Sylvia Cochran – Great readers are raised, not born. – 

Even though it is tempting to assume that a particular gene is responsible for the love of books, it is actually a matter of careful nurture, persistence and of course oodles of parental time and involvement.

Love Books? Pass it On!

Just like it is impossible to raise a spiritual child if there is no spiritual example set by the parents, it is exceedingly difficult to bring together kids, books and a love of reading if one or both parents do not occasionally sit down to read.

A child who sees a parent reading is much more likely to be curious about the written word. It does not matter if the reading material is a book, magazine or even just the back of a cereal box. In fact, the more varied the reading material, the better!

Raise a Reader through Daily Exposure

Introduce children early on to kids” books by reading to them. Initially, children do not understand the words, but over time they put together the pictures and the letters.

Given time, the youngsters realize that the stories consist of the words and can be repeated time and again. Even if you are pressed for time, there is always an extra five minutes for a quick picture book.

Immerse the Child in a Reading Environment

The library is a logical place for kids. Books are plentiful and oftentimes there are scheduled story times. While this might be a bit odd for older children, they benefit from the experience by learning how to read to others.

If you missed the bus on fostering an early love for books, it is not too late to raise a reader in the elementary or middle school years by encouraging volunteerism that includes reading to younger children. Discuss this with the child’s teacher, Sunday school instructor or a librarian.

When all Else Fails: Bribery

Bribe older children to love books. Although it sounds counterproductive, it is a good idea to get them into the habit of reading. Once in the habit, it is easy to keep it going by nudging them along. This takes a bit of finesse, but it can be done.

  • Define the parameters. For example, offer the child a certain toy — or dollar value to buy a toy — if s/he reads 10 books in 60 days.
  • Choose the books wisely. Rely on old stand-bys, such as Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Five Friends, American Girl or other series that have a huge appeal.
  • If the child enjoys one particular series, include two or three in the 10 books that form the basis for the agreement.
  • After the 60 days are up, “happen” to take your child to the bookstore and past the rack where these very books are for sale. (If money is tight, take the youngster to the library instead.) It helps to verify ahead of time that the books are available. If the child takes the bait and asks for one or more books, you have succeeded in raising a reader. If the child fails to take the bait, repeat the 60 day challenge; this time with different series.

How Not to Raise a Reader

There are several mistakes that parents make when trying get kids and books together. First and foremost, do not exceed the child’s reading level unless it is at the youngster’s request. There is nothing more frustrating for a child with a second grade reading level even if s/he is already in third grade than having to read a book that makes little sense.

Do not declare certain reading materials off-limits. Sure, there are some books that a Christian would not want to see introduced into a child’s reading choices and it is up to the parent to discuss the reasons with the kids.

That being said, there is nothing inherently “bad” about picture books, comic books, Anime or even odd topics, such as base jumping, mummification or crime scene investigation. As long as it is not illegal, immoral or age-inappropriate, it should be fair game.

It is tempting to micromanage a child’s reading time. When learning how to raise a reader, it is essential to remember that a hands-off approach helps a child to love books; a heavy hand, however, merely leads to an endurance of reading.

For example, it is acceptable to agree with the child that there should be three 20-minute reading periods per week in the child’s schedule. It is up to the child to schedule them. Just like the potato chips, “you can’t eat just one” and a good book is hard to put down after 20 minutes as well

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Sylvia Cochran

Sylvia is a writer, born and raised in Germany. Having been exposed to a variety of religions and traditions due to travel and study, Sylvia has been a student of the Bible for more than ten years and has for the last four years taught in small groups about Biblical principles, practical Christianity, Christian parenting, as well as the spiritual use of money.

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