Encouraging a love of books and getting your kids reading eagerly is one of the most important things you can do as a parent.
If your kindergartener or first-grader doesn’t seem interested in reading by himself yet, don’t worry -- kids’ reading skills develop at different speeds. Some children may be plowing through early-reader books in kindergarten or first grade while others may not catch the reading bug till second grade or later.
Be mindful of general reading development milestones and keep an eye out for signs of reading delays. And try the following to plant the seeds of a love of books.
- Read to your child. Experts stress the importance of reading to your child, starting as early as when she’s a baby. Not only is it a great way for you and your child to bond, but it teaches her the love of books and stories.
- Go pick out some books together. Go to the library or bookstore with your child and help him select some books on topics he’s interested in. Does he love Clone Wars? Batman? Mysteries? You'll find some good early-reader books centered around lots of kid-favorite characters.
- Fill your house with books. Studies show that simply having lots of books in the home has a significant effect on the level of education a child attains.
- Ask questions. After you read a book, discuss it together. Go over things like the plot, characters, and what she liked best about the story.
- Turn off the electronics. There is only so much time in the day for a child, especially if he is busy with after-school activities or lessons. If he is spending that time parked in front of the TV or playing video games, that leaves much less time for enjoying books.
- Set an example. Telling your child to go read a book while you spend your free time watching TV or emailing friends sends the message that reading is not an activity you enjoy (and is something she is required to do, like a chore). But if you read together, or read separate books side by side, it shows your child that reading is a fun way to spend time together.
- Chuck the Schedule. The reading light came on for my son in the beginning of first grade. Just like that, almost overnight, my son read a book – Frog and Toad – out loud to me. We laughed together at the funny parts, and I marveled at how few words he stumbled over. It was a big moment, and I knew there was no going back – my little boy was growing into a reader.
Unless your child is way off schedule or you spot warning signs of reading problems, you probably don’t have to worry. Sometimes you have to let go of schedules and enjoy the ride -- they’ll all get there eventually.
My once-reluctant reader has turned into a bona-fide book lover (especially if it's anything related to Star Wars). Now, I sometimes even have to pull him away from a book to come and set the table for dinner.