“I hate reading!”
If you hear your kids saying that when it’s time for homework, you aren’t alone. According to a survey from Scholastic and YouGov, about 40 percent of American kids don’t read for pleasure — and the numbers are growing. And it seems that kids who don’t develop a love for reading young go on to become adults who don’t like to read, either. A 2018 Pew Research Report revealed that about 25 percent of adults haven’t read a book — or even a part of a book — in the last year.
Researchers attribute these statistics to a number of factors, ranging from the chore-like nature of school reading logs (a requirement for many kids) to socioeconomic factors including income and educational achievement. Although some of these factors are more easily addressed than others, there is a lot that parents can do to help instill a lifelong love of reading in their kids and make reading an enjoyable experience for everyone.
Literacy advocates note that it’s never too early to start your kids on the path to lifelong reading. A growing number of parents are taking that advice to heart, with about 40 percent reading to their children before they reach three months old, up from 30 percent just a decade ago. Even if you don’t read to your child in utero, introducing your kids to books and reading with them even if they aren’t old enough to understand what you are saying or decipher the letters on the page can spark their interest in books and help create associations with reading being a fun activity. Have a selection of age appropriate books available to your kids; even little ones as young as 8 to 9 months old and flip the pages of a board book and enjoy the illustrations.
Go Beyond the Pages
Take reading to the next level by incorporating real-life activities into your reading time. This can be as simple as a meal inspired by a book that you’ve been reading to something more elaborate, like visiting a city where a book took place. Keep an eye out for local activities related to books you have read or want to read; many libraries, museums and community groups have exhibits or shows related to popular books that can bring your kid’s favorite titles to life.
Make It Fun
No one likes to do chores, and when reading feels like a chore, it’s not going to be fun. Find ways to get around the drudgery of homework and reading logs. Some parents schedule time on the weekends for kids to get some or all of their weekly reading done at a leisurely pace, filling out the weekly log in advance, before everyone is rushed and stressed. Providing access to resources to build skills by playing games can also make reading fun. When kids learn to read with Learning A to Z, for instance, basic skills are developed through fun activities and games, so they don’t feel like work.
Let Kids Choose
Kids often dislike reading because they are forced to read material they find boring or they aren’t interested in. Letting kids choose their own books is key to developing a lifelong love for the written word. As they learn what they like and develop their own tastes, help them find books they will enjoy, and talk with them about what they are reading. Not only does this keep you in the loop, but it helps them build comprehension skills as they explain the story to you. Even little ones can choose their own books. You might get tired of reading “Go Dog Go” every night, but repetition builds valuable literacy skills.
Finally, kids read more when they see their parents read. When you take the kids to the library, pick up a title for yourself, and let them see you reading for fun. Schedule family reading time, where everyone reads together. Talk about how much you enjoy reading, and why, and show your kids that reading isn’t just something they have to do for homework. The more they see you read, the more likely they are to want to do it themselves.
Reading is an important skill that everyone needs. Even if your kids never become full-fledged bookworms, you can help them at least enjoy reading and have less dread about tackling their schoolwork.