Five Ways to Get Kids Reading

Hooked on Phonics created tips on “Five Ways to Get the Kids (and the Rest of the Family) Reading” by Jamie Levinthal, Subscriber Experience Manager at Hooked On Phonics.

Five Ways to Get the Kids (and the Rest of the Family) Reading

By Jamie Levinthal, Subscriber Experience Manager at Hooked On Phonics

Read Across America Day is the annual nationwide celebration honoring all things reading, and while it’s great for building awareness, many parents would agree that there is more we can do year-round to encourage our kids to sit down and enjoy a good book.

Of course, in this era of constant busyness, countless media options and full-time schedules (even for kids), that is often easier said than done. So how can parents cut through the noise and help kids develop healthy reading habits every day of the year?

Here are five tips to show your kids — and the rest of the family — the joys of enjoying a good book.

  • Make reading a fun activity, not a chore. There is no denying that there are times in our lives when reading feels more like a burden than entertainment. For example, for many of us, slogging our way through a three-inch-thick science book wasn’t exactly our idea of a good time. But one way to help combat this is to present reading as a leisure activity, and perhaps even a privilege, to kids from a very young age.

Oftentimes this requires parents to carve out a bit of time each day for some leisure reading of our own. From a very young age, our children look up to us and want to be a part of the activities they see us doing. If they see us reading for enjoyment on a regular basis, there is a better chance they’ll want to do the same.

Young children are very sensitive to the actions and emotions of their parents. In fact, a recent study found that when parents use their cell phone frequently they risk disrupting their relationship with their children on both a social and emotional level. The bottom line is that young children are very in tune with what their parents are doing, and it’s important for parents to be aware of this.

It takes more than simply letting them see you reading, however, particularly for younger children. Devise some ways to make reading a fun activity with the little ones, such as acting out their favorite stories or creating a craft or fun activity based on the book you’re reading together.

  • Include reading as a part of the dinnertime routine. Many families have hectic day-to-day schedules, making the evening meal the one time each day where everyone comes together. In this case, there are a few things you can do to incorporate reading into dinnertime. One is to have the kids read recipes to you out loud while you prepare the meal together. Younger kids can help read each ingredient, while older ones can help by reading the cooking instructions. This can help them improve both their fluency and vocabulary, and it may even teach them a bit about cooking.

Also, when you finally sit down to eat, try to steer some of your dinner table conversations to the kids’ favorite stories, books or characters. This encourages them to think about reading even when they don’t have a book in front of them, and perhaps build excitement for some quality reading time before bed. Also, chatting with the kids about anything during dinner has positive benefits — for younger kids, dinnertime conversation improves their vocabulary even more than reading aloud to them.

  • Take full advantage of the kids’ daily screen time. In today’s tech-driven world, digital screens are virtually unavoidable. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than an hour of screen time per day for kids ages 2-5, and encourages parents to set reasonable limits for kids ages 6 and older.

The AAP now defines “screen time” as time spent for entertainment (meaning homework doesn’t count), but parents can make use of their children’s screen time by using a portion of it to explore educational reading apps and tools together. Most kids find this just as entertaining as a relatively mindless YouTube video, and the educational benefits are far superior.

  • Turn reading into an interactive activity. With so many entertainment options available to kids, it’s not particularly surprising that their first impression of reading might be that “it’s boring.” One tactic you can use to help work past this feeling is to show them that reading can be about much more than simply ingesting the words on each page.

Reading aloud with your child is a good start toward making it more interactive and fun, but there is much more you can do. For example, consider setting up a specific corner meant only for reading time, complete with good lighting and a comfy place to sit. You may also want to keep some colorful pens and pencils, Post-it Notes and a dictionary on hand so you can show them how to highlight interesting passages, look up words they may not know, or mark their favorite parts of a story. This encourages kids to actively think about reading in a deeper way, while also strengthening their vocabulary and general reading comprehension.

  • Take every opportunity to work on literacy skills. In each of the above scenarios, there is an opportunity to help your youngsters develop the six early literacy skills that make them better prepared when they enter school. For example, vocabulary is key when kids are learning how to read, so whenever there is a chance be sure to help them learn the names of things you come across in books and beyond.

Letter knowledge is another important early literacy skill, so when reading books (or street signs, or labels, or anything really) play a small game in which you help the kids point out and name letters along with the sound they make.

Making reading a fun and interactive activity that the little ones and the entire family is invested in can go a long way toward helping kids to choose reading as a regular part of their day-to-day routine. In the end, this will lead to a number of positive benefits, not only through childhood, but into adolescence and eventually adulthood as well.