Never too early to help children develop love of reading

By Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell

I was recently asked, “How do you get children to learn to love reading?” On the surface this question appeared to have a simple reply: “You have to teach you kids to value reading.” However, upon more reflection, I realized this answer was rather flippant and unsatisfactory.

After some research, I discovered that there are two key components needed to turn children on to reading. First, parents need to provide their children opportunities to engage in reading activities from an early age. Second, parents must be persistent in offering children a multitude of reading experiences. The following are some ideas for guiding children along the path to learning to love reading.

As parents, our kids are always observing us. Based on what they see, they will often mimic our behaviors. Therefore, it is essential that children see their parents reading. Whether it’s the newspaper, magazines, recipes, instructions or books, the more our children see their parents reading, the more likely they will become avid readers.

Parents should provide reading material for their kids. For example, it is wise to create a home library of books and magazines that are on the children’s reading level. In addition, spread out other reading materials that children are likely to be interested in, such as word puzzles, literacy games and reading activities. Have things to read wherever your children are, whether they are in the car, in the bathroom, in the living room or in their bed.

Set aside a special time of the day for reading with your child. If the morning works best, read a quick story after breakfast. If dinnertime is better, after you finish your meal read a chapter out of a book to your child each evening. Plus there is always the traditional, much beloved bedtime story at the close of the day.

Engaging kids in special reading programs can be very rewarding. The public library has story times for children at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library and many of its branches. In addition to stories, librarians sing songs, introduce authors and engage children in literacy play. Further, during the summer the public library sponsors a reading program. Parents can sign their children up to earn prizes for reading books. Many bookstores offer similar types of story times and reading programs.

Naturally, your child’s school library is another source that encourages children to develop a love of reading. Many school libraries participate in the Pizza Hut-sponsored Book It! program that offers children free pizzas for reading. The Memphis Grizzlies’ Read to Achieve program and the national Read for the Record initiative both provide rewards and inspiration that help instill in children the urge to read. Many schools subscribe to Accelerated Reader (AR), a program that inspires students to read by offering a point system where students earn points for tests taken on grade leveled tests. The students trade these points in for prizes at a school-sponsored AR store. Further, individual teachers and some schools as a whole often provide summer reading lists of great stories that help prepare students for the upcoming school year.

These are just a few ways to encourage children to read. The more opportunities we provide for our children to encounter intriguing and fun reading activities, the greater the likelihood that they will develop a love for reading. By making stories and books an exciting and integral part of the family routine, our children’s desire to read is greatly increased. As parents, we can stress the value of literacy by rewarding children for a job well done by purchasing them a book or taking them to a library. Plus remember, it’s never too early to start!

Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell is a Library Information Specialist, National Board Certified Teacher and freelance writer. If you have any questions or comments, please contact him at:

Author: LampLighter

The voice of Cooper-Young, a vibrant, diverse neighborhood to live, work and play, in the heart of Midtown Memphis, Tennessee.

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