Fun Reading Opportunities are Everywhere!
Research has shown that attaching reading to pleasure when they’re young is an investment in your children’s future academic success. Really, you don’t need a research study to tell how important it is to attach reading to positivity and pleasure. Being an avid lifelong reader is such an advantage in life.
However, when so many children find reading challenging from day one, keeping that positive link to reading is not easy. It turns out though, there is a lot you can do to start your child’s life with a positive and happy view of books and reading, and to maintain that positive link through the often difficult learning-to-read years.
It’s a high stakes part of parenting for sure. But there is a lot you can do.
It’s hard to overestimate the value of simply reading aloud to your children. It exposes them to more words than they may typically hear at home or school. It encourages them to use their imagination, which can profoundly affect their proficiency in various subjects. It also allows kids to learn letters and numbers, which will boost them academically as early as kindergarten.
We suggest making it a part of their bedtime ritual to prepare them for sleep with some welcome downtime to unwind. Of course, a good night’s rest can help them mentally and physically as they grow and develop. It’s something they can make part of their adult lives.
Read Aloud in Fun Places
Associate reading with fun, pleasure and adventure by reading to your child in interesting places. For instance, if your child has a tree house, go read a book to your child there – if you can get in! Read to your child on a beach, at a campsite, anywhere your child loves. In this way you are associating reading with real life and with good emotions.
Let Your Child Choose the Book
Encourage your child to choose the next book you read together is a subtle but effective way to make it fun. It also can help change their mindset to view books as rewards. Parents have the advantage of working with material that interests their kids from the start. You may even find your child asking you to read.
Valuing Books, Creating a Special Place
Show your child books are valuable and should be respected and valued. Create a special place in their room to keep them. Encourage them to make a poster identifying their bookshelf and what it means to them.
Drawing a Picture of the Story
Many children love drawing. Combining it with reading will give the latter will create those valuable associations that can make learning fun.
Give them free rein to create a picture of the story you’ve been reading together. It’s an excellent bridge for kids learning how to write, which can also support brain development and strengthen neural pathways.
Making It Real
Making it real will help cultivate a more fulfilling reading experience. For example, if your child is learning about dinosaurs, create a life-size cut-out of the animal’s track. After all, it’s one thing to read about them. It’s another matter to experience them. Likewise, if the topic is trains, take a ride on one, even if it’s just a commuter ride to downtown.
It will make the subject seem more tangible to youngsters, which can boost comprehension by making it more memorable. It can make it easier for children to understand what they’re reading if they have first-hand experience with the topic.
All of this normalizes reading, making it a very real part of your child’s world.
Visiting the Place
You can take the previous concept to the next level by visiting a place mentioned in a book. For example, if your child is studying big cats, plan a trip to the zoo to see them in person. If a local author writes about a nearby town, pack the kids in the car and take a road trip. Walk the streets they’ve described. These experiences can create lifelong memories your child will cherish.
Be a Role Model
Sometimes, the best way to make reading fun is to do it for yourself. So much of what a child learns in life is through silent observation, rather than direct instruction. And so if you enjoy reading, and your child sees you reading, that tells your child a lot.
Enjoy books together that have nothing to do with lessons or homework. It’s an excellent way to teach your children that reading isn’t just about school. It’s also something they can enjoy for its own sake without any expectations. You can plan a trip to the library or the bookstore to let them pick out their next book.
The Learning to Read Years
Kids love games. So many games need reading. The trick to making reading fun is to combine the two so that it feels less like learning and more like an enjoyable activity. While many online resources for parents embrace this concept, such as PBS Kids, you need to be careful. Your child is savvier than you think – a spelling game inserted into a game night rotation might stand out as not fun in an otherwise fun roster, making the game counter-productive to your make reading fun mission.
You could try to make your family’s own game with your customized twists. We love the idea of creating this personalized experience to reinforce the child-parent bonds.
One classic is charades which goes back to the 18th century and the era of parlor games when people had to find ways to entertain themselves. It worked well then and can make the leap to the 21st century, providing the same kind of enjoyment.
The reading spin comes from guessing the name of a book or character. It encourages children to think and plan their strategies, which helps with decision-making and problem-solving. Of course, imagination is part of the game, too. We also like it as something your family can do together.
Playing games while traveling will help pass the time while giving you an opportunity to inject some reading practice into your trip. You can play the alphabet game as you drive, encouraging your kids to spot something that begins with each letter. It can build their vocabulary and provide more of those valuable word associations.
You can play the license plate game with older children on your next road trip. This version is highly engaging since they’ll have to pay attention as the vehicles zip by your car. Adding a prize for the winner will encourage everyone to participate, even if it’s just choosing where to have lunch.
One of the wonderful things about getting your child to read by singing is that the reading needs to be automatic, it’s secondary to the need to focus on the beat and tune. This is why there are learning programs that use this aspect of singing to develop reading automaticity.
Having your child join a local choir could be one of the best things you could do for your child’s reading. It ticks all the boxes. It is associating reading with pleasure, it requires reading fluency and lots of repetition.
A Trip Diary
Next time you take a family vacation, encourage your child to make a journal about your trip. Let them tell the stories from their perspective. It’ll help with memory development and teach them about cause and effect, with one thing influencing the events that follow. You can also let them decorate the book and add pictures of their favorite times.
Rewards for Books Read
Rewarding your child for reading books is somewhat controversial. You don’t want your child to love reading without needing an incentive. The other side of this coin, is that you want reading to become a habit. And if your child finds it hard to settle down and read each day, then a habit cannot form.
Incentives can make reading and completing a book more enjoyable since something positive happens when you build this habit. It removes the mental barriers a kid may have with this activity. We suggest hanging a poster where you can place stickers or stars for every book read. You should choose an easy milestone for the first reward so your child can realize early on that good things come from reading.
You should also make the perks more desirable the farther your kid progresses on their reading journey. The good thing about this approach is that it sets the foundation for making it a habit.
Creating a Chart
This tip is another riff on the reward plan. You can hang a reading calendar in your child’s room and put a star for each day they complete the task. The website Biblionasium has a similar approach with its TAKE 20 program. The goal is to build a chain of stars to make reading a habit with a reward for every milestone they achieve. The visual element is a silent reminder to stay on track.
Choosing the Right Books
This is key, and it’s not easy. You need to choose books that fit in your child’s so-called zone of proximal development– not so hard as to defeat, but not so easy as to be boring. This whole concept is a big part of the success of Accelerated Reader and other programs that help match children to books at their level.
There is a free resource here you can use to find the grade level of most books. BookFind at Accelerated Reader.
What Not to Do
It’s essential to consider the whole experience when you approach making reading fun. That’s particularly true if your child is struggling with it. Therefore, we recommend you avoid making it a competition, especially with siblings. The goal is to strip away the barriers that get in the way of your youngster enjoying this activity.
A lifelong love of reading is the long game here. It is important that your child has a positive or at least neutral connection to reading. Avoid any incidents that mighty poison that well. For instance, if your child is struggling to read, tell the teacher not to ask her to read out loud in class. Nothing is more humiliating than not being able to do something others seem to do effortlessly.
The long game is to make reading a habit. It’ll make it easier for you if your child knows what to expect when it comes time to open a book. Instead, establish fond memories and positive connections. The best thing is it’s something your kids may pass it on to their children.
Note on Screen Time
You may have noticed that most of our suggestions didn’t involve screen time. Even though the pandemic encouraged children to gain these skills, it’s still vital to limit this time. Kids need to go outside and engage in other play activities to support healthy physical and sensory development, along with building social skills from the interactions with other children.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) encourages parents to set daily limits on screen time for non-educational activities. It’s also essential to establish proper usage with smartphones, tablets, and laptops closed during family time and meals. An unintended consequence has been a significant uptick in myopia or nearsightedness among children.
Shortening the Time When Reading is Difficult
Final thought. Finding ways to make reading fun creates a healthy mindset about this essential skill.
However, if your child is struggling with reading, and given the importance of a maintaining a long-term positive connection to reading, there is realy value in dealing with reading difficulties as quickly and as decisively as possible. Gemm Learning is a reading intervention that is fast acting because it addresses underlying causes of delay.