How to Raise a Kid Who Loves to Read
It’s surprisingly simple, but it’s a good idea to start early
For kids, reading isn’t just a hobby, or something to help them pass time when it’s raining outside. It’s transformative: From an early age, reading — or being read to — has important cognitive and behavioral effects. Researchers have found that reading at home may promote brain development in young children, grow their vocabularies, strengthen their ability to focus, and improve their social-emotional development, making them less hyperactive and less prone to separation anxiety. In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement urging parents to read to their children starting in infancy.
The good news for parents: To create an enthusiastic reader, surprisingly, doesn’t take much. “The recipe is almost too simple,” says Barbara Marinak, a dean and professor of reading at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland. And you can start laying the foundation long before they actually know how to read, or even what reading is.
Get them used to words—lots of words
With preschool-age kids, Marinak says, “deep, rich, ongoing conversation” helps develop language skills — and the stronger those skills, the more prepared they’ll be when first faced with words on a printed page. So let your child jabber away, Marinak says, even when it means answering the millionth “why” in a row, and ask them to elaborate on the stories they tell you.
Even before children become talking machines, it’s critical to read to them. Reading to young children helps develop their own excitement for books, says Richard Anderson, a professor emeritus of educational psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. If you can make reading time feel like something special, all the better: “You want to create a fun, intimate event,” he says. A bedtime-story routine is a great way to do it. Snuggle up with your kid, and make the story interactive by asking them questions about what’s happening in the book. But other times of day are just as good for reading — there’s no reason to limit your story time to right before you tuck them in.