With TV, the Internet, and electronic gadgets bombarding people wherever they turn, it's little surprise that we aren't reading as much as we used to. That's not to say that reading for fun is dead — nothing could be further from the truth — but these days parents and teachers have to work a lot harder to get kids to pay attention to the written word when there are so many other more exciting ways to spend their time.
Some kids simply do not like to read and no amount of coaxing will change their minds, but there are a few things parents can do to instill a love for reading in their children.
Read bedtime stories aloud
When I was a child, bedtime reading was my dad's job. We would all huddle around him and look at the pictures while he read the mysterious squiggles in his many different voices. I couldn't wait until I was old enough to decipher the words on my own and have the freedom to read whenever I wanted. Those nightly bedtime stories helped strengthen my relationship with my dad, and they also ignited a spark of excitement for the written word that has never gone out.
Build a library at home
Any time I walk into a room stuffed with shelf after shelf of books, the only thing I want to do is pick a book and settle into the couch for a few hours. My parents always struggled to find enough wall space for all of their overflowing bookshelves. It would have been easier to periodically get rid of books, but reading was important to both of them and they wanted their home to reflect that.
Let kids choose what they want to read
When I was a kid, I read nearly every book I could get my hands on — except for the classics. Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and J.M. Barry didn't appeal to me at all. Instead, I devoured books by Gail Carson Levine, Roald Dahl, and Ann M. Martin. If I had been required to read only the books deemed worth of classroom study, I wouldn't have read as much as I did, and may have given up on books altogether.
Make regular trips to the library, if possible
I grew up in a rural area, so there was no public library in my hometown. Because of this, my elementary school opened its library once a week during the summer so kids would still have access to books when school was out. Every Monday morning, my siblings and I would grab our canvas sacks, hop on our bikes, and head to the library. We usually picked out several books apiece and spent the rest of our morning perusing our new books. Even my brother — who to this day still can't read an entire novel unless forced — looked forward to the collection of books on bugs, trains and space he would get to pick out each week.
There are many proven benefits of reading, including a larger vocabulary, increased empathy and greater knowledge. It is never too early to introduce your children to books, even if you have to go out of your way to do so.