Many kids love reading on their own. Kids naturally love learning, and reading is one of ways we learn the most. It also stretches our imagination (something else kids love) and strengthens language acquisition. Some kids have a harder time reading, because it’s harder for them to learn how to read, or because they’re just too active and have a hard time keeping their eyes on the page. Whether you are trying to motivate a child to read more, or just encourage a child who already loves reading, use these ideas to make reading fun and educational.
1. Designate a special location for reading – create an ambiance. This could be a nook by a window in the spring, with a shelf displaying children’s books and some bright, kid-friendly decorations. In the winter, it could be a rocking chair near a fireplace. Having a cozy, inviting location turns reading time into something special and enjoyable. If you read together with your kids, it becomes parent-child quality time as well.
2. Go to a surprise place once in a while. You might take your kids out to a field, for example, sit by a tree or in the grass and read together. Or go out after dark and read under the starry sky. Associating a special activity with reading will make kids look forward to reading times even more.
3. Make a special snack to have during reading time. This probably isn’t something you’d do every day, but maybe you could designate one day a week for a reading snack. This snack will be more special if…
- It’s homemade, by you, for your kids
- It’s something they don’t have often
- It’s kid-friendly (maybe even creatively arranged into an image – smiley face, car, robot, etc.)
4. Set reading challenges and rewards. For example, after reading “x” number of books that you already have, or can get from the library, take your child to the bookstore for them to pick out a book that’s their’s to keep.
5. Organize activities that relate to the story or theme from the book you’re reading together.
6. Make hand or finger puppets for characters from the book and put on puppet plays after finishing the story. Your kids could just turn the story itself into a puppet show, or could come up with the following scenarios:
- Alternative endings
- How the story would be different IF (fill in the blank – change the main character, setting, theme, etc.)
7. Keep a yearly reading chart. Set a goal at the beginning of the year of how many books each child wants to read that year (it’s OK for the number to differ from child to child, as long as each one knows their goal and sticks to it). Keep marking each child’s progress on the chart. The chart could be something as simple as a thermometer divided into the number of books to be read, and colored in section by section, or something more creative (an obstacle, hike up a mountain, Olympic games, etc. that they complete little by little as they read more books). At the end of the year, when you kids have met their goals, have a reading appreciation party. Party ideas:
- Have special food.
- Put up decorations related to some of the books your kids read.
- Each child could dress up like their favorite character from their favorite book that year and talk/act like them throughout the party.
- Pick one of the books your kids really loved, and watch the movie.
- Do you know someone who’s a writer? Maybe you don’t know a famous author, but you might know someone who has written their own book, or e-book, or even articles. Invite them over so your kids get to know real writers and can talk to them about the writing process, how they come up with ideas, etc.
8. Read one book all together as a family each month. Let your kids take turns choosing which books you read for family reading time.
9. Invite your older kids to put together a book list for your younger kids. It isn’t enough to give a list of names – they need to give a little synopsis, evaluation and rating of each one. They could even design a cover, and print/bind their list it as a small booklet.
10. Get your child their own library card as soon as they are old enough. Sure, they can keep checking books out through your card, but having their own card will make checking books out of the library extra special for them and will also help them grow in responsibility.
11. Organize a family story night each month. Assign one child for every month. That child is responsible for writing a story (you could also branch out into other forms of writing – poetry, etc.) for the family night. Younger children could just focus on learning how to write a basic story (plot, characters, setting, theme, etc.). Older children could have a more involved task, like picking an author in advance, studying that author’s writings, identifying key characteristics of the author’s style, and then writing a story that imitates the author’s style. The child would share what they wrote during a special dinner (or after) for the family story night.
And, to help make sure your kids are learning while they have fun, here is a Book Evaluation Printable Pack, with graphic organizers related to plot, character, theme and setting, a basic book report format, and creative book report alternatives! Suggested ages: 8-13 (the content could be adjusted for younger or older ages as well).