I made a statement the other day – “Not only am I a book lover, but I have also turned my son into one. He loves reading”. A friend then asked me “Okay, how did you do it? Any tips?” Now that’s a tricky question. She also wanted to know how to make her kindergartener read books, especially when there are so many attractions like video games and mobile apps out there. As I started thinking about it, I came up with these tips, many of which I have used with my son. I suppose there are plenty of expert opinions on this topic, but this is just something that we have done and seems to have worked for us. Of course, if you are wondering why a kid should enjoy reading in the first place, then this post is not for you, you are probably not going to find an answer to that here :-)
- Start now and read every day: Start showing them books and reading to them as early as you can (we started when our son was a few months old). You can start teaching them how to read at age three or even earlier if the child is ready.
- Make reading a cozy bedtime routine: we typically wrap a comforter around us and snuggle up while reading. It’s very comfy and it makes me also feel good about our routine. Lately, my son has started bringing his favorite soft toy inside the comforter. Uh-okay, the more the merrier, I guess.
- Act it out: don’t just read a book but act it out. This can be a lot of fun. Treat your reading area like a stage where you are an actor taking up different roles. Create a lot of drama. We especially enjoy doing this with Dr. Seuss books.
- Let them act it out: teach them how to focus on the punctuation, show them not just the periods and commas, but what to do when there is an exclamation point or text in a bold font. A lot of acting and shouting goes on in our house around exclamation points!
- Maintain a list of books they have read: Their eyes will light up to see the growing list. You can give them a small prize after every 10 books make it to the list.
- Have patience: Teaching a kid how to read requires a lot of patience in the early days. Take help of some professional book series (we used Bob books). Also when they are staring at a word like ‘CAT’ for what seems like eternity and still cannot read it, and you have read the word 50 times in your mind already (cat-cat-cat–), remember to not pull your hair! Keep using the tips provided for parents and they will get past this initial learning curve in a few weeks.
- Pack the play-area with books: just casually fill the play-area with books, slowly they will find their way to it.
- Make books your travel companion: If you are traveling on vacation then along with toys and activity books, pack a few reading books. Typically when we are on a vacation, we skip the bedtime reading routine and instead keep it casual and read at other times if possible.
- Keep a mixed reading mode and let them ‘listen’: When they are still a beginner reader, read some pages yourself and then let them read a page or two. That way the flow of the story will be maintained and they won’t lose interest. Remind them to listen to the story and understand it even when they are the ones reading it.
- Check out Web sites for recommendations: there are Web sites that list popular books and provide recommendations by age group. There is a reason why those books are popular – kids love them, yours will too.
- Buy books as a gift: give them a book as a gift once in a while but do not buy books as a substitute for toys. Let them have their share of toys as well.
- Let them buy a book: give them money and let them select and buy a book of their choice. It’s a great feeling to be a proud owner of a book you like.
- Follow the reading assignments: If the school sends out any reading assignments then follow them even if they might be optional in the pre-school/kindergarten years.
- Take them to a library: let them pick the books they want to read. My husband has been taking our son to the library religiously every few weeks for years now. It’s okay if they tend to favor certain books. Let them have fun picking what they want and you can casually introduce a few different books every time.
- Get books based on their interests: whether they are into dinosaurs, super heroes, fairy tales or Star Wars, get books that are based on themes that interest them.
- Have a combination of books from different reading levels: some books are for them to read and suitable for their reading level, but some others with a higher reading level may be more informative or interesting for them – and you can read those to them.
- Reading books is not an option: Let them know that the choice is not between reading books versus playing video games / apps. Let them know that they can have their share of video games, but books will happen on their schedule too.
- Really big kids read too: If there are any older kids or siblings around, then point out how they are reading books for “really big kids” and having fun.
- Read yourself: You read and your kids will notice. Let them see how the books for grown-ups look. It will give them quite a kick to see that “grownup books” are just black & white whereas their books are colorful with pretty pictures. Eventually make sure that they start focusing on the story and use the pictures as an accessory.
- Have fun! Finally make sure that you are having fun reading with them (tips #2, 3, 4, 14 should help with that). If you are losing interest and dragging, then everybody around you is dragging as well.
Like any kindergartener, my son enjoys school activities, playing outdoors with his friends and playing video games and apps. But he loves books very much and when I tell him to think of books as his friends, I think he gets it.
Lastly, I suggest that you try out these tips and figure out what will work for you and your kids. If there are any other tips that you have used and would like to share, then I would love to hear from you. Happy reading!