Studies abound on the benefits of reading. Losing yourself in a novel improves brain connectivity and function. Fiction improves our emotional intelligence and teaches us empathy. Reading is one of the mental activities that can help prevent dementia.
But beyond the research, how do we help our children become readers?
Obviously, there’s no magic pill, but here are my tips for promoting reading in our homes.
1. Let them see YOU reading.
If your kids see you surfing the web in your free time, they’ll think that’s the thing to do. Instead, let them see you pulling out a book. Make sure there are books for you (not just for the kids) in the library basket. I always forget to order books for myself, but if I keep a list in my phone of books my friends recommend, it’s more likely to happen.
2. Spend time at the library.
Libraries are like candy stores full of books. Sure, there are DVDs there (and why are they always put at the front these days?) but we make those rare treats and spend most of our time browsing the book shelves. It’s easier to sell reading time as a family activity when we have something new to offer. And who can beat free?
Growing up, the librarians at our local branch library knew all my family members by name and with time, they knew our tastes as well. They even pulled books they thought we might like and set them aside for our weekly Tuesday night library visit.
3. Turn off the TV.
4. Read to your kids.
This one seems obvious, but when there’s a sink full of dishes and a list of phone calls to make, it’s easy to minimize the importance of it. Little ones LOVE to sit on your lap and read. Even before they can understand a story, they love the sound of your voice. Reach Out and Read has a great list of suggestions for choosing age appropriate books for young children.
Big kids still love to be read to, even when they can read independently. Sharing books together builds a shared family lexicon and set of jokes.
5. Use audio books.
Even if your children aren’t doing the reading themselves, they are building muscles of attention and imagination as they listen. Those skills will help them accomplish all sort of other tasks not limited to reading. Here are some of our family’s favorite audio books.
6. Look for books with Large Print.
7. Invest in a reading lamp.
When we went on vacation as a family growing up, my parents would pack their own light bulbs, because everywhere we stayed had 40w bulbs, which are too dim to read by. Planting a light next to the comfy spot on the couch will make that a perfect spot for reading. Another option: a flexible clip light (which makes a great stocking stuffer).
What did I miss? Add your suggestions in the comments.