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Raising Kids Who Love Books

raising readers

Raising readers is a topic I’ve actually written about before, but here are a seven new things I’ve noticed that draw my kids to books:

  • Limit electronics. I’m married to a computer scientist, and I think electronics have their place. But I don’t want digital learning to be the first thing my kids think of when they are looking for something to do.
  • Model reading. I love my computer, blogs, and books on CD, but I try to spend some time every day reading a paper book. E readers are amazing, but there is something different about being able to flip back and forth through a book.
  • Model writing – on paper. I find that my mind works differently with pen and paper than it does with keyboard and screen. Writing on physical paper forces me to slow down and think about my ideas. Thinking about ideas is key to enjoying and understanding complex plots in stories.
  • Engage in imaginative play with them. This helps kids understand characters and plots.
  • Ask them about the books they read. Talking about a story or lesson helps kids remember it. It also shows that you care about what they are reading.
  • Explore non-fiction. Kids love learning about things that interest them using books – and there is some fantastic non-fiction children’s literature.
  • Teach them to use books to find activities they will enjoy. Children’s science and craft books are full of wonderful ideas, and my kids love finding a project that we can all do together.

Here are seven benefits of raising readers:

  • Reading conquers boredom. Build a house full of interesting books, and you’ll always have a solution to the dreaded, “I’m bored.” (Oh, and if reading doesn’t work, cleaning is my no-fail backup.)
  • Reading helps children discover interests. Books open the doors to all sorts of topics and projects that kids and parents won’t come up with on their own.
  • Raise writers. Kids who read a lot tend to also write well, which is critical to helping others understand your message, whether it be in a school assignment or a cover letter for a job.
  • Reading develops empathy. Identifying with a character in a book can help kids understand classmates, family members, and friends.
  • Connect with your child. It’s easy to bond over a good book that you both enjoy.
  • Fuel imagination. Books are full of amazing ideas, and as a reader you have the pleasure of creating the visual images for what you read, and of imagining what happens to characters after stories end.
  • Peaceful homes. I love to see my kids curled up on the couch enjoying a good book – alone or together.

What do you do to encourage reading in your homes? What are benefits you see for your kids?

MaryAnne at Mama Smiles
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MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

36 thoughts on “Raising Kids Who Love Books”

  1. From when I was a baby, mum read to me every night. It was always 3 books a night while I was reading picture books, and when I got to chapter books it was 3 chapters. She continued this until I was about 10, even though I could read to myself (which I did, all the time) She used to always make ups stories about what my dolls had been doing and stuff like that. She read me the first Harry Potter book when I was 5, taking the time to help me understand it. I think all of this is why I love books.

  2. Great post! Along with all the other tips mentioned in your post and the comments above I would add to continue reading out loud to your kids even after they learn to read to themselves. Children can listen at a higher vocabulary level than they can read and the best way to increase their reading and writing vocabularies is to keep pouring words into their listening vocabulary. Try to read books that are 2 to 3 reading levels above where they can read themselves.

  3. I remember loving reading as a kid. My mom read all the time and I couldn’t get enough of books. I hope to raise a small tribe of voracious readers!

  4. It’s easy with one. We read every day since Anna was a baby. I still remember reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas to her when she was 2 months old. It just never stopped since :)

  5. Oh, I meant to write that I try to make a point to spend time with each child one on one either reading to him or her, having him or her read to me, or discussing whatever book he or she is reading right now.

  6. Great post! We are a book loving house with the exception of my husband. He has never been a book person, and I think that is so strange considering he loves history and is an attorney, but he would rather watch a movie! Luckily, all four of my kids love to read and be read to.

  7. To encourage reading, I make sure our “together reading time” is always fun. I have to admit that sometimes my mind can tend to wander and even “check out” at times. Therefore, I make a deliberate effort to be truly interested in our story time together. I share in the emotions that are stirred up in stories, and I also ask my son’s opinion about things in the story. Story time has become a very precious time in our household. :)

  8. One of the things I really focus on is making sure my kids always have books available that are at their level and of interest to them. Then they always have something to pick up and read. I also make sure we read almost every single night. We very rarely will skip reading (maybe a few times a year, that’s it). In general, my kids read every night before bed. And they both love it.

    1. Julie, I totally agree! I talk about that on my site–that we need to make books accessible to our kids…that we need to make stories part of our kids’ “physical environment.” And also, it IS important to be “tuned-in” to their interests and pick books that match these interests…I agree w/you in that this step definitely encourages reading :)

  9. We love books at our house. We use them as barter, and it works wonders (for example: J gets 1 less story at bedtime if he takes too long to put on his jammies). We also usually ask him if he’d like to continue what he’s doing before bed and skip books, but the answer is always, “I want to read books!” I also love how right now, reading is the only way we can get J to sit still (and snuggle with us).

  10. Ideas for encouraging reading……books on cd, taking your kids along on yard sale outings where they can ‘discover’ gently used books for those on a budget, and taping themselves reading a story to their younger siblings are my donation this morning. :) & yes I still have a tape recorder. Happy Wednesday!!!

  11. Wonderful post! We have tried to read to JDaniel since he was a baby. It has become part of our day. I love that he seeks me out to read to him or for him to picture walk me through a book.

  12. Cute picture! And I love your no-fail boredom solution. :) :)

    These are great literacy tips; certainly for us having electronics almost nil for the kids (the metronome/tuner and keyboard piano are as close as they get to electronic entertainment) translates into them being very eager readers.

    By way of contrast, we have some friends who have 8- and 11-year-old children. We are in a parenting group together and were talking about incentives. I mentioned that if my kids get ready for bed quickly they get to read a book while they wait for the others. My friends said that their kids would consider being given extra time to read a punishment. :( These kids go to a very expensive private school. Hearing the parents say that reinforced the statistic that 1/2 of high school graduates never read another book in their lives, and 42% of college graduates never read another book after university. :( Makes me sad.

  13. Loved this post MaryAnne and I thoroughly agree with everything you say but I’m wondering if you have any posts or advice on how to teach young children to take care of their books? All of ours are being loved to death!

  14. The Reading Whisperer

    Join us on facebook- we share free info, resources and support parents and teachers with the actual teaching reading (and spelling)part. Other than being free its unique in that we train schools (and parents who home school) to teach every child as if they have a dyslexic brain- even if they dont. Every child- inc those with learning challenges- can learn to read, write and spell using SSP (Speech Sound Pics) Youll love the Speech Sound Clouds – one for every every speech sound in the English language- showing the sound pics used to represent that speech sound. All free to use from the facebook page. If you visit the soundpics youtube channel youll see clips of real lessons- not staged- for example where Oscar (a 5 year old) reads the book he has written about a fat frog!We’re having FUN, FUN, FUN- but also showing parents and teachers how to teach any child to read (who can hear)so they can start reading to you as well !
    Emma Hartnell-Baker

  15. I would rather read a book on paper than electronically and I’ve noticed my kids feels the same way. I also agree with you about writing on paper. Sitting in front of a screen, my mind goes blank, but give me a pen and paper and there’s plenty of ideas.

    1. The Reading Whisperer

      Research supports you – we need to keep writing by hand even in this modern world of laptops and ipads … its good for the brain !

      Mangen refers to an experiment involving two groups of adults, in which the participants were assigned the task of having to learn to write in an unknown alphabet, consisting of approximately twenty letters. One group was taught to write by hand, while the other was using a keyboard. Three and six weeks into the experiment, the participants’ recollection of these letters, as well as their rapidity in distinguishing right and reversed letters, were tested. Those who had learned the letters by handwriting came out best in all tests. Furthermore, fMRI brain scans indicated an activation of the Brocas area within this group. Among those who had learned by typing on keyboards, there was little or no activation of this area.

  16. Great post! We have recently told the kids that the TV is out of order ;)and I find my almost 3 year old “reading” more books. Limiting electronics is definitely important.

  17. Amen on all of the above. Especially limiting electronics. When you have so many other louder and brighter things vying for your attention it is difficult to just sit still and read, but when there aren’t as many distractions reading is fun and enjoyable. My kids ‘read’ in bed before they could read, it was good for them and good for me too because it was a nice quiet time for all.

  18. Great post! One of our favorite things is to go to the Scholastic warehouse sale. Abby gets to pick out a few books and she loves it. I actually am on the lookout for a bigger bookshelf, we are overflowing!

  19. Love this post! No pressure, but if you feel inclined to link it up to The Children’s Bookshelf I would love it. It’s the kind of literacy tips post I think would be of interest to other parents.

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