BUILDING A LIFELONG LOVE OF READING among students can seem like no easy task for both parents and educators who must compete with smartphones, social media, and extracurricular activities. Yet reading for pleasure has been reported as critically important for children’s educational success with evidence suggesting that reading for pleasure is an activity that has emotional and social benefits.

There are many things you can do to ensure your child builds strong reading skills early in their development, which is key to their happiness, confidence, and success in school and life. These approaches can bring lasting benefits to your child and your family.

Here are some ideas on how to encourage a love of reading:

1. CHOOSE BOOKS THEY LOVE Children read what they are interested in, and they are more likely to read if they enjoy the topic. So it is important to identify a book series that will keep children engaged. Don’t discourage your child from reading books with pictures no matter their age—graphic novels still allow your child to practice key reading skills. Additionally, audiobooks also count and can be a great way to expose your child to books they aren’t ready to navigate independently. Feel free to listen together!

2. BRINGING BOOKS TO LIFE Bringing books to life, for young children especially, is one of the most important building blocks to developing lifelong readers. It creates a setting for discovery and elevates reading, allowing your child to experience the world around them and grow their imagination through books. For your daughter or son, this could mean creating an art project that’s based on a scene in the book, asking your child to give a speech as though they’re a character in the book, or setting up an informal book club discussion with friends.

3. WHEN CHILDREN LEARN, THEY LEAD When children read, they learn about the world they live in. Children can be encouraged to read different genres of books, and this allows them to imagine themselves as the main character or take on the perspective of the author.

“Kids who read more have more empathy,” Kristen Jones, a teacher at KIPP Rise Academy, maintains. “They are constantly building the skill of putting themselves in the shoes of another, which allows them to be more effective at taking on leadership roles when the opportunities arise. The kids who read the most in my middle school classroom are those now yielding the greatest impact at universities nationwide”

4. THE FAMILY THAT READS TOGETHER IS HEALTHIER A report by the American Association of Pediatrics published in March 2018 found that although parent-child reading experiences are helpful to a child’s language and literacy development, parents also benefit from these interactions, as they improve parenting confidence and self-esteem and reduce parent stress levels and depression. Parents can try to find time to read with their child before bed each night, or, if the child is old enough, can take turns reading pages. This creates a special bonding time routine for you and your child. For high school students, this experience may require a shared book club. Additionally, high school students may find books that are made into feature films more appealing, which creates an opportunity for further discussion.

5. USING THE LIBRARY AS A RESOURCE A trip to the library can serve as a great bonding opportunity for children and parents. Most libraries have reading programs and other special events for children of all ages, and library cards are free. Plan a monthly visit to the local library, and enjoy its free programming. Libraries have gone increasingly digital and your child may be able to download e-books and audiobooks from the comfort of home.

6. ENCOURAGE WRITING In our schools we encourage children to create their own stories. This is something that can be done at home as well. The more students can see themselves as authors, the more they’ll learn to understand and appreciate books told from different perspectives. While traveling home, you could have your child tell you a story about their day at school or one from their imagination as a way to build these skills.

7. READING STRUGGLES Sometimes children may struggle with reading for reasons beyond their control. The earlier a reading problem is identified and addressed, the easier it will be to help a child become a successful reader. All reading difficulties can be surmounted with the proper interventions. Let your child’s teacher know if you suspect your child might be struggling with reading. We want to see all of our students succeed and will work with you to assess the situation and find the best possible solution and/or support.

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