Tips to Encourage Reading for Children

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD
Updated
Learn the ways to make the reading experience enjoyable can influence a child’s reading success.

Are you hoping your child will love reading as much as you do? Or are you interested in ensuring your child enjoys reading because it was never one of your favorite things to do?

We’ll give you practical tips to help you turn your child into a book lover, and the best methods for teaching reading.


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When Should You Introduce Books?

Even when your baby is a newborn, it’s a great time to introduce reading. Here are some of the reasons why (1):

  • It gives you another bonding opportunity for snuggles and interaction.
  • Your child will be preparing, even when they don’t know it, for reading on their own someday.
  • It can help your baby develop language skills.
  • They’ll pick up on a variety of emotions.

What To Expect

Obviously, since your child can’t understand your words yet, you can read out loud anything you want to — it can be a great time for you to catch up on your reading! They’ll be listening to your tone and seeing your expressions and still be experiencing the benefits of reading.

Your baby won’t be ready for you to read War and Peace, but you can still get in some quality time. You’ll just want to make sure it isn’t a long reading session, and frankly, as a new mom, that’s a luxury you probably don’t have time for anyway. Shoot for a few minutes of reading at a time (2).

If you want to read books you’re hoping your baby will find a little more entertaining than whatever it is you would have been reading before having a baby; you can pick out some colorful board books that might attract your baby’s eye. Be prepared however, for them to pretty much ignore the book for a couple of months if you start reading to them while they’re an infant.

Pro Tip

To allow your baby to safely explore their book with touch, you should consider buying a cloth book instead of a board book. If they put that one in their mouths and start slobbering on it and chewing on it, it won’t last long. My baby tried to use my favorite baby book as a chew toy, and it wasn’t long before I had to throw it away!

Tips to Encourage Reading for Children

You know it’s important to read to your child and foster that love of learning in your child, but for whatever reason, you feel like your efforts are stalling. The important thing is you’re trying. With these 10 tips, you’ll get there.

1. Ask Questions

If your child is old enough to read a book, ask them questions about what they’re reading.

Since kids aren’t always the best at providing short summaries, you might have to get ready to be tied up for a while, and don’t expect the plot to make a lot of sense the way they are explaining it. Even if you feel your eyes start to glaze over from the information overload you’re sure to get, don’t let your child see that boredom.

If your child can’t read independently yet and you’re reading to them, pause every few pages to ask a question. You can ask about the main character’s expression or actions. Just make sure you ask their opinion about something because it will help keep them engaged.

2. Read the Same Book As Your Older Child

Book clubs are fun for a reason — hearing another person’s take on the book you’re reading is interesting. It can also be a bonding experience. You and your child might enjoy comparing notes about a book you’re both reading.

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3. Find a Variety of Age-Appropriate Reading Materials

If you’ve been trying to get your kid hooked on reading and your attempts have been failing, you should introduce more age-appropriate books. By giving your child a lot to choose from, there’s more likely to be one that catches their eye. They just might not be interested in the ones that draw you in, and that’s ok.

But you should also make sure your child has access to age-appropriate material. If the reading level is too hard or too easy, they’ll lose interest.

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4. Gear the Books Toward Your Child’s Interests

If you have an animal lover on your hands, put that passion to work by getting books that explore that interest — books about dogs, cats, or their other favorite animals.

Take your child to the library so he can look at all the animal books he wants.

5. Make Reading a Priority for You Too

Monkey see, monkey do. If your child sees you reading books or magazines when you have a spare minute, they’ll want to do the same. Just 15 minutes of your time spent on reading per day can encourage your child to develop a healthy habit.

6. Don’t Rush It

If you act like you can’t get your nightly reading session over fast enough, your child will pick up on it. It won’t matter to your child that your to-do list is a mile long, they’ll just know you’re not enjoying yourself. And if you are acting like time spent reading to them is a nuisance to you, they won’t want to do it either.

7. Make It a Habit

It’s easy to get sidelined by other things you have to do when you’re so busy. Sometimes the first thing to be ignored if you find yourself running short on time are the non-essential things like reading to your child.

But to make reading stick for your child, you need to make it a priority. Make it a habit because, before long, it will become a habit for your child too.

8. Don’t Stop Reading Their Favorite

You might feel like you’ll go on a rampage if you have to read Green Eggs and Ham to your child one more time. After all, you’ve read it a hundred times already and every night your child brings that book to you again. You’ve done your time, right?

Nope. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if your child loves one book and wants to hear it over and over again, you should just suck it up and do it. It can be tedious for you, but before long you’ll miss those days of your child wanting to reread their favorite book repeatedly.

9. Keep Books Handy At All Times

It’s a good idea to stash a couple of books in the diaper bag. It can give you the opportunity to fit in a little reading time whenever your child needs entertainment, such as at the doctor’s office, the babysitters, or even while in the car.

Reading doesn’t have to be so formal — it can be penciled in whenever you can make it work.

10. Have Fun with It

If you want your child to love reading, you need to show off the fun side of it. Use weird voices and lots of facial expressions to show that reading isn’t so serious. Your child will want to do it more if it gives them a chance to see your silly side.

Methods for Teaching Reading

Learning how to read is a big deal for kids — and it is a big deal for their parents as well. It can be a source of enormous pride, but also great stress.

Parents worry whether their child is falling behind or latching onto the basics of reading as they should be. If parents seem uptight about their child’s progress, it can make their child self-conscious or more reluctant to learn to read in the first place.

Phonics

Phonics is the most common way of teaching reading. It involves teaching children the link between the letters and the sounds they make.

Children will be taught letters or a combination of letters, learn the sounds they make, and put together the sounds to say the whole word.

Pros

  • It teaches word recognition.
  • It helps with a child’s spelling.

Cons

  • It doesn’t help them understand words.
  • Phonics doesn’t teach a child what the text they’re reading means (3).

Look and Say Method

This method is also sometimes called the whole language method. This employs the use of pattern recognition instead of separating the word into letters to teach reading.

Often, flashcards are used for these words, and the flashcards may use pictures too. The flashcards are shown to the students until they recognize the pattern of the word and remember it. This gives them a strong sight vocabulary — words they recognize immediately when they see them.

Pros

  • It can help them teach words that aren’t done phonetically.

Cons

  • The progress isn’t as fast as it is with phonics.

Teachers can’t teach children as many words as they need to learn. Proponents say they can learn only 500 sight words during first grade.

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Reading Troubleshooting

Learning to read can be frustrating work. And as parents of young children know, frustration can be a harsh blow to any educational effort. Here are some tips for helping your child

  • Calm your child with a cuddle when they feel defeated.
  • Remind your child of other things they didn’t think they could master, but they did.
  • Encourage them to keep trying.

Should You Force Reading Before Kindergarten?

It’s okay to try to teach your child the basics of reading before kindergarten. And, of course, they should already be well familiar with books because you should have been reading to them since they were infants.

On the other hand, if you’re worried your method and instruction will confuse the matter for your child, it’s alright to not teach them the basics of reading before they enter kindergarten. They won’t be behind their peers if they aren’t reading before the first day of school.

No matter what you decide to do about introducing reading before they begin kindergarten, there are some things pertaining to reading it will be helpful for your child to learn before that big day, including:

  • The alphabet song.
  • That books are read from left to right and front to back — you can show this by tracing the words.
  • The names of a minimum of 10 letters (4).

When Will a Child Read Independently?

Many children will be able to read independently by the conclusion of first grade. But, if your child isn’t, remember there is a wide range of normal when it comes to mastering reading. If you have concerns at this age, speak to your child’s teacher to see if they have any suggestions.

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How To Behave When Children Read

Reading is a big thrill for kids — they feel so proud and grown-up when they can read a book. You don’t want to snuff out that pride by interfering too much. Here’s what you should do:

  • It’s okay to correct a mispronounced word. Don’t laugh over their pronunciation. Just tell them how to say it and sound it out with them.
  • Tell them how proud you are and how you love to hear them read. That will encourage them to do more.
  • Listen patiently, even when you are super busy.
Headshot of Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD

Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett is a veteran board-certified pediatrician with three decades of experience, including 19 years of direct patient clinical care. She currently serves as a medical consultant, where she works with multiple projects and clients in the area of pediatrics, with an emphasis on children and adolescents with special needs.
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