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.
On nights when we’re with friends or have later activities, we sometimes skip the reading. But, regardless of what’s happening, we try to squeeze in a short time of reading to help them transition to sleep. We usually let them have one night they can choose to read, draw, or create things in their rooms during the “bedtime reading”. You have to figure out what works for your family, but the overall goal is to create a routine of reading so the habit becomes second nature.
How to find great, age appropriate books.
1. Search online for “Award-Winning Books” or “Best books” for [your children’s age].
Then, request those books online at your library. The librarians put the books on a hold shelf for you so it’s quick and easy. When you go to the library, just pick up your books from the hold shelf and check them out. The library also has numerous movies. If we’re traveling on a road trip, I request a bunch of movies and books for our trip.
2. Take advantage of the magazines to purchase books sent home from school.
I use the Scholastic magazine my kids get from school to find great books. My kids circle books that look interesting to them. Then, I request them at the library instead of purchasing them.
3. Find other books by the same author.
If your children love a certain book, search for books by that author.
4. Search homeschool curriculums reading programs.
They usually have examples of books to read based on age. That’s how I found The Courage of Sarah Noble.
5. There is usually a suggestions’ section of other books when you search books you love.
For example, if you search a book on Amazon your children enjoy, at the bottom of the page, it says, “Customers who bought this book, also bought…”. Then, request those books online from the library.
6. Try different books series to see what your children like.
When your children read chapter books, you can check out one book from many different book series to see what they enjoy. If they don’t like a book from a series, return it. If they love one, jackpot – check out more! Then search online for similar book series that your kids might like.
7. Take a trip to the library with your kids!
Bring your children to the library to choose a handful of books that interest them (bring a large bag to carry the books). When your children are beginning to read, the “I can read” section at your library has numerous books to check out based on your kids’ interests.
8. Ask a librarian.
Librarians have a multitude of suggestions for your children of age appropriate books that will engage your child.
9. Tools such as Common Sense Media are helpful.
As our children get older and the books are longer, it becomes difficult to keep up with which books are age appropriate and which ones aren’t. Common Sense Media is a good resource for reviews and warnings on books. However, by age 6, 7, or 8, depending on the child, our goal shouldn’t necessarily be to protect them from any every challenging topic, unless it’s clear that the topic is above their heads and not age appropriate. This is a great time for our children to begin applying wisdom and discernment.
Prepping our kids to tell us when subjects arise they don’t agree with, don’t understand, or make them feel uncomfortable, is a wonderful way to engage discussion and to help our children navigate the world. One day our kids will be in the real world – our job is to prepare them for it. There’s no better time to do that than when they’re in our homes.
I hope these practical tools will help build a love for reading in your children and assist you in finding great and age appropriate books. Adding bedtime reading to your children’s routine, not only offers them a tool to wind down, but also builds confidence, imagination, and a life-time love for reading.
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I have included a short list of book suggestions below. I would love to add to this list, so comment below with some of your favorite books!
Picture book recommendations: There are a multitude of wonderful picture books, but here are a handful. (Ages 2 – 6) Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses, (2 – 6) Silly Sally, (2 – 6) The Circus Ship, (4 – 10) You are Special, (4 – 8) The Berenstain Bears, (4 – 10) My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay, (3 – 8) The Book with No Pictures, (3 – 8) Stone Soup, (4 – 8), If I Built a House (My age recommendations are estimates based on my opinion).
Learning to Read: If your child is beginning to read short phrases, Dr. Seuss’, My Big Book of Beginner Books About Me is a wonderful book. The words are simple and the rhyming allows the child to guess words which gives them the confidence of reading, while having fun doing it. Picture association books are also great for beginner readers and can usually be found in a particular area of the library. Ask your librarian.
Chapter Books to Read Together: (6 – 10) The Boxcar Children and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are a few suggestions. For older children, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is awesome. I heard Wonder is also great for older children, but I have not read it yet (you can check the book’s age recommendation).
Other Chapter books: My almost 8-year-old children have enjoyed The Magic Tree House, Capital Mysteries, Little House, and I Survived books. Choose your own Adventure books are also available at the library and a lot of fun for 6-year-olds and older.