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How to Get Children Reading

How to Get Children Reading 

As a literature teacher (former), I was frequently asked by parents how to get children to read. A simple straightforward question that defies a similar response. Why?

There are many factors causing the decline in children’s interest in reading. Many are connected to the onslaught of social media, video games and the myriad of distractions facing our children, but some merely because we ourselves are too busy to devote time to reading. It is no coincidence that children living in homes with readers and books have a higher percentage chance of becoming readers themselves.

As I started organizing my thoughts for this article, I remembered a poem by Emily Dickinson: There is no Frigate Like a Book.

There is no Frigate like a Book (1286)


There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –

This poem gets straight the point—the poet uses metaphors of transport and travel to say there is nothing like reading to take you to interesting places, thrilling adventures and other worlds, for free!

If we as parents can help children develop a curiosity in what is beyond their immediate environment, that could be a start. And keep it light and fun. Books can make us laugh and smile, transport us to faraway lands, and transform us into chivalrous knights like Antar Shaddad or eloquent poets like Tamadur bint Amr, allowing us to experience their lives along the way. If we treat books like they’re special, children will grow up believing they are too.

The following are some suggestions to get children interested in reading.

1. Use an audiobook

Start with their interest. If a child has a particular interest in something, it makes it easier for them to habituate reading.

2. Model reading interest.

Children take cues from adults. If they see parents and older family members reading and being excited about reading, chances are it will affect them.

3. Create a reading space.

Create a quiet, cozy, full-of-books nook. This can be done by simply designating a space and allowing them to personalize it.

4. Help bring books to life.

Do book-inspired activities with your children. If your child loves The Hungry Hungry Chicken, take him or her to see some chickens. Reading about the oceans? Head to the national aquarium or download ocean documentaries.

5. Celebrate writers

Give them interesting facts about famous writers. Sometimes knowing about the author creates an interest in reading their books. Once I came across a short biography of an Egyptian writer, Alifa Rifaat, in a literary magazine. After reading it I become very interested in finding her short stories.

6. Stash books all over.

“Surrounding kids with books at an early age gets them hooked,” says Alice Sterling Honig, Ph.D., a child development expert at Syracuse University, in New York. “Don’t keep books up on shelves,” says Dr. Honig. “Let little kids touch them, carry them around, even take waterproof ones into the bath.”

7. Read aloud and question them along the way.

Children learn to read best—and to love it most—when they hear stories read to them in a meaningful context. As you read to them, check their understanding by asking related question or even relating parts of the story to something in their lives

8. Reread the same books to little ones.

Books advance early language development. At first, children notice the pictures; then they learn to turn the pages; then they realize the story is the same each time—all key pre-reading skills. Books with rhymes are especially beneficial: “Rhyming helps with phonemic awareness—recognizing repetition and sounds,” Dr. Carlsson-Paige says. “Kids love rhymes because they learn what comes next and can chime in.”

9. Use buying books and reading as a reward

Make buying and reading books a reward for good grades and behavior. If you find them reading past bedtime, let them stay up to finish—as a treat.

10. Vary the types and styles of reading material.

Use storybooks, journals, magazines, how to books, history and scientific books. This teaches children different reading skills. They learn to read based on purpose.

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