Tuesday, January 9, 2018

How to Raise a Reader: Tips for Getting Your Kids to LOVE Reading

If you've been following along with this blog you know what a big part reading is in our lives. Just check out this hashtag! And not only do I LOVE reading myself, but our kids are major readers too. I often get questions from blog readers asking what we did to get out kids to love books so much and reading at an early age. As both a mother and a former high school English teacher, I have so much to say about this and I felt it was time I organized my thoughts on the subject. Most of all I want to share some tips for anyone looking to bring more books and reading into their home! So here goes:

1. To raise a reader, be a reader.

Now, I know not everyone loves to read. I have lots of thoughts and feelings on this- like I used to tell my high school students- "Everyone is a reader- you just haven't found the right book!" And I truly believe this. So quick little reminder- if you find yourself feeling less than inspired to read yourself, explore some new options or try to find books that align with simple interests you already have. There really is something for everyone, it just may take some time to discover something that really draws you in. But like I said above- to raise a reader, be a reader. Children watch everything we do. So if you want your kids to pick up a book when they're bored, or seek out something to read on their own, they need to see their biggest example and model doing the same.

2. Make books accessible. 

We have hundreds of books all over our home- bookshelves in our office, our bedroom, in the kids' rooms, books in the toy bins in the living room- reading is an easy choice at all times. This has been key for us. If you're just starting out, start small and create a book basket. This is a simple box or basket filled with books, next to your child's bed or in a common area. This doesn't mean you need to go to Amazon and spend $100 buying the latest and greatest children's literature. Used books are amazing- check your local thrift store, hit up the dollar store for new books, and of course there is always the library! If your kids come home from school and say they're bored, invite them to grab a book from the basket and come read with you. Read to your younger kids, have your older kids read to you- although even older kids love being read to just as much as the little ones. The biggest thing though is having books be a part of your environment so they will naturally become what children gravitate towards.

3. Build reading into your everyday routine.

Read aloud to your kids, every.single.day. If you have a baby Olive's age, you might feel like they aren't listening or interested in books at all, but keep at it. Have a stack of books on a side table in your little one's nursery and read when you wake up, before every nap, whenever you can fit it in. Let your child explore- encourage them to touch the pages, turn each one, and don't be discouraged if they only want to push it away. Just try again later. It's what you do everyday that matters and with consistency you will find that books eventually become something they will reach for. Tactile, touch-and-feel books are best for babies, and here are some of favorites: one, two, three, and four. For older kids, make sure you do a bedtime book every single night if possible. Have it be something you and your family look forward to as the very last step of your nighttime routine. Make sure you're picking books YOU love too so this is something the entire family can look forward to. Our routine is the same every night- bath, books, sleep. The boys definitely get excited about our story time each evening, but it's because it's always been what we've done- it feels weird not doing it! If you haven't made this a priority, no worries- there is no time like the present to start, so make it a new tradition beginning tonight and begin to enjoy this daily dose of extra cuddles and quiet time together.

Making muffins with Henry 2/21/13

4. Create real life connections to books.

Going on vacation? Head to the library and grab books on your destination. Reading a children's book that has a fun theme? Consider bringing it to life, like Henry and I did here with If You Give a Moose A Muffin. Connecting kid's everyday life to books is a very simple way to infuse magic into reading, even at a very early age.

5. Start reading traditions.

This is one of my best tips, and quite possible the one my family and I enjoy the most. We have special holiday books, birthday books, etc. that we pull out only for these special occasions. It's Christmas? We're getting out the holiday decorations and inside that big bin is a smaller box filled with our holiday books. During Halloween I'll display our collection of spooky, seasonal books and we'll reach for them every night before bed. It's SO fun for the boys to rediscover them each year and I love that we're creating these special memories together. Another great tradition to begin is weekly or monthly trips to the library. This is something your kids will look forward to, and a great way to hit so many of the tips above- and best of all, it's a fun, FREE thing to do.

I hope this helps inspire you and give you some an idea of what we do at home to encourage reading as much as possible. If you have anything else to add, please leave a comment below so we can all enjoy any tips or tricks that you use in your family. I'll be following up soon with our current favorite books to read as a family, so stay tuned.

Happy reading!


  1. I adore this. When I was home for the holidays, my mom asked when we remembered first loving reading. Both my sister and I said that we never remember a time when we didn't love it! I think it's because of tips like these!

  2. What a great post! As a book lover, it is so important to me that my son discover the joy of reading. Last year you wrote a post about your favorite children's books. During that time I was in the middle of an almost two year international adoption process and decided to buy one of your recommended books for my one day child. My son, Zeke, has been home from India for three months. When he first arrived home, reading books was challenging since it was such a new concept for my little guy. Eventually he found an amazing book that he loves and Gaston is now a staple in our nightly reading lineup. I thought you might like to know that your recommendations are truly appreciated by a sweet little boy in Ohio.

  3. Agree with all of this here but would also add - persevere!! I am an avid reader but my son was Not, he enjoyed me reading to him but hated it himself, getting him to read his school reading books was such a chore each night! Until we got to Year 4 at school (age 8) and a wonderful marvellous teacher said he didn't have to read school books as long as he was reading something... we started off with comics then comic type books (Lego batman, Ninjago etc) and slowly slowly he started to enjoy it more - then that wonderful amazing teacher started reading Varjak Paw by SF Said with the class and it captured something in him... he desperately asked me to buy both books in the series plus another book by the same author and we haven't looked back since... two years on and the child i had almost resigned myself to never being a reader for pleasure is devouring children's novels - I'm so happy!