How To Inspire in Your Child a Love of Reading

10 Keys to the Treasure Chest

10 Keys to the Treasure Chest
Mommy, read me a story--
One about heroes, one about glory.
Open the gate to a world I don't know.
Help me to learn...cause me to grow.

Josh dropped his wet baseball mitt on the kitchen floor and scrunched off his muddy tennis shoes. He knew Grandma must be in the attic. Climbing the retractable ladder, he spied Grandma sitting on a battered footstool, holding a bronze key in her right hand, just staring at it. Josh pulled himself up and asked, "What's that for?" Grandma grinned, stuck the key into the lock of the enormous leather trunk. Click! The domed top creaked open. Josh whispered, "What's inside? Can I see?" Curiosity swirled in the room like a summer breeze.

Inspiration is motivation in motion. Inspiring a love of reading in your child is simple when you employ the proper set of keys. Here are 10 key ideas for stirring the love of the written word in your child's heart.

  1. Read out loud to your child. Each of us enjoys the wonder of a well-turned phrase, a thought-provoking description, or the sheer silliness of a character's actions. Children love to hear the repetition of sounds or the lilt of your voice as you use a different tone for each character. Discuss the book with the child, drawing out his/her imagination or decision-making skills as they decide if a character did the right thing or not.
  2. Get caught reading! Growing up, I saw my mother every afternoon read for about 45 minutes. This simple act made a deep impression on me. I can't let a day go by without stopping to read something for enjoyment. Parents unconsciously teach their children what is valuable by the way they spend their own time. Parents who make reading attractive to a child contribute immeasurably to his or her intellect, spirit, and soul.
  3. Plot a special event involving reading. Find 8-10 books that belong to your child. Use the book titles to set up a "Mystery Quest." For example: Place the first book in plain sight on the kitchen counter. Where the Red Fern Grows could give the clue that the child must next look beside or behind a pot of red flowers or the fern in the living room. There you could place a book entitled: We Played Marbles to send the child to his/her toy box or toy shelves. The next book title could be: Make Way for Ducklings, the clue that will send them to the bathroom (if they have or have had a yellow rubber duck). If the child is young, keep the clues simple and give them plenty of help. When they come to the last clue, let the child pick the book to be read aloud.
  4. Set a specific time each day for READING TIME. The pull of TV, video games, mp3 players, CDs, sports, or computers will overpower the book sitting on the child's shelf or desk. We as parents need to set the parameters that place the building blocks of life into place. Pick a time after school, after a snack, perhaps after homework is completed, or even after dinner. Let the child know that 7:00 - 7:30 p.m. is a quiet time devoted to reading only. Once this good habit is established, the child will look forward to the solitude of sound and the friendship of words.
  5. Walk your way to a great time. Draw the outline of a tennis shoe or find a coloring book facsimile of a shoe, copy several. For young children, allow them to "read" a book. Then you can help them print the title and amount of pages on a shoe outline. Stick the shoe(s) on a bulletin board or a wall with plasti-tak. Set either a certain amount of books, such as 100-300 or a certain amount of pages for an older child; this could be 700-1,000 pages read. Brag on the child's progress. This self-contained contest could last for a month or span three months, depending on the family schedule. If the child meets the goal in the specified time, have a reward planned ahead of time and present that reward on pizza night at your house. The reward does not have to be expensive, but something that the child desires.
  6. Please don't make the mistake of saying to a young person, "This is a book you must read!” 99% of the time, that must-read book will remain on the shelf. Kids know what they like. Despair not for the child that will only read books about dinosaurs now, but who will develop wider tastes as they grow.
  7. Tote a book everywhere. Going to the dentist, doctor's office, oil change on the car, driving to the grocery store, or on your way to a friend's home -- take a book or two along. Often I've been early for an appointment and rather than read a magazine, I've waited in the car and read a book of my choice. A child, who will not become ill while reading in the car, could read aloud to you. You will discover a myriad of teachable moments because a book accompanied you on your way.
  8. Create a contest. Whether you home-school or send your child to school, you and a couple other families can plan a contest for the children in your homes. Together set the number of books or the amount of pages to be read. Keep track on a chart in each home. Call each other a couple times a week to let the children share their progress. Build excitement by reminding the children that if they each meet the goals, the families will have a Contest Dinner -- pizza, tacos, or picnic foods. At the dinner, allow time for each child to tell briefly about their favorite book. Perhaps plan a small prize for the child who read the most pages out of all the children who are involved.
  9. Tune-out time is a gift you give to your child. Television can be the enemy of the mind. It is, after all, mere amusement which means: "to cause to idle away time." Consider that for every hour of television a child is allowed to watch, he or she needs to read for 30 minutes for that privilege. Or perhaps have one week a month with no TV where everyone (if possible) sits together in the living room and reads instead of watching a sitcom or sports program.
  10. Juggle some Jelly Beans in a jar. Purchase enough jellybeans to fill a large glass or plastic jar. Place the jar of jellybeans on the countertop in the kitchen. For every 10 pages that the child reads if young, allow him to write his name on a slip of paper, write the number of jelly beans he's guessing are in the jar and include on the slip a small prize he would like. Place the slips into a basket or bowl. If the child is junior age, the number of pages could be 50-70. Set a time period for this in-home contest. At the designated time, allow the child to draw one slip from the basket or bowl. If the jellybean guess is within five of what is actually in the jar, he wins his prize. You can list the possible prizes so that the child has choices that are within your budget and time frame. The enjoyment of reading is a priceless treasure. What key will you hand to your child?

Karen Porter Milligan, a 36 year veteran teacher of Language Arts, has taught primary up through college level students. Four teacher's manuals on Writing, one children's book, 30 stories and articles later, she is still writing and teaching. Currently she works with dyslexic, autistic, or reluctant reader young people. She loves children and loves teaching!

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I love the creative, inspired suggestions!

By Susan N

Very nice article. My daughters are avid readers and I am convinced it is because we made it so important right from the beginning.

By Marion Cornett

I enjoyed reading this too. Basically for the same reasons. You did offer some great ideas for getting kids to read...

By Anonymous

I enjoyed reading your article as it is well written. The information is useful, but when it is well written, the pleasure is doubled.

By Mary Norton