How to Raise Children to Love Reading

I love to read, and I always wanted to teach my children to love reading as well.  It seems strange to me, but my husband hated to read growing up, what a strange concept! How could you hate reading? It occurred to me then that the love of reading does not occur naturally in all children. But, how could I help my own children to love to read as they grow older and start reading for themselves?  Here is a simple method on how to raise children to love reading.I’m currently reading Educating Esmé,written by Esmé Raji Codell.It’s the story of a fifth grade teacher’s turbulent first year’s experience teaching in the classroom. As a teacher, Esmé is everything we hope our children’s teachers will be: she is passionate, creative, and fiercely loyal to her students. The book is written in journal form as she gives a day-by-day chronicle of her experiences.

Throughout the book, Esmé explains a few of her specific teaching ideas, Many of these ideas  are enlightening and applicable, not only in the classroom, but in a home setting as well. One that stood out for me was her description of a reading program she started partway through the year, where she created 5 unique ‘reading roles’ her students:

I am really liking how we are doing reading now. The kids are arranged in groups, and each child is assigned a role: [1]The “discussion director” makes up questions about the book, [2] the “literary luminary” reads aloud notable parts, [3]the “language lover” defines what she determines to be the hardest words in the section, [4]the “practical predictor” predicts what will happen next, and finally [5]the “process checker” sums it up, keeps track of everyone’s participation, and decides how many pages they must read that night. They keep notebooks documenting their work. (Educating Esmé, Page 118)

What a fascinating idea! Reading can be an intimidating task for young minds. These ‘reading roles’ are essentially breaking down the difficult “layers” of thought that experienced readers are engaged in and can do automatically. By allowing the children to focus on one “layer” of the material at a time, and making it a fun, team activity, Esmé was able to generate excitement and interest in reading, and that—above all else—is the key to a powerful literacy program, in the home and at school

At home, you can use these same ideas to help your own reader understand and love the material.  Here’s how:

– Get each child his or her own simple notebook, and use sticky tabs to label sections for each of the reading roles.

– At the start of each reading session, have each child roll a dice to assign their reading role for the session.

– As you read together, the kids interpret the book’s text according to their role, and take notes in their notebook.

– At the end of each section/chapter/page (as appropriate), have each child present their notes according to their role.

– Award “Stars” to the child for achievements for things like: Filling a page of notes, presenting well, making an especially good point, learning and applying a vocabulary word, etc.  Each time the child gets five Stars in one role, she/he “levels up”. You could have your child choose a small inexpensive prize, or other reward, each time they advance a level or a designated amount of levels

– Mom and Dad could also have a notebook, draw a role each time, and level up along with the kids!

Esmé saw that this type of progress tracking created  excitement for reading time, and motivated the children in her classroom to be invested in their work. How much better would it sound to hear your son or daughter  begging for “one more level” of reading rather than begging for more video games? We can accomplish this by making what was once “boring reading time” into a fun game! I hope this simple method on how to raise children to love reading through Reading Roles has helped you!

Teaching Your Child to Read: The Broken Reading Record

Have you ever had trouble teaching your child to read? How many times a day do you hear one or more of the following:  “ I don’t like to read.”  “There aren’t any books I like.”  “I am bad at reading.”  “I’m not going to reeeeeeeeeeaaaad it.” And every time those grating words send you right on a trip to mommy Shamedom.  Why can’t you get them to read?  If they can’t read well they will have a hard time in school for the rest of their life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  And it’s all my fault. This is too stressful.  Can it ever get better?

The answer is yes, you can teach your child to read! the solution is not so easy and needs to be an individual approach. What may work for one child will not work for the another.  First, go to their teacher at school and get their advice. Children act differently when they are not with their parents, their teacher may have some new insights.

Here are some questions to ask yourself in the meantime:

When it is time to read at home does my child have a quiet comfy place free from distraction?

Does my child spend too much time engaging in activities that require minimal effort, that are mindless?

Is my child embarrassed to read in front of others?

Do other siblings/ adults tease them about their reading?  Or give them a hard time about it?

Do I or others constantly correct my child when they read out loud?

Now that you’ve thought about those things, not that you haven’t before, you may find the sections below helpful.

Teaching your child to read at Home

Make sure your child reads to you out loud every day.  This can be for as little as ten minutes.  As they read aloud, resist the urge to correct their words; over-correcting creates anxiety.  New readers need the opportunity to practice their sounding out strategies.  Us moms and dads can be pretty quick to just jump in and tell them the word.  If they start to struggle with a word, give them encouragement to keep trying, rather than jumping in right away.  Tell them to “sound it out”,  “stretch it out”, “break it up into chunks”,  and then wait calmly while they do it.  Count to 20 in your head if you need to.  When they get part of the word right, praise them, “ Yes, you got that part, now what is the rest? Let’s put it together.”

If your child really struggles to read out loud this may be a sign that when they usually read in their head they skip words, and just try to gather the meaning of the page by looking at the pictures.  Time to break old habits!  In the beginning you may take turns reading pages.  When it is your turn to read, request that they follow the words you say with your finger.  This helps their eyes get better at one to one matching.  Completely refuse to read aloud?  Try echo reading.  Tell them what an echo is, say a funny word and have them “echo” you.  Then say that is what you are going to do with their book, for fun.  Encourage them to have their eyes watch the words, read the sentence and have them repeat it, on every page!  When you are done, praise that “good little echoer”!  After the 10-15 minutes of reading time with mom or dad, the child can finish reading in their special reading spot.  You can ask a few questions when they finish.  Always be positive.  Phrases like,  “You don’t remember what you just read?”  “I don’t think you were even reading.”  “You won’t get better like that.” ,  can be damaging even though our intentions are to simply help them recognize the importance of practicing reading. Avoid yes or no questions.  Try asking questions like- “What character reminds you of you?”,  “What was the most exciting part?”  “What happened in the end?”.  Most importantly don’t beat yourself up if you have had upsetting reading times in the past.  Start new and notice every tiny change for the better.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you site down to teach your child how to read, and the reading experience will be more positive and more productive!

Now, onto that next unanswerable question— “There is nothing that I like to read.”  First, it could be laziness, or anxiety and that was discussed earlier.  But what if they really can’t seem to find a book that they ever enjoy.  When I first started teaching school and a student would tell me that my heart sank because I love reading.  How could there be no book out there for someone?  Then I realized kids need lessons in picking books just like they need lessons in how to read books.  For some reason many are afraid to try a book unless they are sure they really want to read it.  Here are some tips to teach your child to read by picking out the right book:

1)    Give the book a try.  Read several chapters.  Does it appeal to you?  Is it too hard?  If it is boring to you or too hard then put it back and try again.  Kids may need help deciding if it is too hard.  Here’s an easy test- the five finger rule.  Have them pick a random page and read out loud.  Hold up a finger for every word they struggle with or don’t know- between 1 and 5 fingers is just right.  Once they have practiced this they should be able to do it on their own.

2)    Explore lots of genres.  At the beginning of my teaching career I realized I usually recommended books that were realistic fiction because that is the genre I enjoy most and am most familiar with.  Talk to your child about all the different genres and what sounds most interesting to them.  Encourage them to try new things.  Especially non fiction!  I often found that kids that could not find any “chapter book” they liked, always found a non fiction book that was appealing.  My classroom non fiction book library grew immensely that year.

3)    Get help!  Use your school or local librarian.  Does your child have to pick a book for a report?  Find out when their library time is and meet up with them and their librarian to help them find a book.  Check out several books to try.  Remember it’s ok to put a book back without finishing it.

4)    Read books in a series.  I love to introduce a book to a child that is in a series.   Maybe I read the first one with them and then they go on and read the next 3 by themselves because they have fallen in love with the characters.  One of my absolute favorite series that all kids love is the Fudge series by Judy Bloom.

5)    Read together!  In my husbands’ family they would have a chapter book that his mom would read to them each night. Kids love being read to, even I still love being read to.  It helps you get in the reading mood and remember how much books have to offer. Reading to your children is important in so many other developmental aspects!

6)    Limit electronic distractions.  I know there are lots of studies done about the effects of too much I-pod, I-pad, I-phone, I______(fill in the blank).  In my experience the students that had a hard time enjoying reading were already spending too much time with this type of entertainment.  It’s very exciting and flashy and yes a little bit mind numbing.  I know when I want to just relax and “not have to think”  is when I turn on the tv.  Too much of this however does make it harder for kids to enjoy other types of entertainment, types of entertainment that do require some thinking but are just as enjoyable and far more fulfilling.

7)    Make a list!  To give your child a boost in confidence make a chart with a list of books they have already read.  This can include books that you or their teacher have read to them.  This can include books they remember from Kindergarten.  Let them put down anything!  Next, start a list of books they want to read and just because a book is on that list doesn’t mean it has to happen.  If you don’t know titles yet, just say “mystery book”, if that’s something they want to try.  Hang it up where they can reach it and add or subtract from the list.


Here are a couple websites I like that can help find books: www.whatshouldireadnext.com/www.scholastic.com/bookwizard/.   And I am sure there are many out there as well.  Have fun finding and trying out new books.  It’s okay if it is frustrating at times, the important thing is to keep trying.  They will be able to find books that they like, and you can enjoy them together!


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