Parenting Strategies to nurture love for reading in kids

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Imagine if we could nurture love for reading in kids’ to equal their love for iPads and video games. That was our ambitious goal for our children. We knew the pursuit would still benefit them greatly even if we didn’t fully achieve it.

Raising kids in the age of social media and constant screens is challenging. Immediate gratification is everywhere, making cultivating the ability to wait or concentrate harder.

We all know the famous Marshmallow experiment conducted in 1970 to study delayed gratification. The researchers wanted to test the ability to wait to obtain something one wants.

Reading promotes delayed gratification and improves a child’s ability to concentrate for extended periods. It offers a healthy way to manage stress and emotions, reducing the need for immediate gratification. 

Furthermore, better communication skills gained through reading can help children express their needs and frustrations more effectively, reducing impulsive behavior.

Some kids are naturally inclined to read more than others, but any child can learn to love reading with the right strategies. 

Our experience with our twins has shown that even those not born into loving reading can be guided to appreciate and enjoy it.

I asked my kids: “What do you think we’ve done to help you love reading?“.

If they read at 8, they will not necessarily read at 15, but it’s still worth it to implement the following strategies.

How to nurture love for reading in kids

1. Start from Day One

Books have been a part of our children’s lives from the very beginning. Even as infants, they had a variety of board books to explore. The colorful images and simple textures fascinated them, setting the stage for a lifelong love of reading.

Handling books from such a young age helped them become familiar with their texture and form, making them a comfortable and welcoming presence in their lives.

2. Books as Gifts and Toys

Books became a staple in our gift-giving. They played with books as much as they did with toys.

Whenever there was an occasion to gift them, it came with a book.

 This early exposure integrated books seamlessly into their playtime, and the feel of a book can become as familiar as a favorite toy.

3. Bedtime Stories

Reading became a nightly ritual from day 1. We’d snuggle up and read together every evening until they could read independently.

The hardest part is the consistency. We did it almost every night, no matter what was going on. One night, we had people over, and we quickly put the kids to bed so we could return to our guests. 

They both come back down a few minutes later, asking for a bedtime story. It was a little extreme, but I think it was acceptable.

This routine fostered a love for books and stories, creating a comforting end to their day. Bedtime stories became a cherished bonding time as well.

We gradually transitioned to having them read to us, starting with Step into Reading Level 1 and alternating pages with them until they were reading the entire book themselves.

4. Monthly Bookstore Visits

Monthly trips to Barnes & Noble and other physical bookstores became a cherished family tradition. The kids would pick out a few books and one small toy, followed by a fun lunch outing. 

These trips turned book-buying into an exciting event they looked forward to. It was more than just about getting new books; it was an experience, a day out, something unique to anticipate.

5. Personalized Book Selection

We choose books based on their current interests and life experiences. This personalized approach ensures that reading is always relevant and engaging, making books a mirror of their own lives and interests. Reading reflected their journey and interests by tailoring book choices to their evolving tastes.

For example, our son is interested in Hamilton and the Revolutionary War. We got him books about Alexander and Eliza Hamilton and a copy of the Bill of Rights, which he asked for.

6. Books Over Screens

Books are our go-to entertainment during meals out or long drives. Once they were two years old, we stopped relying on iPads or phones to keep them occupied. 

This habit, cultivated over five years, has made books their default choice in such situations. It wasn’t always easy, but the payoff has been worth it—quiet dinners filled with pages turning instead of screen tapping.

We might need to correct it now, so I must ask them to take breaks from the books to converse. It’s an OK problem to have. 

Books can never compete with the iPad, Xbox, or even good old-fashioned TV. What worked for us was limiting screen time so that books had a chance. We have a 60-minute screen time limit on their iPads. We sometimes add extra time once they've taken a break by reading, playing outside, or doing school work.

The screen time prompt initially annoyed them, but it became a regular part of their interaction with these devices, especially when we explained why. I hope they keep this habit once they have their phones.

This concept deserves its own blog post, but explaining the why behind most parenting decisions to the kids will or might turn them into willing participants. It's the same concept when leading teams: You want them to subscribe to the vision, not just do things because "you said so."

7. Enforced Reading Time

Initially, we enforced daily reading times. 

Over time, this became unnecessary as we often find them reading independently, whether in the playroom or on their bedroom floor. 

Creating designated reading times helped establish a routine that eventually became self-sustaining.

8. Books Everywhere

We placed books in every area where the kids sit or play. This constant presence makes reading a natural habit since books are always within reach. 

My wife hates that, of course, being a professional home organizer because books wound up literally all over the house. I am still working on that.

9. Be the Example

Saving the best for last: Reading in front of your kids might be one of the best strategies to motivate them to read. 

By choosing to read books instead of scrolling on your phone, you model the value of reading.

Conclusion

By integrating books into our daily routines and making reading fun, personalized, and consistent, we’ve helped our kids develop a deep love for books. It’s a journey that requires patience and creativity, but the reward of seeing our children sometimes choose reading over screens is worth it.

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