8 Tried-and-Tested Ways To Raise Book-Lovers.

My oldest kids (ages 5, 7 and 9) have evolved into voracious readers.

For example, Julie and I just took them on a 3 day holiday. Other than beach-going, their recreational preference was reading. Eli and Fynn must have clocked in hours everyday in pure reading pleasure. Ivy, who can’t yet read, nonetheless flipped through picture book after picture book. She especially loved the interactive ones like ‘Where’s Wally?’

I am trying to figure out if there was anything Julie and I did to be so lucky.

As I reflect, I can think of 8 things that likely helped. Many of them we stumbled upon without realizing how well they would work. If you’re interested in stimulating or strengthening a reading habit in your kids, maybe you can try some of them.

1. Books are presents.

Years ago Julie wrote a blog on affluenza, which she argued we perpetuated in our kids by heaping them up with tons of toys every birthday and Christmas. She said it would be better to give our kids just 3 things as parents: something to play with (a toy), something to wear (clothing) and something to read (a book). One benefit of this approach has been that books are valued alongside toys.

That’s why, on Black Friday, I bought one third of my kid’s Christmas presents from a local bookshop.

2. Books are rewards.

When we try incentivize our children to work on a better behaviour or attitude, or on some new skill, we sometimes say, “If you get this right, I will buy you a ….”
Well next time you use those words say, “ … any book you want.” The fact that you are rewarding them with books boosts its perceived value.

3. Books are everywhere.

I have an entire wall of books. They lie about in almost every room. It communicates that books are a part of life. (On a side note, my twins once pulled each other’s dirty nappies off, and smeared an entire shelf of books with their production. The only recompense was that they also painted on chocolate moustaches — their odour-agonized faces was all the punishment they needed.)

4. Parents are readers.

Julie and I love reading. We do so in front of our kids. So doing, we communicate that this is what people do. They read. I have learnt (it took some time) to read lying on a couch right in the midst of them playing. This way they don’t resent reading as something that takes their parents away from them.

5. Night time is story time.

Most nights, we stimulate our children’s imagination for a few minutes by reading some book to them, or making up stories. Stories are addictive. As humans, we tend to have unlimited appetite for them. (Just look at the way we as adults get hooked on series). By associating bed time with story time, and by getting them hooked on stories and books, we have found that they start to flip through books themselves, especially on those nights when we just can’t do story-time with them.

6. Golden hour is book time.

Last December, for the first time, we introduced our kids to a 1 hour golden hour straight after lunch. Everyone needed to go to their rooms. No one was allowed to talk, not even mommy and daddy. You could sleep, or read, or draw, or all three. Most days they would read.

7. Screen time is minimized.

Like most parents, we got suckered into letting our children be little iPad addicts. We mitigated against this, by downloading primarily educational apps. And like most parents, we have let our kids watch TV shows — and absolutely savoured the space this gave us as parents.

But I noticed one major draw-back. In the same way a kid doesn’t eat their supper because they had their appetite abated by a sweet beforehand, we found that screen-time undermined their hunger for books.

So we have told our kids that they can use the iPad for 1 hour each, for only six days in the year — we have chosen 27 December to 2 January. One annual binge! As for TV, we have tried to cut that down as much as possible, but sheez it’s enticing to let them watch.

8. Mommy-dates or dad-times happen at libraries and bookshops.

Associating books with closeness to a parent is about the best way to get kids hooked on books. That’s why, about 10 times in the last few months, I’ve taken a kid on “dad-time” with me to the Exclusive Bookshop up the road and said, ‘Eli / Fynn / Ivy, find a book, read it next to me without hurting it, then when you’re bored, take it back where you found it, and get another book.’ I did the same. Not once did my kids say, ‘Can we go now?’ Each time I had to pull them away.

Julie for years has taken the kids to libraries. The reason Fynn read so much in the last 3 days, is that he and Julie selected 3 holiday books.

That’s all.

Enjoy spreading a passion for reading.

Originally published at The Dad Dude.