Fostering A Lifelong Love of Reading

By: Ms. Ashley Simms

You’ve all seen the saying: “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” Well, that technically is probably true, but as many of us now know, developing a love of reading doesn’t happen exclusively in the classroom or school environment. As educators and creators of educational spaces, we teachers strive to fill our classrooms with books for students to explore as part of their daily schedule. I know for me, one of the best parts of the year is being able to get more Scholastic points to expand my classroom library. In fact, my classroom library has grown so much over the past few years that I’ve added two new shelving units to be able to accommodate my growing collection. I love reading and I love finding books that interest my students so that they continue to love reading. But does that love of reading start in my classroom? Most of the time, the answer is no. So where does it start?

We have all heard repeatedly that babies’ brains develop the most in the first six years of their lives. Talking, singing, and other verbal communications are extremely important during these early developmental years and reading to your child from the very beginning of their lives can help to develop many positive traits in your child. For instance, First 5 California states that reading to your child from day one “is an important way for a parent to help a baby learn vocabulary and to stimulate a baby’s brain cells to grow stronger and develop more fully. Studies show kids whose parents frequently read to them know more words by age 2 than children who have not been read to regularly.”1 The educational website goes on to discuss that there are several benefits to reading to your child including the idea that reading aloud promotes closeness as babies are often soothed by the sound and rhythm of their parents’ voices, it gives babies information about their world, and it begins to instill a lifelong love of reading.

As your baby develops, reading for fun continues to be a key factor in academic success. The educational curriculum and materials company, Pearson, says that “evidence suggests that children who read for enjoyment every day not only perform better in reading tests,…but also develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures.”2 And, although school and teachers have a lot to do with fine tuning the process of reading and exposing children to books and literature, it should be carried over into the daily routing of home life as well. So how can parents make reading a daily habit that turns into a lifelong love? Here are a few simple ways to start.

Tips for Toddlers:

  • Read aloud to your child
  • Find colorful, interactive books for your child and do a few things with those books:
    • Read them aloud with your child
    • Give several of them to your child at a time and let them explore the books on their own
    • Don’t throw “old” books away, donate them to your school or friends who have toddler aged children
  • Let your child see you reading – imitation is the highest form of flattery; when children see you reading, and enjoying it, they will be more likely to read, and enjoy it, themselves
      • Even if you don’t like reading novels, that doesn’t mean you don’t like to read. Find a book on a topic that interests you and share those facts with your child.
    • Set a daily routine for reading
      • After dinner, after bath time, before bed
      • Often times, putting an enjoyable activity, like reading, after a more difficult activity, like bath time, will provide an incentive to get through the less desirable activity

    Tips for Primary Students:

    Now your child is starting to read on their own! This doesn’t mean they need to be completely independent yet.

    • Keep reading to your child
      • Give them choices of books to read
      • Increase the difficulty level
    • Continue to make reading part of your daily schedule
    • Have your child read along with you
      • Take turns reading sentences
      • Make sure to have children repeat words they mispronounce before moving on
    • Have your child repeat what happened in the story or talk about their favorite part after the story is finished
    • Have your child create art related to a story you have read
    • Once your child can read independently, have them read to you, to their siblings, or even to an audience of stuffed animals!
    • Children age 3 to 5 are starting to want to make choices for themselves, books provide an excellent outlet for choice
      • Build a home library with a variety of books to choose from (if you aren’t sure what to get, ask a teacher!)
      • Go to the library and check out books (this is a great place to demonstrate your own love of reading, but talking with your child as you choose your own books)
    • If your child is growing too “old” for some of their books, or you need to make more room, don’t throw books away
      • Donate them! This is another great way to get your child involved in decision making processes

    Elementary Age Students:

    • Keep up the daily routine
    • Keep reading with your child; either you to them or them to you
    • Children at this age begin to appreciate places that are theirs and are for special use
      • Create a book nook for your child: let them help with the comfy décor, limit distracting objects, and make your child responsible for keeping the area clean and the books in good condition
        • Find what interests your child and help them find books on their topic
          • Yes, it may be easier to find the information on the internet, but reading a book about a topic is often much more involved and real to a student than reading information off the internet
        • Have students keep a reading log
          • This log could have all kinds of applications: an incentive chart, a way to build to a reward, a family competition, part of weekly allowance, etc.

        Fostering a love of learning can be a challenge, especially if you are not so fond of reading.  Remember, reading is important, not only to your child’s cognitive growth, but their academic, social, and emotional growth as well. Celebrate your child’s reading accomplishments in a way that is meaningful to them. Praise and encourage your child in all of their reading pursuits, and most of all allow the love of reading to become a lifelong gift you help your child receive.

        1: http://www.first5california.com/learning-center.aspx?id=11

        2: https://www.pearson.com/uk/learners/primary-parents/learn-at-home/help-your-child-to-enjoy-reading/why-is-reading-so-important.html