Bringing the Fun Back to Reading: how to get kids hooked on books

by Tori Hamilton, Children's Library Associate, Glenpool Library

When you think about the reasons you like to read, reading for reading's sake is probably not one of them. We read to learn about ourselves and others, to study topics that interest us, or to experience stories both real and imaginary. Unfortunately, small children who are just learning to read often see reading as a difficult activity, not fun at all! As parents and caregivesr, what can you do to encourage the early literacy concept of print motivation, or reading for fun, when children are not able to read on their own?

  • Fact books are fun books! One way to get non-readers hooked on books is by exposing them to great nonfiction. Books aren't just for stories: they also contain information on a variety of topics we care about. No matter what your child is interested in - be it animals, art, or sports - it's likely the library has a nonfiction book about it. Check one out and flip through it together. Remember: you don' thave to read the entire book out loud! Children's nonfiction usually has loads of colorful and engaging pictures. Simply looking through the book with your child and talking about the pictures is enough to show that books exist on topics your child might like to know more about, which can be a wonderful motivation for learning to read.
  • Use books as toys. Another way to help non-readers develop a look of books is to use books as toys. Anyone who feels a special thrill when they visit a library or bookstore knows that books can be enjoyable even when you aren't reading them. If you want kids to be excited about reading, you have to get them excited about books first. Babies can play with cloth books or board books, but there are plenty of books for older children to play with as well: hidden picture books such as "Where's Waldo" or "I Spy," books on drawing, cooking, or building awesome LEGO creations.
  • Be patient with the process. The most important thing to remember as your non-reader learns to read is to be patient with the process. Though it is crucual to expose your child to a variety of books and to encourage daily reading, it's also important not to force the issue. While elementary-aged children are encouraged to read for 15-30 minutes each day (and they should!), for younger children, especially non-readers, enjoyment is more important than length of time. It's no good if your child learns to read quickly but later views reading as an obligation or a chore. When children view books as a positive and enjoyable thing, the ability to read will follow organically from their desire to interact with books.

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