Dear Dr. Shore,
My husband and I are avid readers and we'd like to encourage our children to enjoy reading too. What can we do to ensure that they find reading pleasurable?
Although you might not be able to ensure that your children will be the readers you and your husband are, you can do plenty to help them discover the pleasures of reading. First, keep in mind that your role is not to teach your children to read. That is the teacher's job. You can certainly help if they run into a specific difficulty, but your primary job is to help them enjoy and feel confident about reading. Below are a few ways to do that:
Read to your children from an early age. That is the single most important thing you can do to promote your children's reading. Children who are read to from an early age learn to feel comfortable and confident around books and associate reading with warmth and security. And don't stop reading to your children once they are able to read.
Discuss what you are reading with your children. Ask your children questions about the stories you read together -- not yes or no questions, but questions designed to provoke thought and conversation ("Why do you think she did that?" "What do you think is going to happen next?" "What did you like about the story?")
Invite your children to read to you. That gives them a chance to practice and also provides you with a good opportunity to praise your children for their reading. (Let the small errors go.) You also might have an older child read to a younger child.
Encourage your children to read for pleasure. The best gift you can give your children is a love of reading. Toward that end, you might allow them to stay up 15 or 30 minutes later at night if the time is spent reading. For their birthdays, give them gift certificates to a favorite bookstore. In addition, encourage your children join a book club. Younger children might enjoy making a paper chain or mobile listing the books theyve read.
Familiarize your children with the public library. In addition to providing books, tapes, records, and CD's, libraries sponsor programs related to reading for different age levels. Those programs might include storytelling, films, book readings, and awards programs to encourage reading. Take advantage of them.
Make reading part of your family landscape. Be sure your household has a range of reading materials -- books, magazines, and newspapers -- that are both appropriate and interesting to your children. For younger children, make tapes of favorite books so they can follow along as they turn the pages.