If you are like most parents, you may struggle with getting your kids, especially your boys, to read for pleasure. They can find time to be on a screen device–new statistics say 7 ½ hours a day is the average time our kids spend in front of a screen, but they can’t seem to find time for book reading. In my work with young families, this lack of interest in reading seems to be a big problem for today’s “screen happy” kids. Let’s take a look at some ways that we may be sabotaging our children’s chance to develop a healthy reading habit without even knowing it.
Top 10 ways to ensure that your child will not like to read:
- Make sure there are no age-level pleasure novels/books in the house.
Have you taken inventory lately of the age-appropriate books in your home, especially in your child’s room? Even though you want to keep picture books for sentimental reasons, your 6-year-old should be outgrowing them. Do a quick check: He should have at least 5-10 age appropriate unread books in his room to choose from. Don’t have a budget for books? Goodwill and your local library are great options. Let your child select some but also choose some interesting books for him and place them not only in his room, but also in other strategic places throughout the house like the kitchen or den. (See our book list under our Practical Solutions tab.)
- Make her read only for homework and don’t encourage pleasure reading.
If your child only reads books she has to read for school, chances are that she will not develop a love for pleasure reading–even if the school assignments are novels. If you only focus on school reading, you send a message that reading is a chore, only a homework assignment.
- Use the kitchen timer when she is reading.
Any use of the kitchen timer can make some kids feel like they are being punished; never make reading feel like a punishment for your kids. Think of other ways to get the block of time in. For example, “Let’s all grab our books and meet in the den and read for an hour before we go out to dinner.”
- Never have books in the car.
When you allow screens instead of books in the car on trips, during errands, and at doctor’s appointments, you are missing a huge opportunity to tell your child that down times and wait times are the perfect time for reading. Just reading for 15 minutes a day will add up to more than 1 million more words read this year! That will increase his vocabulary, increase his brain connections and continue to build a valuable reading habit all while doing errands. If your child experiences motion sickness, as many do, choose audio books rather than screens.
- Never read in front of and with your kids.
If you never have a pleasure reading book in your lap, how will she know that you think reading is important? Your bright child will easily pick up on the importance of reading by your actions. And she needs to see real books in your hands, not just e-readers.
- Never give books as gifts.
We give things we value to our children. Give her a book at every birthday and every Christmas. Jot a note in the inside cover to make it even more meaningful.
- Never act interested in what he is reading or ask questions about his book.
Do you ever have book discussions at dinner? Go around the table and ask each family member about what they are reading; they will feel special and important as they contribute to the conversation. Want to really boost his reading interest? Ask if you can borrow his book when he is done.
- Never take your kids to the library or bookstore.
This is one sure way to kill his love for books. Make sure he doesn’t know his way around the library or know what it is to spend a few hours reading in the quiet, soothing, therapeutic atmosphere of a quiet public library or bookstore.
- Never read aloud with them.
Age doesn’t matter, your children will never outgrow the need for hearing you (the parent) read to them. When you put emotion into the characters and they hear your tone and your ‘immersion’ they follow along and get tons of reading benefits not to mention the emotional benefits of spending quality time with you. Read the first chapter of a new book aloud to get them going. Trust me on this one. Don’t forget to have your older kids read aloud to the others as they need the practice.
- Offer screen time as a reward for reading time.
In all of my work with families in screen overuse conflicts, I believe that this is the number one best way to kill your child’s love for reading. When a trade is made of reading time for more screen hours, you send a very clear, wrong message to your child. Even though I don’t agree with making chore or “good grade” trades for screen hours, trading cleaning the toilet or taking out the trash is more on the level of a fair trade for screen time. Book reading time should never be used as currency for video game or screen time. Period. Sorry, Mom and Dad. If game time always trumps reading, that trade isn’t the best way to keep reading in the esteemed place it needs to be.
Developing reading habits during childhood is an investment with immeasurable future payoffs and benefits. If you have a child who loves books you are on the right path. If you don’t, don’t give up.