Tips to Encourage Reading

storytime on the couch

Knowledge is power and reading is knowledge, so I’m thrilled to have three kids who love books! Here are a twelve things we do to encourage that trend:

  • Read to and with them often.
  • Let early readers read aloud to you. It builds confidence, gives kids a chance to ask for help with unknown words, and develops read-aloud skills.
  • Have books in the house. We built our library through hand-me-downs from friends and family, library book sales, and Scholastic sales.
  • Make the most of your local library. I’m amazed at the selection of books that are available, and I can even request books online and have them waiting at the front desk!
  • Don’t keep all the books in the same place. We have a book basket in the living room as well as a half bookshelf in the kids’ room. The living room basket houses our library books, and the bookshelf has our home library of children’s literature.
  • Take turns reading books they find interesting as well as books you find interesting. Everyone benefits from the diversification of topics! I’m learning a lot about spiders, scorpions, and other venomous creatures, at the moment…
  • Don’t limit their book selections based on perceived skill or understanding. I never would have expected my kindergartener’s reading to take off with the Ramona series, which I didn’t get into until second or third grade, but those were the books that caught her interest.
  • Let them see you reading. If they know that you value reading, they will value it as well.
  • Include wordless picture books in your library. They build narration skills, and help kids pay attention to plot sequencing.
  • Pay attention to reviews. I have found a number of our favorite books through blogs that I read on a regular basis – especially Mom and KiddoMouse Grows, Mouse Learns, and Adventures in Mommydom.
  • Encourage kids to write books of their own, and to narrate their drawings.
  • Try new types of books. My six-year-old adores poetry, and my two-year-old loves “sound books” full of onomatopoeias!

This list was spotted on Mama Smiles.

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Teach Your Child to Read

  • Read the introduction. Sure, it’s long (and sounds just a little conceited at times), but the last thing you want to do is jump in and then have to figure it out with your child looking on. You have to be confident so they will be, too.
  • Make a chart. I had no idea this would be such a big deal to Aaron, but it has been. It validates his hard work and provides a way for him to visually see his progress and show it off when Mike comes home. (And as a side benefit: he has learned all of his numbers through 100. That was not my intention; it just happened as he studied his chart.) As you can see, this is a VERY elaborate chart and took me all of three minutes to make. 🙂
  • Sound blending. This is one of the very first things you teach. You hold out the sounds and blend them into each other (for example, mmmmmaaaaat instead of mmm  aaa   t. After the child says it slowly, you have them “say it fast,” and as if by magic, they’re able to say the word, which they cannot do if they chop up the sounds.) This took a great deal of practice and patience for Aaron, but it was worth it. (Some sounds can’t be held out, like “c,” for example. So if you’re reading the word “cat,” you have to say it with the next sound, like this: caaaaa, and then of course add the “t” on the end. In other words, you never separate the sounds because it makes it too hard to hear the actual word.
  • Find a time of day that works well for your child. This one is so important and such a struggle for me to adhere to. If I decide it’s a good time to do it, then by golly, Aaron must think so too. Wrong. Sometimes he’s on and sometimes he’s off. It can even be the same time of day, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. Whereas if he’s not hungry or tired or grumpy, man, he just whips through the lesson like you wouldn’t believe. We used to do it in the afternoons, but recently I switched to the morning, right after he has eaten breakfast, and it has worked great. I just can’t stress this enough…if it’s not a good time of day, don’t do it.
  • Don’t push it. Sometimes I just want to finish the lesson so badly, but Aaron is whining and complaining and rolling all over the floor and climbing all over the furniture and only reading two words before he has to tell me something, and I am getting frustrated and begging him to finish. Well, you know what? It’s not worth it. The whole reason to teach a 3-year-old to read is for the fun of it. A 3-year-old does not need to be able to read. He doesn’t. So don’t push it. If he doesn’t want to do it right then, just drop it. Try again later. It has to stay fun with no pressure or expectation attached.
  • No shortcuts. Reading the stories a second time through really does make a difference. And so does reading the sight words the fast way.
  • Divide up the lessons, if needed. When we reached about lesson 50, the stories became much longer. Plus, like I said, you’re supposed to read the story twice. This was much too long for Aaron’s attention span, so we cut the lesson in half (sight words and first-reading-of-story one day and second-reading-of-story and writing the next day). In recent weeks, we have even started dividing it into three sections. Since we aren’t in a race to finish by a certain date, the extra time doesn’t matter. If there are any other moms out there who have used this method, I’d be interested to know what your experience was for the second half and how you handled the long stories.

These are the things that have worked for us, but it will be different for every child. Here are a few of the ways we have strayed from the method:

  • Writing. At the end of every lesson, the child spends some time writing a couple of letters. Aaron has struggled a little bit with this, and so I usually only have him write one letter (as opposed to two), and I’m not very picky with how the letters look. If he makes the effort, then that’s enough for me.
  • Reading other material. The beginning instructions essentially forbid you to let your child read anything else until he has completed all 100 lessons. In my opinion, this is ridiculous. If I want him to really love reading, then he needs to begin seeing right away how words are used in real life. It hurt a little to break the “rule” (because I am an intense rule-follower), but I point out words to him in the books I’m reading aloud. He reads a verse from the scriptures every night. He reads short little easy-readers. And we pay attention to signs and advertisements when we’re out and about.
  • Letters and sounds. As I already mentioned, teaching your child letters and sounds before beginning is discouraged. But I didn’t know this, and so Aaron already knew them, and I don’t think I will do it differently with Max.

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Reading Tips for Toddlers


Being a toddler is all about action. Encourage continued language development and interest in books and reading by keeping things lively and engaging. Everyday experiences are full of opportunities to engage in conversation and develop language skills. The tips below offer some fun ways you can help your child become a happy and confident reader. Try a new tip each week. See what works best for your child.
Don’t expect your toddler to sit still for a book

Toddlers need to move, so don’t worry if they act out stories or just skip, romp, or tumble as you read to them. They may be moving, but they are listening.
Recite rhymes, sing songs, and make mistakes!

Pause to let your toddler finish a phrase or chant a refrain. Once your toddler is familiar with the rhyme or pattern, make mistakes on purpose and get caught.
Choose engaging books

Books featuring animals or machines invite movement and making sounds. Books with flaps or different textures to touch keep hands busy. Books with detailed illustrations or recurring items hidden in the pictures are great for exploring and discussing.
Keep reading short, simple, and often

Toddlers frequently have shorter attention spans than babies. Look for text that is short and simple. Read a little bit, several times a day.
Encourage play that involves naming, describing, and communicating

Set up a zoo with all the stuffed animals. Stage a race with the toy cars. Put your toddler in charge and ask lots of questions.
Every day is an adventure when you’re a toddler

Choose books about everyday experiences and feelings. Your child will identify with the characters as they dress, eat, visit, nap, and play.
Ask questions

Take time to listen to your toddler’s answers. Toddlers have strong opinions and interesting ideas about the world. Encourage your toddler to tell you what he or she thinks. You’ll build language skills and learn what makes your toddler tick at the same time.
Play to their favorites

Read favorite stories again and again. Seek out books about things your toddler especially likes — trains, animals, the moon. These books may extend a toddler’s attention span and build enthusiasm for reading.
Not having fun?

Try a different story or a different time during the day. Reading with a very young child is primarily about building positive experiences with books, not finishing every book you start.

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