Cultivating a lifelong love of reading is an important task for every parent

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.”

 – Victor Hugo

Not only does reading improve academic performance and cognitive intelligence, but it also reduces stress and even mitigates cognitive decline from aging. There are many positive benefits from reading – yet many families struggle to embrace reading in daily life.

Today’s children are inundated with digital media designed to entertain and engross. While digital literacy is important for today’s youth, too much screen time can distract from the amazing benefits of reading for pleasure.

Fortunately, parents can redirect free time away from the iPad and onto more constructive pursuits. Here are four ways to encourage your children to love reading.

1. Start enjoying books early

You do not need to wait until your child is a reader to start a home library. You should take the time to read to your child regardless of his or her age.

Very young children will enjoy a bedtime story, especially if you collect books with interesting pictures and sounds. Preschoolers love pop-up books, and babies will enjoy plush fabric books or tactile stories with textures and crinkle pages.

Make reading together an enjoyable part of your everyday routine. This is important because it creates a positive association with reading that will last throughout childhood.

Children who do not have the benefit of books at home may become frustrated by reading when they are expected to do so in school. Avoid this problem by making reading a fun and exciting part of each day.

2. Hone in on specific interests

It is always a good idea to give a child the freedom to choose his or her own books. For parents, this often means reading the same book over and over. However, allowing a child to choose his or her reading material gives a sense of control that is vital to creating a positive association with reading.

For older children, reading is an opportunity to explore different genres and interests. Take notice of your child’s preferences. Does he or she enjoy a classic hero’s fantasy? What about historical fiction or biographies? Or, perhaps he or she becomes engrossed in science books, learning about interesting creatures and environments.

Whatever the case may be, encourage your child to pursue these interests through reading.

3. Chart progress visually

One way to reward reading progress is to have visual tools that keep track of achievements. A sticker book, a checklist on the fridge, or a decorated calendar can be a great way for children to keep track of reading progress.

You can use these charts to record favorite titles, completed chapters, and more. This kind of positive acknowledgment goes a long way in helping a child feel successful in his or her reading progress.

4. Surround your family with reading

The best way to encourage your child to read is to enjoy reading yourself. That does not mean you need to find the time to read all the latest novels, but it does mean that you should make reading an important part of your everyday life as a family.

Take weekend trips to the library, where every member of the family can choose books he or she finds interesting. Children will love to see mom or dad picking out titles for bedtime reading. A child who is old enough to manage deadlines responsibly will be thrilled to have his or her own library card.

Create a dedicated space in your home for reading and book storage. This can be a quiet corner bookshelf or merely a basket in the corner filled with a variety of books. Encourage children to peruse the home library and read together from it often.

Cultivating a lifetime of reading for fun

“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.”

– Margaret Fuller

In the end, encouraging your children to read is about more than just achievement and development. Reading is a fundamental part of expressing ourselves and understanding the world around us.

Great stories of fantasy heroes, powerful memoirs, and inspiring advice all serve to edify and sustain a person throughout his or her life. Give your child the gift of reading and watch how this changes his or her life.

American Heritage Schools offers a range of summer activities.

Visit our website to find out more information about our Summer Day Camps and Summer Education programs.