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How to Help Your Child Gobble Up Books and Love Reading

As an educator of 15 years, I know what works and what doesn't in the classroom. I boldly speak the truth and always will.

Much your way through books!

Much your way through books!

Sitting across the conference table from parents eager to help their young first or second grader learn to read, I often tell parents that fostering a love of r

Sitting across the conference table from parents eager to help their young first or second grader learn to read, I often tell parents that fostering a love of reading is about 90% of the battle! First, let’s start with a question: What is reading? It is basically the over learning of repeated words in text. Of course there are 5 core facets of reading that one can master over time: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. However, that is for another time. Let’s just focus on the basics for now.

Words, glorious, scrumptious words! Some words are simple and we learn them by sight - hence the term “sight” words. These are words we see almost all the time when we read: the, it, and, a, was, for some examples are words readers encounter often in text. We see them so often, in fact, that they often cannot be sounded out. Try it. Sound out the word “the” or “was” - I won’t watch. The phonics just don’t match! Much of the time these words are learned through repetition and memorization. We know what they are and how to say them from repeated exposure. The more a young reader is exposed to many different types of books the more she or he will just “remember” what sight words are because those words are seen almost all the time in different texts.

If you find your child stumbling to get through sight words, try making a quick flash card pack of sight words that come up in reading. As you read together, circle on a page or two how many times the word “the” comes up in the pages. Move on to a different sight word and do the same thing! You can do this with many other words. You can do this with content specific words as well. If reading a book about cats, see how many times the word “cat” comes up on a given page or two! Make it fun! There are many early sight words on the internet that you can use as you make up cards for this game. But... sight words are boring. It is more interesting to see how those words form sentences with other - exciting, more content-specific and interesting words that spark imagination and bring wonderful books to life!

Set the table and set them up for reading enjoyment:

1.Entice your child with appetizing books to devour! One of the first questions I ask parents: What is your child interested in? If they respond with fishing, biking, swimming, or even Legos, I make sure I house a myriad of books on those subjects in my classroom and offer them to young readers. Even if those texts are at a higher level than they are assessed at, that is okay! The higher the interest, the more your young reader will stretch his or her brain to try new content rich words.

2.Stock your shelf! Gather the necessary ingredients: books on nature, bugs, animals, Legos, princesses, boogers, dragons, Dragons with Boogers Who Eat Lego Princesses...The point is to have a wide variety of different topics mixed in with topics your child loves!

3.Add some zest and flavor to your reading! Ahem...that’s you Mom or Dad. If you read your child’s storybook the way you’d read a report from the New York Stock Exchange or how to install a new alarm system, you will probably hate it and so will your child. Monotones are your worst ingredient! Ditch the boring and add some flare! The more you get into character and use different voices, the more exciting the story becomes! Try to throw in an accent or try a whiny, barbaric, timid or loudly eccentric voice! Your choice! The more engaging and entertaining you are, the more fun and lively the story becomes for both of you! It may be hard to get your acting voice on, but believe me, when you see the surprise in your child’s eyes and hear the giggles, you’ll get the glowing green light to keep it up! Think about the adorable voices in your favorite Disney movies. That, intonation is what helps to bring those characters to life, too! Zee more excited and in character you are my dear, zee more exciting zee story becomes!

4.Enjoy the smorgasbord of reading together each night or day. Reading can be such a rich bonding experience between a parent and child. It is special 1:1 time that the business of the day seldom allows for. To end the day with a much enjoyed story is a great way for kids to feel close to and comforted by parents. Kids can have challenging days, too. Settling down with a good book of interest, or with relatable characters and themes, helps kids to adapt and unwind from the day.

6. Discuss your dining experience morsel by morsel. Ask your child: What do you like or dislike about the characters? Does this story remind you of anything in your life or other books you have read? Why do you think the character did that? How was the character feeling in the beginning, middle and end of the story? Ask your child to close his or her eyes while you read a section of the story. Have her draw or tell you what she saw or visualized in her head as you read. No peeking! Then compare her drawing with the one in the story. Which image was richer? Your imagination or the illustration? These are just some ways to engage your child in the story and practice some comprehension skills.

5. Cleanse the pallet and be open to new taste experiences on the pages. Give it a few pages or chapters with your best zeal, and if the book proves unappetizing to your child, ditch it and find a new one! No one wants to read boring books. You don’t and I don’t. Old dilapidated black and white versions of Dick and Jane or Fat Cat on a Mat probably won’t make the cut. Books with great intonation in voice, illustrations, rich colors or deep characters always help garner interest. Sometimes you have to put a little ketchup on it until your child develops a taste for it. You may have to just ignore the complaints and just read the first few chapters with great expression out loud to yourself. Then say, “But I guess you don’t want to hear anymore of this story…” Often you will get a sincere rebuttal and possible pleading to continue with the story. Not always, but often.

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6. Model good eating, I mean reading, habits yourself. Children watch us by example. What is important to us and holds our attention is likely what they will deem important and worth giving attention to. If you want your child to love and appreciate literature, then show her how much you do, too! Put down the phone and pick up an appealing book you’ve been meaning to read. Tell your child what you love about the book and which character is your favorite and why. If appropriate, read a short snippet of it to your child. If your child only sees you on a screen, he or she may also follow suit. Eventually all those great books, rich with imagination, may one day be forgotten, unread and collecting dust. Sigh. So have some dessert and bring back the love of books in your own life.

7. Find the perfect place to dine on diction during the day! Daytime reading can be fun and spontaneous! Find a comfy spot under a tree or up in a tree! Reading outdoors in nature adds to the senses and ignites vivid imagination. Again, your child may find a favorite spot on his or her own and will likely bring a smile to your face as he marches outdoors armed with a great book. My youngest and I like to sip tea under a beloved old crab apple tree.

8. Allow for seconds or thirds. It is good to reread familiar books. Again, reading is over learning the same words. Rereading books that have familiar predictability takes the pressure off learning a brand new book. Comfortable repeated readings of stories helps a child to grow in confidence. Eventually, she may try the book on her own. Encourage him or her to join in and share a page or paragraph with you. Try choral reading the same page together! Be fun and encouraging!

9. Allow for midnight snacks! If you put your child to bed and later find him or her with the light on or flashlight glowing while reading a book, smile and pretend you didn’t see it. This is a healthy, sneaky snack that will make them feel that they are being secretive with their love of the books. Let this one go. Enjoy that your once perhaps reluctant reader is now so enamored with the story, he just can’t put it down. This will also help him or her build good reading, and later, sleeping habits by unwinding from a long day with a good book. You can always check on him later, take the book off his face and quietly turn off the lamp.

10. Just because we get older, doesn’t mean we always outgrow comfort food. As your child gets older, preteen and teen years can be tumultuous at times. Reading with your child will still be a wonderful habit to keep. Offer to help him or her with longer texts that can be tricky to comprehend. Remember when having to learn Shakespeare? Having you with them will help as needed. Even just enjoying a chapter book together for old times sake is special and enjoyable. I continued to read to my teenager well into his teen years. Some texts can be easily understood while others might prove tricky. You can foster support and resilience with harder to digest texts or even foreign language pronunciations. When they are 18 years old, you can reread a favorite picture book you enjoyed together many years ago and reminisce about the story and characters. They’ll probably be embarrassed, but will love the moment, too.

11. Read, read, read! Establishing an early habit of reading each day or night will likely build a love of books that will last a lifetime. Remember, just because the school year might end doesn’t mean your wonderful reading routines should. The more you and your child read together, the more enjoyable reading will be!

Happy reading!

~Amanda Allison, M.Ed.


Amanda Allison (author) from New England on August 03, 2020:

Glad you enjoyed it!

peachy from Home Sweet Home on August 03, 2020:

Great hub. Useful advice

Amanda Allison (author) from New England on July 14, 2020:

Thank you so much for sharing, Eliza! Your love of books will likely pass right on to your kids! Enjoy delving into pages with them!


Amanda Allison (author) from New England on July 14, 2020:

Thank you so much for sharing! What a fun way to engage your kids! I love it when they enjoy a series!


Eliza from Idaho on July 14, 2020:

Beautiful and concise! I love the comparison between eating and reading! I love to read and I hope to pass that love down to my children. Thanks for the advice on how to do so!

Amanda Allison (author) from New England on July 14, 2020:

Love it! So necessary to make it fun! Thanks so much for sharing!


Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 14, 2020:

wonderfully artfully done. Somehow I muddled through this with my four children and they all love to read. My favorite is to say outlandish things and they have to "read up" to prove me wrong :-) My ten year old just did extra chores in order to buy a book - 4th in series.

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