Having taught elementary and middle school students and being the mother of triplets, I have discovered simple ways to grow a love for reading in our children and to find wonderful, age appropriate books that I’m excited to share with you. The end of this post includes book suggestions.
Before falling asleep at night, our seven-year-old triplets curl into bed and dive into a book for thirty minutes or more. Expecting our kids to go directly from playing to sleeping could be compared to us being forced to fall asleep right after exercising. Carving out time for bedtime reading calms our children’s bodies, minds, and hearts so they can fall asleep more easily.
It’s helpful to start bedtime reading when your children are young since routine is important. But if your children are older, it’s not too late. Beginning a bedtime reading habit not only provides a daily tool for them to fall asleep, but also prepares them for a lifetime love of reading.
Practical ways to instill a love for reading.
1. Create a cozy reading nook.
When our children were three years old, we created cozy “reading nooks” in their beds. At bedtime, they chose a handful of books to look at in their nooks. I introduced the reading time by saying, “Now you’re older so you can stay up later reading in your room.”
We started off with 15- to 30-minute reading times – however long they wanted to look at books. The time wasn’t quite as long at this age since they weren’t actually reading, but were simply looking at books. This time shouldn’t be forced, but enjoyable. We did our best to create a relaxing environment they looked forward to.
2. Provide many book options.
Having a plethora of book choices for our children, from picture books when they’re younger to chapter books when they’re older, provides options and excitement about reading. I often bring a huge bag to the library for books and fill it up – I have repeatedly hit my 100 maximum of check outs (including yesterday). The library automatically sends notifications when books are due so we can renew them online.
If I have a late fine, it’s still cheaper than buying books. If I were to purchase the amount of library books on our shelves at home, I would spend over $200 every few months. Instead, we spend a quarter on late fines every so often.
We have a specific shelf where we keep library books so we don’t lose them. When our children are reading a particular library book, they keep it on their nightstand. When they are finished with a book, they put it in the basket by the door.
3. Finding books that engage your children is KEY.
Whatever your children’s interests are, find a book about that topic.
4. Take 15 minutes or more to read books TO your children.
Reading books to your kids promotes creative thinking, connection with you, and engagement in books. Read with expression and ask prediction questions throughout a book to keep their attention, such as “What do you think will happen next?” Whether you read a picture book or chapter book for 15 minutes or more, it is so beneficial. The Read Aloud Revival has a multitude of book suggestions and information on this topic.
When my triplets were babies, I started reading picture books to them. Even if your child is too young to understand the book, it is great for them to hear the rhythm of reading words. If your children are different ages, your older children could also read to your younger children. Don’t worry about a picture book being too simple. Many times, older children enjoy the ease of picture books, and deeper themes and questions can be drawn from them.
5. Make sure the books are simple enough for your children to read – the simpler, the better.
Reading should build confidence, not frustration. It might take time to find that sweet spot. Once your children can read, tell them to let you know if a book is too difficult. Or you can find out for yourself by having them read to you for a few minutes. If the book is too challenging, point them to one that is more enjoyable and at their level.
6. What to do when they don’t feel like reading.
While our children love reading, there are some nights when one of our children doesn’t feel like reading. If this happens, we read with them for a few minutes to get them into the book and then let them have their independent time. Next thing you know, they’re usually engrossed in the book. Or, we suggest reading a picture book or simpler book to take a rest from the longer chapter books.