raising readers

Raising Readers: How to Encourage Reading Habits in Children

So you’ve taught your child how to read and you’re done patting your back about it, but he isn’t reading anything. As frustration builds, you devise different strategies to get the kid to read something. Okay, anything! I don’t know about you, but we definitely faced this issue with our son. So we are proud to emerge successfully and tell you that it worked when we least expected it. Let me tell you how we managed to encourage reading habits in our son. 

We taught Zaviar how to read in the summer of 2020. He had just turned four and it was that peak pandemic time when everyone was scared and stayed home. He is a fast learner and learned everything we taught him within a couple of months. He could now read children’s books far beyond his grade level. But did he? No, he didn’t.

How We Got Him to Start Reading

parent reading to a toddler encourages reading habits
Starting them young: Read to your children so they love reading!

So this had never crossed our mind. We had to do this too? I mean we taught him, now isn’t he supposed to pick up book after book like Matilda and read away? We were expecting too much and we didn’t even know it. Then we decided to try out “strategies” to encourage reading habits and instill in him the love of reading. Let me tell you all about them. 

Let’s get the book of his choice!

We love bookstores. This love I guess just came naturally because Zaviar loves them just as much as we do. We took him to a million bookstores and made him choose whichever book he wanted. He was still more interested in watching Netflix at that time rather than reading a book. So he would get a book, bring it home, and then it would be lying around. We got a lot of books and also got a lot of books as gifts because we somehow gave off the impression that he loves reading. I mean, we did wish he loved it if you know what I mean. So we had a bookshelf full of books and no one to read them. The most he would do is bring one to us and have us read it to him. 

Let’s get him the book version of what he watches!

children reading together encourages reading habits

Okay, so this worked a little. We got him Octonauts books and he gobbled them up but then they weren’t easily available and I realized it was like cheating. We weren’t inculcating the love of reading in him. We were tricking him. So we stopped and decided to trick him another way. Don’t judge our parenting just yet, okay?

Let’s reward him for reading

It makes me sad but we did do this, and I wanted to give full disclosure, haha. I guess we were desperate. We got him a Playstation the following year. He was obviously elated. But then we wanted to continue trying to get him to read. So we made one mistake. We started bribing him. 

We gave him half an hour of extra time besides his regular screen time every time he finished a book. Why was it a mistake, you ask? It was a mistake because he hated reading by this point. He only did it to get a few more minutes to play. This made us stop. 

What Really Worked? 

We stopped trying. Honestly, that is actually what worked. I think we were trying too hard and he was starting to take it as a burden. This made him actively try to avoid it. We didn’t stop buying him new books though. We put a book in the car. We put one out at home. And then we forgot about it. 

Before we knew it, the one in the car finished. We celebrated by going and getting a new one. Before long that one finished too! We knew then that we had done something right by not doing anything at all!

What is He Reading Now?

boy enjoying reading

He has recently started The Diary of a Wimpy Kid and he’s loving it. We often find him smirking and even laughing out loud at times and honestly, that’s the best part. The fact that he’s actually enjoying it and not taking it as a chore! I also managed to find an old copy of The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton on my bookshelf and introduced him to it. To my delight, he loved it! I was also getting a bit wary of Wimpy Kid because it has some elements that made me a little nervous. I mean I don’t want him to be reading about teenagers and how to talk to girls just yet. He’s only five! I know about the content of the books because honestly he discusses each and everything he finds funny, strange, or weird and I am SUPER thankful for that. 

I sometimes wonder if he pronounces all the words correctly or knows what each and every word means. But then I stop myself and stay silent. Why disrupt his flow and kill the joy of reading for him?! I only offer an explanation when he asks for one. He sometimes asks the meaning of a word if he has absolutely no idea. I have also stopped myself from telling him the correct pronunciations of words he may be reading even though he may be pronouncing many of them incorrectly, especially names. But then I remember pronouncing Dudley wrong when Harry Potter came out and being in shock when I found out it was dud-lee and not dood-lee. If I turned out alright after THAT, I’m sure so will he! 

Farwah Shah
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One Comment

  1. Great article! My son loves books and reading now (he is 13), but wasn’t ready to read when he started school at 5 years old. I read to him so so much as a baby/toddler/preschooler, and I read his school reading books with him from 5-7 years old, as he wasn’t ready. I wanted him to have a love of reading and not find it a stress or chore.
    Suddenly at 7 years old, he wanted to read in his own. And he hasn’t looked back, he is a massive reader now.
    I definitely think encouraging a love of books is key, and for some kids, this means that parents need to read to them as much as possible and not force them to read, until they are ready.
    I hope this comes across in the spirit of kindness that I’m intending.

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