Editor’s Note: During March, which is National Reading Month, the Gerber Life Blog will carry various posts on that subject, to help parents encourage their children to develop a lifelong love of reading and books. Reading strengthens children’s communication and logical-thinking skills, so look for posts on such topics as building a home reading loft, planning a “reading” scavenger hunt, and publishing your child’s first book. Happy reading, everyone!
How can a parent raise a child who will have a lifelong passion for books, learning and knowledge, even in today’s high-tech world? Children are naturally curious and inquisitive. The following tips can help you to develop those innate qualities and get your child on the path to reading and loving books for a lifetime.
- Read to your child from birth. Make it part of your daily routine and continue through to childhood, even after your child is learning to read. By starting early, your child is more likely to be open to reading and associate it with happy moments. A typical reading time is just before bedtime, although reading books make a wonderful “anytime” activity. Your local library and bookstore are likely to host regular “story time” events, which may feature specific kinds of books and related crafts or demonstrations. The library or bookstore may post the schedules online and have flyers that you can pick up.
- Select topics that your child enjoys. To raise a book reader, make reading fun by exploring titles that your child will enjoy and by showing that reading is a journey. Books and their illustrations can open your child’s eyes to all kinds of subjects and illuminate lesser-known topics – so don’t focus only on your child’s interests. Talk with your child about things that you’d like to learn about, then decide together to look for books on those subjects. Whichever subjects may interest your child, numerous books on the topic probably exist.
- Enlist the assistance of your library and bookstore. Librarians and bookstore clerks can help you to select age-appropriate and popular titles on a range of subjects. So can online resources. Not sure where to start an online search? For the past seven years, National Public Radio has published an online app of its staff’s selections for best books including children’s books.
- Make book-reading a challenging game. Once your child is reading on his or her own, it’s important for him or her to make it a personal routine. If your child likes the fun of selecting the subject matter but needs a little encouragement to make it a daily habit, you may want to turn reading into a game. For example, you could buy or make a reading reward chart and offer incentives such as trips to the zoo or to another special place, or treats or prizes upon reaching key milestones. Such a system could center on the number of books read and their difficulty, to encourage your child to select increasingly complex books.
Learning how to raise a reader can be difficult. Fortunately, raising a child to love reading books can be easier if you’re a book-reader yourself or display book-friendly qualities. To set a good example, read aloud to your children, talk about books, and recommend titles that you recently discovered, as well as titles that you loved as a child, at different stages in your life. Your children may be intrigued to learn which books or authors were your favorites at their age.