Since my childhood days of reading comic books and “Nancy Drew” mysteries, I’ve always been a voracious reader. As the family bookworm, I earned the nickname “Booka” from my dad, who was a big reader himself. And my mom helped foster my obsession with the printed word by spending endless hours reading my favorite books to me as a child.
Now that I have my own family, I wanted to make sure I passed on my “first true love” to my two boys, now in their teens. From the time they were babies, I infused their lives with reading, library story times, and word games, buying and borrowing literally thousands of books during our 10 years of homeschooling together.
Sadly, plenty of research points to a downward trend in recreational reading, particularly among teens and young adults, such as the report by the National Endowment for the Arts. Most alarming, cites the report, is that “both reading ability and the habit of regular reading have greatly declined among college graduates.”
One way to stem the tide of this disturbing trend is to instill the love of reading in your kids from a very young age. But don’t rely on schools to do this. In fact, the same schools that teach your kids to read often destroy their love of reading, as noted in a recent article by clinical psychologist Erica Reischer in The Atlantic about the negative effects of forced reading logs.
“When motivation to do an activity comes from outside, via rewards or mandates, it tends to undermine people’s interest in doing that activity for its own sake,” writes Reischer. “This decline in motivation ultimately affects enjoyment, creativity, and even performance.” Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to foster the love of reading in your own home. Let these ideas jumpstart your own family’s love affair with books.
BE A READER ROLE MODEL.
Make sure your kids see you reading frequently, whether it’s the newspaper in the morning, a magazine while dinner is cooking or your favorite novel before bed. Bring books with you everywhere you go—from a small paperback you stuff in your purse to a Kindle on your next family vacation.
READ TO YOUR KIDS EVERY DAY.
It’s like a daily vitamin for their brain. If you need some ideas for good, age-appropriate books, check with the Central Rappahannock Regional Library for their summer reading selections.
MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY AND VISIT IT REGULARLY.
Besides allowing you to borrow books for free, many libraries offer lots of child-centered programs, including story times, puppet shows, arts-and-crafts workshops, summer reading programs, book clubs and more.
KEEP READING TOGETHER ONCE YOUR KIDS CAN READ BY THEMSELVES.
Sure, you want to applaud this milestone and encourage solo reading. But the many benefits of being read to continue to accrue, even as kids get old enough to read on their own. Plus, reading together creates a treasured bonding time for you and your kids.
CREATE A COMFY READING NOOK.
Perhaps you’ve got a cozy window seat with great natural light streaming through. Or maybe you’ve got a beanbag chair you can place next to a basket of books. Even just one comfortable chair will work. Add soft pillows,
a blanket to snuggle with and good lighting for the perfect reading get-away.
GET KIDS HOOKED ON A SERIES.
Think “Magic Tree House”, “Judy Moody” and “Encyclopedia Brown” for younger readers; “Big Nate”, “The 39 Clues”, and “Harry Potter” for middle schoolers; and “Hunger Games”, “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”
and “Twilight” for older teens.
DON’T RULE OUT COMIC BOOKS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS.
With the visual appeal of high-resolution graphics, sometimes it’s hard to turn kids on to a page full of words. Good comic books and graphic novels can be the gateway to good literature if kids equate reading with fun. These days, you can even find manga Shakespeare and manga classics, like “Les Miserables” and “The Scarlet Letter”.
BORROW, RENT OR BUY AUDIOBOOKS.
Many public libraries offer free CDs to borrow as well as downloadable mp3s or streaming audio. Although you can purchase many audiobooks on iTunes and Audible, you can also take advantage of free audio books on websites such as Open Culture, Thought Audio, Lit2Go, and Podiobooks.
CAP OFF A FAVORITE BOOK WITH SPECIAL TREATS AND ACTIVITIES.
Some treat ideas: Orange slices (“Very Hungry Caterpillar”) and homemade butter beer (“Harry Potter”). Some activity ideas: clue-finding mission (“Nancy Drew”) and visit to a farm (“Charlotte’s Web”).
Use these ideas to nurture your family’s love affair with books, and you’ll increase the odds of hooking your kids on a lifetime reading habit.