If your child seems to have no interest in reading, it doesn’t mean they are destined to be illiterate or doomed to fail in school. You have time to turn that interest level around. And it won’t take a lot of work, surprisingly.
With a few solid tips, you’ll hear fewer groans from your children when you tell them it’s time to read. You might even find they’ll be begging to extend their bedtime a little later so they have time to finish the next chapter of their book.
1. Start As Young As Possible
It’s easiest to get a child invested in reading if you do it while they are young. It’s harder to sell an older child on something you haven’t emphasized as being important in the past.
Your best bet is to begin reading to your child from infancy. But if you have an older child you’re trying to get interested in reading, the following tips will help you.
2. Make It a Habit
By trying to find time for reading most days of the week, your child will begin to view it as a habit. It may take a few weeks of near daily reading before it will become engrained in their routine.
It’s just like exercising. It can be difficult to find the motivation to do it daily when you’re first starting an exercise regimen, but once it’s established, you miss it if you don’t do a workout every day.
3. Read Them Their Favorite
We all have them — those books that touch our hearts so deeply that we never seem to get sick of them. The thing is, you can pretty easily get sick of someone else’s favorite. But if your child has a book they want you to read repeatedly to them, do it. And do it with a big smile on your face so they never know you’re sick of it.
They’ll stop asking you to read it if they can tell you hate it. You don’t want to suck the fun out of their favorite book.
4. Show An Interest In What They’re Reading
If you see your child reading a book, no matter what age they are ask them questions about it. Show an interest in what they tell you.
If it sounds like a book you’d enjoy reading, give it whirl after they’re done with it. They’ll love that they made it sound interesting enough to entice you, and they’ll like to discuss it with you when you’re finished with it.
You can talk about what your favorite parts of the book were and you can ask them what they most liked about it. It will be sparking their interest as well as giving you a deeper insight into that child of yours.
5. Let Them See You Reading
One of the best things you can do to encourage your child that reading is fun and not some soul-sucking chore is for them to see you doing it too on a regular basis. Read a book for a few minutes in the evening, or let them see you scanning the morning newspaper.
It’s fine to tell a child to do what’s good for them, but it’s even better to show them the behavior you want them to model. That’s what a good leader does, and as a parent, you are leading them — everything you’re doing, they’re learning for better or worse.
6. Find Subject Matter That Interests Them
It’s great to test a child’s interest levels by expanding their horizons. Often, books we don’t think we’ll like end up becoming some of our favorites. It’s wonderful to try to stimulate your child by giving them materials they’d never select for themselves. But that shouldn’t be the majority of what they read.
Most of the time, you should let them select material they are interested in, even if it’s something like comic books or graphic novels, that you don’t consider “real” reading. Anything that gets them excited about reading should be allowed and encouraged.
7. Start or Let Them Join a Book Club With Their Friends
Books can seem a lot cooler to your child when your child’s friends are also reading them. That’s especially true for junior high students and teenagers. Look at the Twilight and Harry Potter phenomenons — half the fun is discussing the plot twists and characters with other readers.
It doesn’t have to be a formal book club. You can just invite your child’s friends over for snacks and conversation. Just give them a space to discuss the material where they can have some quiet and privacy.
8. Look For Age Appropriate Materials
If your child seems to really hate reading, it could be because they might not have reading material suited for their level of reading. They might have books that are too easy for them and they aren’t interested in because it isn’t challenging enough. Or, they could have books that are way too advanced for them and they feel stupid while reading because they don’t know enough of the words.
You want your child to be challenged but not overly so. They have to feel as if they are capable of finishing the book in their hands.
9. Don’t Enforce Long Reading Sessions
Not every child will have a long attention span when it comes to reading. And that’s okay — they don’t have to. Even reading sessions of 10 or 15 minutes at a time will benefit them.
Make sure you aren’t expecting too much for their age level or their temperament.
10. Be a Source of Inspiration, Not Stress
Try not to be too critical of your child as they figure out the role reading will play in their lives. Some children naturally want to keep their nose in a book as much as they can, but other children don’t enjoy it that much. If you ramp up too much pressure, they may want to do it even less.
Instead, focus on being their cheerleader. They’ll have enough critics in their lives without you assuming that role too.
About the Author
Jenny Silverstone is a professional writer, editor, and most importantly, the mother of two beautiful kids. Jenny contributes to the parenting website Mom Loves Best, where she shares her journey through parenthood and gives tips for reading, playing and healthy development.