Many of us walk into parenthood with endless dreams for our kids. We want the world for them. But what happens when your child shows strikingly little interest in your interests? How do you raise a reader who doesn’t start out fond of reading?
Our love of reading began with stories.
Teaching your child to cherish books starts with the magical element of story. Storytelling is an intrinsic element of human nature, passed down generation-to-generation for nearly as long as humans have existed. Archeologists estimate that some of the drawings in the Chauvet cave in France date back over 30,000 years: drawing of animals and nature, stories of survival.
As modern humans, we’ve come a long way from the days of cavemen drawings, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and oral traditions. Our brains evolved to allow us to interpret visual representations of our vocal sounds, in an incredible variety of languages. Those visual representations, crafted into numbers and letters, reveal the human renaissance—but these days, we simply call it reading.
As adults, we often forget the miraculous mental alchemy that is reading, at its core. Unlike speech, reading isn’t instinctive. It must always be taught.
And as a parent, you are your child’s primary and most vital educator. You are their first and most important gateway to reading.
What difference does reading really make?
It’s a complex, difficult, rewarding and downright amazing accomplishment. Reading inspires a host of benefits, even in the youngest children: improved concentration, better emotional control, advanced vocabulary and articulation skills, and increased empathy toward those around them.
Let’s talk science:
- By age 3, nearly 85% of the brain’s core structure is formed. In contrast, the majority of our investments are made in the traditional education years of K-12, which begin at age five. source
- Children who are read just one book a day before their first day of kindergarten will walk into their classroom knowing almost 300,000 more words than their peers. If you up that to five books a day, that number becomes 1.4 million. source
- The presence of books in the home has a greater influence on a child’s educational success than does the parents’ income, nationality, or level of education. source
Reading is one of the most important changes you can impose on your child’s brain. Books teach your child how to navigate worlds far beyond their own—but most importantly, they teach your child how to think for themselves in this vast, ever-changing world.
I love reading! Why doesn’t my child?
Here at Literati HQ, we love hearing from club members and curious readers about any topic (yes, really!) But these are some of our most-asked questions:
- I love reading! Why doesn’t my child?
- How do I read to my child?
- How do I keep her interested in books after the novelty wears off?
- How do I encourage him to love books on his own and not feel like I’m forcing him?
Most children don’t start off with their noses gleefully tucked into a book. As we said before, reading is a learned habit—but the good news is, if you’re reading this, you are perfectly poised to teach them.
How to read with your child:
- Transform the experience of reading into a sacred ritual.
Personalized nameplates. A teal Literati box delivered to your doorstep. Unhurried time together with you. All of these are experiences that transform reading into a sacred activity your kids look forward to—and therefore, make it something they’ll crave just as much as the playground or ice cream (well, okay, that’s the dream.)
- Let your child conduct the reading train.
Dreaming of your 9-year-old carting around Proust like a young Rory Gilmore? Quick reality check. Age-appropriate, engaging reading appears in many forms. Let your child do the choosing. Whether it’s a board book, a novel, a newspaper, or a comic book, your kid will gravitate toward what they like. Encourage them! Choice is the main difference between fun and homework.
- Invest your time and your energy.
Reading is important, but it’s just as important to read with your kid, not at them. Take time to “read” the illustrations, too. Ask questions that aren’t on the page. Pause to observe characters, and ask your child for their own observations. If you want them to enjoy reading, it’s vital that they see you enjoying it, too. That’s how you form those warm, fuzzy associations that make reading a pleasant experience as they grow. And it’s okay to let them skip the pages sometimes—it’s all part of the experience.
- Create a habit out of story time.
Reading shouldn’t be forced, but it shouldn’t be forgotten. Don’t be afraid to start small, with even a page or two at bedtime. Whether it’s silent reading in the living room, pillow-fort book time, or a cosplay-enhanced interpretative dance of a story, start to make reading a daily, weekly, or monthly event. And bring snacks, so everyone looks forward to it.
- Remember that there’s no time like the present.
You’ve likely heard it from librarians, teachers, your mother-in-law, a well-meaning grandmother at the grocery store, and fellow parents, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Raising a reader begins with you, and it starts as soon as they’re born. (Don’t worry if you’re starting later, though. There’s no better time than now.) Quality matters, but so does quantity—so read with them. And read often.
There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.—Walt Disney—