See my post on tips for finding bargain books to get more information on building a home library.)

6) Schedule free reading for a large chunk of the school day during the elementary years.  If you homeschool, this makes a great transition with what used to be naptime; now, instead of sleeping, the child is on his bed reading books of his own choosing.  (And if he falls asleep, he probably needs the rest, lol.)

My own kids had two hours of free reading time every day during those years. It was enforced to be reading time, not drawing or playing or anything else time. (Another reason to have a large selection of books in the house.) And they survived. Once they got the idea that reading was their only option, they were very content to take a stack of books into their rooms and settle down for the allotted time. (And I'm sure you've figured out the side benefit for mom…) :-)

Related Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling With Biographies by Joan Concilio at Unschool Rules

If you don't homeschool, you can still schedule reading time in the afternoons or evenings. Right before bedtime works well, because it helps the kids settle down a little bit before lights out.

7) Listen to audio books.  I have a lot of great memories of listening to audio books with the kids.  Mostly we did this in the car while running errands or going back and forth to church.  Again, it's just another exposure to language and stories and the idea that books are FUN.  Often the kids wanted to get the paper copy of the book we'd listened to and read it for themselves.

8) Watch movies based on books.   Ditto a lot of what I said for #7.  Watching movies based on books leads to great discussions, including the age-old question of which was better and why.  We all love to compare the director's conception of a book with our own imaginings of it.  This one has to be used in moderation, however, if one wants to foster a love of READING, lol.

Related Reading: Homeschool Literature Curriculum Options When your Teen Hates to Read

9) Monitor what your child reads.  Y'all, this one is VERY important to me. There are many parents out there who do not bother to make sure that their child is reading age-appropriate material. Just because it is in the juvenile section of the library does not automatically make it a helpful book for your child to read.

Many books are full of poor behavior, mysticism, disrespect to parents, sinful choices with no consequences, etc. — even those written for children.

Also, it IS possible for a library to wrongly categorize a book; I've found full-on sex scenes in books that were shelved as juvenile.  (You can bet I brought that to the librarian's attention.)

Please, please, please: help your child choose which books to read.  Read them first if you have to.  You cannot always undo the wrong understandings of important things in life that can be fostered in a child's thinking due to what he's read.

10) Do not legislate book selection. This is the complement to #9. Yes, DO carefully supervise what your child is allowed to read, even recommend books you think he might like, but do not force books on him that you think he SHOULD read. Of course, for school there is a certain amount of this that must be done, but even then, keep it to a minimum. We all remember how a great-sounding book lost all its excitement when we had to answer comprehension questions or write a book report. Allow your kids to read mostly just for the fun of it, without being required to complete formal assignments.

As a parent, one of the best sights ever is seeing your child absorbed in a book. And what a joy it is to then sit down with them and read your own! Encourage them to love reading, and this will be a common occurence. :-)


It's Not That Hard to Homeschool

19 thoughts on “How to Encourage Your Child to Love Reading”

  1. I love the tips. I disagree on one point: We don’t have to teach them to LOVE to read. In fact, I believe that’s impossible. Reading – like fishing, knitting or stampcollecting – is an interest. There will be those who are interested in it and those who are not. We can teach any of those things, but we cannot teach interest.

    1. Hmmm… that’s an interesting point, Jennie. Maybe it’s in the semantics of the word “teach”? But I think people talk about teaching others to love something all the time. As in “She really taught me to love classical music” — the implication is that by educating the person about classical music, and giving them good exposure to it, someone who might not otherwise have been interested in classical music was taught to love it. I know my husband taught me to love John Wayne movies, when I had never had any interest in them before marrying him! I so DID NOT want to watch one… but then I got hooked, lol! Thanks for stopping by! :-)

      1. Exposure is a great word. Yes let them see you enjoying it. Give lots of opportunity to find reading exciting and they will learn to love it.
        Thanks for great post.

      2. I think your kids are looking careful everything we love or we have interest in, so we are the best mirror for what they will be.
        I am 100% agree with Annie and thank you for your wisdom.

  2. These are great tips. I’ll chime in on the point Jennie made. I actually think “reading” in and of itself is not an “interest” it is a necessary skill no matter what your interests, however, I agree that we don’t have to teach them to love to read. A love of reading will most likely happen when children are allowed to pursue the books and reading material that actually match up with their interests. Found you over on the Laugh and Learn link up. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Nicole. I agree that children will be more motivated to read when they are interested in what they are reading — that’s one of the reasons for #10, but I didn’t say it as clearly as you did. Good stuff! :-)

  3. Great post! I pinned it for later encouragement and tips. My 7 year old loves for me to read to him, but hasn’t developed a love of reading on his own yet :-)

    1. How did I miss your comment, Erin?! I’m so glad you stopped by! Keep reading to him, both books he could possibly read on his own and books that are too difficult now. I bet he’ll take off on his own before long. :-)

  4. …. And yet even with all these steps it’s not a guarantee that your child will love reading. I have one that LOVES to read and devours everything in sight. One that reluctantly reads and one that HATES it… I homeschool and don’t think I’ve done anything differently with the three but they just have different personalities and tastes. I just keep hoping one day they’ll love it. We keep up our library trips, read alouds, audiobooks, and movie/book nights.

    1. No, you’re right; it’s not a guarantee. And yet these things can make a difference. Not doing them would certainly make it much more difficult for your child to choose reading as something to do for fun. Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the one topic that the child is really interested in learning about. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Jen|Practical by default

    I love this list. I worked hard to develop a love of reading in my children. You are right about checking what they are reading. Mine have come running out with books that had “kissing and gross stuff mom!” :) Teaching them what to do if they find a book that they don’t want to read for reasons like that is important. Great list!

    1. Yes, good point, Jen! We can have conversations about what is and is not acceptable as we pick out books together. It’s so crucial to be part of that process with our child! Thanks for the comment! :-)

  6. Ann, you’re so right! While it’s important to teach the “skill” of reading, I do think there’s a big difference between reading competently and being able to do so when needed, and really enjoying it as an interest. There are tons of systems and tips for the first. Your list here is a REALLY good guide to how to encourage the second! While I agree with some of the other commenters that you can’t “make” someone love reading, you can definitely remove many of the obstacles that would keep someone who otherwise might enjoy it from being able to do so.

    Also, I’m a HUGE fan of reading aloud; we read aloud well into the teen years, and it was awesome. Occasionally we still do it – and my graduate is almost 20!

    1. Hi Joan! I haven’t read aloud with my teens, and I regret it. It seems like they’re so busy, and also they would moan and gripe about it… but you’ve given me courage to try again! Thanks!

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