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Parents know that reading is an essential life skill, but how do you raise kids who love to read? Read on to learn several simple tips to make books fun for kids (and earn some free books, too).
“I cannot live without books,” claimed Thomas Jefferson. I’m with Mr. Jefferson on that one! In fact, I have this quote displayed in my house…on one of many shelves of books in our small front living room, which I affectionately call “the library” (so much cooler than calling it an office).
I’ve had a book in my hand (and a pile on my nightstand) for as long as I can remember. As a child, my home was filled with books. There was a bookshelf in every room, and we took regular trips to the library and bookstore to fill them up.
I still remember snuggling up next to my mom as she read me the final chapter of The Last Battle from the Narnia books, wishing it could go on forever.
Most young children love books, as I did, and research has shown time and again that reading to our children is essential to their development.
Consider these statistics:
- Having books in the home is twice as important as the father’s education level. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 2010
- Children who are read to at least three times a week by a family member are almost twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading compared to children who are read to less than 3 times a week. Denton, Kristen and Gerry West, Children’s Reading and Mathematics Achievement in Kindergarten and First Grade, U.S. Department of Education, NCES, Washington, DC, 2002.
- The nurturing and one-on-one attention from parents during reading aloud encourages children to form a positive association with books and reading later in life. Reach Out and Read, Archives of Disease in Childhood, Reading Aloud to Children: The Evidence, 2008.
Sadly, as kids grow older, many stop reading. Required school reading, the allure of the digital age, and a host of other factors cause a marked decline in our children’s enjoyment of reading as they mature.
In fact, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2016 report, 1 in 4 adults went the entire previous year without reading a single book. Bummer.
But our kids are not destined to lose their love of reading. We cannot force them to be readers, but when we show our young kids that reading can be fun, we can put them on the road to being life-long readers.
Here are some of the things that I do with my own kids to make books fun and instill in them a love of reading.
Simple tips to make books fun for kids
Start a library tradition
We go to the library almost every week. Each week, I let my kids pick a few books to bring home, and I grab a stack of new and different stories, too. We usually walk out with our library bag stuffed to capacity…I cannot be stopped!
Our library also has a great story time program, and we’ve been attending it since my oldest (now 6) was a year old. I LOVE story time because it gives my kids the opportunity to share the fun of reading with other kids and adults in a play-based setting. We sing, dance, make crafts, play games, and read stories.
By making library trips a regular occurrence, my kids are learning that reading is a priority in our family. They look forward to our library outings and the chance to discover new stories to enjoy together.
I know some people who say they don’t like going to the library because they forget to take the books back and then end up with fines. However, because we go almost every week, we hardly ever have that problem. In 6 years, I’ve only lost three library books. Paying for one book every two years (on average) is more than worth the benefits in my book.
Let them choose
There is something powerful about having ownership of something, including books. According to Scholastic, 91% of kids aged 6 to 17 are more likely to finish a book that they choose themselves.
Let your kids choose their own books. Don’t worry too much about whether or not they are picking “classics”. If the kid wants to get some poorly-written, mass market superhero book for the fiftieth time, let him. (Of course, you can retain veto power if your child chooses a book you feel is inappropriate).
My boys go through phases with loving particular books, and while I often want to throw the books in their favorite series out the window long before they move onto the next greatest thing, I try to roll with their preferences.
How, then, do you get your kid to read anything of quality?
You supplement their choices with your own choices. When we sit down to read, I let each of my boys pick one story, and then (if I don’t like their choices) I pick a book too. Often they end up LOVING the books that I pick out. Sometimes, I’ll also encourage them to go through the book basket by our couch and find any library books we haven’t read yet. This gets them to move past their tried-and-true favorites and explore new stories.
Want to earn some FREE books for your family or school? Right now Kellogg’s® and Scholastic® are teaming up to get more books into the hands of children. Buy one participating product, and redeem it online for a free book. I love this!
Visit the Kellogg Family Rewards® site to learn more (and check out my book recommendations below!)
Try a change of scenery
We usually read on our family room couch, but sometimes we like to change things up. When I was pregnant and sick with baby number three, I would tell my boys to grab a pile of books and meet me in Mommy’s room for a book snuggle party. They don’t get to hang out in my room often, so it was a special treat to snuggle in Mommy’s bed and read books.
We also like to do book picnics. Just grab a pile of books and head outside. We take a picnic lunch, or even just some grab-n-go snacks, and read outside under a shady tree. About a month ago, we did this in our front yard, and within five minutes we had a bunch of the neighborhood kids piled on the blanket with us, listening to our story. Fun!
This week, we took some of our favorite snacks to a park near our house and had our book picnic there. My boys get really excited about the individual-size packages, and we had just bought some at Target (you can find them in the snack aisles). It was a hot day, but we happily ate out Cheez-Its® and Pringles® and giggled in the shade at silly Dr. Seuss rhymes as the breeze rustled the leaves overhead. Moments like those when I really connect with my kids are truly priceless.
Books in bed
We don’t let our kids have toys in their rooms after bedtime, but we have always allowed books. Each of my boys has his own night-light with a pile of books next to it. If they aren’t tired when we say goodnight, they are allowed to “read” books in their room. Even though they can’t read the words on their own yet, they love looking at the pictures, poring over ever detail. Sometimes, in the morning they will bring me a book and show me something interesting they discovered in a picture. Fabulous!
Sure, they stay up a little later this way, but they are (usually) quiet, and it helps them calm down and get ready to sleep. Plus, it makes reading books a special, desirable activity.
Have your child “read” a favorite book to you
Have you ever had your preschool child “read” to you? It’s so fun! If you haven’t, give it a whirl. Tell your child that you think it would be fun to switch roles for a little bit. They get to be the parent (kids love to be in charge) and you’ll be the child. Let them pick their favorite story (you know, the one you practically have memorized), and encourage them tell the story to you.
When my oldest son was four, he told me one day he was going to read Danny and the Dinosaur to his little brother. I raised an eyebrow, but encouraged him to go ahead. To my surprise, he recited almost the entire story–verbatim–as he turned the pages and showed his toddler brother the pictures. I was amazed at how well he knew the story!
Even if you child can’t remember all the words, he can do a “picture walk” through the book, telling you what he sees on each page. This is a great pre-reading skill and it’s an effective way to get your child actively involved in reading with you.
Do the voices!
Whatever you read, narrate it with GUSTO! Maybe it’s my theater background, but I love doing all the voices for characters in the books. Don’t worry if you think you sound ridiculous (bonus points if you DO, in fact!). Your kids will be as enthusiastic about books as you are, so show them how fun they can be!
Have books everywhere
Well, maybe not everywhere, but you get the point. We have books in pretty much every room in the house. We have a basket in the living room, a bookshelf in the office, some book display ledges in their bedroom, and even a pile in the bathroom.
The house I grew up in was the same way (I learned from the best bookworms around). No matter where I went, there was a book nearby. Because they were readily available, I would often pick up a book to flip through. Calvin and Hobbes comics, National Geographic photographic encyclopedias, a vast assortment of picture books, and so many more.
Take advantage of free books!
It’s almost back-to-school time. What?!?!? We’ve got less than a month left of summer, and I’m starting to realize I need to get myself organized for the new school year.
I’ve got something great for you though…a way to kill two birds with one stone…
Right now, Kellogg’s and Scholastic are promoting literacy through a free book program for with the purchase of back to school promotional products. So, as you are stocking up your pantry for the new school year, you can earn free books! COOL!
There are a bunch of products that qualify: cereal, fruit snacks, Nutri-Grain bars, snack packs of Pringles and Cheez-Its, etc.
Once you’ve purchased a participating product (or several), here’s how to redeem your free book(s):
- Visit FeedingReading.com!
- Make sure your receipt is dated no later than 9/30/18.
- Take a picture of your receipt(s) with qualifying purchases. Log in to Kellogg’s Family Rewards® and upload your receipt. Each receipt must be submitted separately and within 30 days of purchase.
- Get credit to redeem for a book of your choice. 1 box = 1 book. (All credits must be redeemed by 12/18/18.
You can keep the book for your own family to enjoy, or you can donate it to your local school. The best part? You can earn up to 10 books per participant. Wahoo! I love me some free books!
Visit the Kellogg Family Rewards site for full promotion details.
FYI – I browsed the available titles for you, just to make sure that the books were good ones, and I found a bunch to love! There are over 80 books to choose from, so there is something for everyone. They have picture books for littles as well as chapter books for middle readers and teens.
Here are a few fabulous ones you might want to check out:
- A Bad Case of Stripes
- Zen Shorts
- There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly
- Magic School Bus (multiple titles…I LOVE these)
- Peppa Pig (Can you resist British pigs???)
- Out of the Dust (I used to teach this book to my seventh graders, and I adore it!)
- Freak the Mighty (I also taught this one!)
Other promising books (I haven’t read these, but I want to):
- Horizon, by Scott Westerfeld
- The False Prince: Book #1 of the Ascendance Trilogy, by Jennifer Nielsen
- Everland, Wendy Spinale
- All the books in the I Am series and the I Survived series. (Historical fiction…great way to learn about fascinating events and people in history!)
- The 39 Clues, Rick Riordan
- The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg, Rodman Philbrick (Newberry Honor book!)
- The Danger Box, by Blue Balliett
Can you tell I had fun browsing through the books on the Kellogg’s Family Rewards® website? I tend to get a little giddy about new books.
Excuse me now while I go fill a cart with Kellogg’s cereal and snacks so I can redeem my free books.
Am I the only one nerding out over this program? I hope not.
So, stock up on back to school breakfast and lunch items, and fill your home with books. It’s a win for everyone!