Tips for Parents

On encouraging your child to read.  First of all, read aloud to your children for as long as they are willing to listen. The benefits are myriad, and it’s fun.

Let your children see you reading—books, newspapers, or magazines.  Make reading part of your life. Homes that incorporate reader produce stronger readers.

Leave books lying around the house.  Buy some books that are likely to appeal to your child, or get a stack at your free public library.  Libraries often have used book sales including children's books.

Connect books to your child’s interests: hobbies, sports, pets, travel, cooking, and other parts of daily life.  Children who don’t think they like books may change their minds when they see that books are part of something else they are interested in.

Subscribe to a magazine that might interest them.

Get an audiobook for your child to listen to, or to listen to together. Audiobooks are great for kids who aren’t strong readers but who like stories. They offer many of the benefits of reading aloud: exposure to vocabulary, grammar, and story structure, all as part of a good story.

Watch a movie based on a book. Strong readers usually like to read the book first (and tend to like it better than the movie). Those who aren’t strong readers can benefit from seeing the movie first, because it supplies visual images and makes the book more approachable.

Encourage relatives and family friends to give books as presents. When giving presents, you might combine a book with another interest, such as a soccer ball and a soccer book.

Have your child get a library card as early as possible, and make libraries part of your routine.  Libraries typically offer activities for children, including storytimes for younger children and summer reading clubs for older ones. They also now have videos and audiobooks as well as books for kids.

See if your child would like to join a book group. Many libraries and schools now have such groups, or you can start one among friends.

Let your children make choices at the library or bookstore, and don’t criticize their interests. Let them pick books that are too easy but may be comforting, or books that are too hard but have interesting pictures or photographs.

Recognize that reading about information is as legitimate as reading novels.  Acknowledge this fact to your children when they follow written instructions for a hobby or read the sports pages.

Some children love acquiring facts or trivia...  They may especially enjoy the Guinness Book of World Records, the World Almanac, or sports almanacs, just for the fun of browsing through them.
Try reading nonfiction aloud.  Some children prefer "real things."  Especially if there's a topic your child cannot yet read about alone but wants to know more about, this is a gift to them

Don’t worry too much if your child is hooked on a series.  Series books can promote reading, especially among not-yet-proficient readers. The books in a series generally repeat the same setting and characters, letting the child read mainly for plot and vocabulary. Kids often share their enthusiasm about series books, another benefit.

What about the classics?  Most books termed “classics” have a more leisurely writing style than today’s readers are used to, so are less appealing to many kids than more recent books. If you want to share a classic you loved as a child, try it as a read aloud so you can share your enthusiasm.

For some children, especially boys, who fear being teased, reading may be essentially private. Respect that they may not want to talk about everything they read or be praised for reading (depending, of course, on the child).

Choose a book together to give in his or her name to the school library or your public library.

Try lots of different approaches.  One of them may transform a non-reader into someone who appreciates books.

© 2012, Kathleen Odean, all rights reserved.