Sometimes learning to read is almost easier than keeping kids reading. Through much trial and error these are some strategies that work to keep my boys hooked on books.
Start a story and stop. When you are first getting into chapter books and want your child to try reading on his or her own, start reading them a story and then stop at the really good part. Offer to let them see what happens if they would like and hand over the book. They will usually read a few pages in.
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Read a level down. One mistake I made was trying to force my kids to use personal reading time to read on their correct level, especially my oldest. He would choose little kid books for his silent reading time and I would come in and make him read something different. I feel like that was wrong. Personal reading time should be totally enjoyable if we want our kids to keep doing it. I want my kids to associate reading with a great escape not drudgery. Now I let my kids read whatever they choose (rationally speaking) for their own reading time. They get plenty of the other stuff in school and for homework. If you are picking books for your child, find books that they can easily read and understand.
Cater to their interests. Another mistake I made was trying to interest my boys in the books I loved growing up. They didn’t think they were all that great. For their personal reading time, let them take the lead. If they love non-fiction, find a non-fiction book. If they want to read a magazine, find an appropriate one that interests them. Give them lots of good options to choose from for their personal reading time. I’ve found statistical books like World Records books, Yearbooks or Animal Fact books work well to keep reluctant readers engaged.
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Go to the library often. My kids are always really excited to start reading after we hit the library. Giving them the choice gives them ownership over their time, and that is always motivational for kids.
Read aloud. Although all 3 older boys read on their own and do it well, we always have a family book we are reading. My kids love listening to me read and I love having that shared experience with them. It’s so fun to talk about the book as a family and speculate on what might happen next. This is where I introduce them to the books I loved growing up or books I hope they will enjoy but might be a little slow or old-fashioned. Since I have super active boys, they often play Legos draw or indoor basketball or some other game while I am reading to them, but I don’t let it bother me. They are still listening and we are creating fun memories together; I know they listen because they talk about the books we read together all the time with me, their friends and with each other.
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Try a book club. Our local Saline Library has a book club for different ages and yours might have one too. I have not tried it yet, but my friend loves taking her kids and getting them interested in new books. We are going to give it a shot this summer. If you are ambitious, start your own.
Use Goodreads. I love the website Goodreads because I enjoy keeping track of my books and giving the reviews. You can use Goodreads for your kids too and let them rate each book they read and give a little summary of what it was about. It is so fun for them to watch their bookshelves grow. If you choose to reward reading, this is a good way to keep track.
Stay up late. This is by far my best suggestion for getting my kids to read. Each has his own light attached to his bed, and each night after my kids get into bed, they have between 20 and 30 minutes to read. They are allowed to stay awake but only if they are reading. If they are playing or doing something else, the light goes off and they have to go to sleep. We started this when my kids had required reading minutes for school and it has been awesome. By the end of the day, my busy boys are ready to wind down and they are happy to curl up with a good book. More often than not I am forcing them to put their book down and get to bed. I have been doing this for quite awhile and my 3rd child started personal reading time when he was three because that is what everyone else was doing. He would just look at picture books, but he did it independently and it started him in the habit of reading on his own. Sometimes a nice older brother would read to him and that worked for me too. I love this tradition. If you are worried about them following through, you can plant yourself outside their door with your own book. It’s great for kids to see their parents reading!
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How do you keep your kids reading?