You’ve noticed by now that the questions the parents here at Gracepoint Berkeley church ask me are pretty much permutations of the same central question. But today I want to focus on the “getting” your child to read. But before you read on, be sure to watch the video from the post about Daniel Pink’s book Drive. You’ll see that my list today focuses mostly on the principle of “autonomy.”
Here is my super long list of ways to get your child to read:
#1 CHOICE. Allow them to choose what they read. If you want them to develop a love for reading, they need to read what they love. Telling them, “Read this. It’s a good book.” will rarely work. Consistent with the human condition, most (if not all) children, especially teens, will not want to read it simply because you recommended it. EVEN if they were thinking of reading it before you said anything. (Even when kids ask me what they should read, I usually give them a stack of books to choose from.)
Resist the temptation to say, “That’s too easy for your grade level” or “You should be* reading _____ by now.” Your child is forced to read books with his or her class, and their teachers are choosing books they deem appropriate for their developmental stage. If reading a book you think is “too easy” for your child gets him or her hooked on reading, maybe even FOR LIFE, it’s totally worth it, wouldn’t you say?
Your child is apt to read more if they feel confident as a reader, so give them the time and space to develop their confidence through reading what they choose. Trust me that in time, they’ll push themselves to read more challenging books. It’s in our nature (future post to follow).
#2 FLOODING. As in a “book flood.” One of the reasons I invested hundreds of dollars (if not more) in my classroom library was because I firmly believe that if kids are surrounded by reading materials of all genres, they are more likely to find something they like, and therefore more likely to read it. What this means for you doesn’t necessarily mean spending hundreds of dollars on books! It might mean making trips to a local bookstore, used bookstore, and/or library, and making that a “thing” you do together.
As a side note, this is the reason I have worked pretty hard at creating a space kids want to be in over at Bibliopolis. I want them to love being there, and definitely want them to be surrounded by books so they’ll always associate books with something special or even slightly magical, or at the very least, something positive!
#3 MODELING. The more your child sees YOU reading for pleasure, they will see reading as a pleasurable activity. You know by now that your kids notice everything you do and say. Sometimes they can even imitate the way you do and say it! This means that they are aware of your relationship (or non-relationship) with books. Studies around kids and technology reveal that one of the biggest frustrations they have is that their parents are hypocrites when it comes to technology.
The same goes for reading. Your kids know if you’re just telling, or even forcing, them to read, but you never do it yourself. Even though we’re all super busy, please believe me when I say that developing your own reading life, and sharing that with your kids, is one of the most powerful ways you can influence your child to be a reader.
You don’t always have to read aloud to your child, which some feel too pressed for time to do regularly. But what I’m suggesting is a win-win! You can read whatever you’ve been meaning to read** — fiction, non-fiction, apologetics, biographies, poetry — and you can spend time with your kid while they’re reading their book too.
And there you have it. That’s my list. My teaching colleagues often asked me how I got my students to be such book nerds. And I always tell them the above three things. I let my students choose what to read, out of a gazillion books that they have access to right there in the classroom, and I constantly talk about the variety of books I’m reading, regularly doing book talks, asking them about what they’re reading, encouraging lively conversations and even arguments around books, and making it a priority to set aside “sacred time” for silent reading all together (including me) every day.
What strategies or practices have you tried to “get” your child to read? How did you become a reader yourself? Looking forward to sharing our reading successes!
*We impose our “should be’s” on others!
**Try to read something that’s in physical book form.