A love for reading is caught, not necessarily taught. It is similar to a love of basketball or a love of sushi. A number of factors go into your child’s enthusiasm for reading: the opportunities they are presented, the confidence and knowledge gained from the experience, and the emotional needs that are being met through the experience.
It’s reading time! My little boy and I crawl into bed together. I have an array of books on my nightstand. I let him have the important job of picking what book we read together. At this point in his life, reading is not about the words on the page. It is about the experience of being snuggled up with Mom or Dad, about seeing interesting things on the pictures, asking questions, being entertained, and providing fuel for his fertile imagination. I point to the words on the page as I read. He is developing a confidence about how to handle books, understanding the fact that the clumped together letters on the page translate into meaning that explains the pictures he sees. Reading may not have been his first choice, just as carrots may not be his first choice in food. But over time, as I expose him to the world of reading, I often have trouble getting him to stop!
Reading to your child aloud is the single most important factor in literary success for a child. The number of books a child has in her home is a great indicator of how well she will do in school. That doesn’t mean you have to be rich. Libraries can be a great resource. Trips to the library can be as exciting to your child as going out for ice cream, and they can come home with new and priceless treasures each time. Whatever you do, make sure reading time is an enjoyable experience for both you and your child. Let him catch you reading to yourself when you could be doing something else. He will picture himself getting to read big books when he gets older.
Notice what interests your child. Where do your child’s intelligences lie? According to Howard Gardner, there are eight different types of intelligences: body smart, people smart, word smart, number smart, nature smart, self smart, music smart, and picture smart. If your child is more of a people person, you might choose books that are more character-driven, ones that are about relationships. If your child has naturalistic tendencies, get her books about animals in their natural habitat or activities like cooking, fishing, or gardening. If at all possible, choose books that relate to his world, like ones that are based on movies he’s seen or based on activities your family enjoys. A very gifted young boy refused to read until his parents started letting him read instruction manuals! Test your child’s interests by exposing him to lots of different reading materials. You may be surprised at what motivates him.
One public school had the audacious idea of refusing to force kids to read. They presented opportunities for children to read whenever they could, but they got tired of ramming it down their throats- so they simple stopped doing it. An amazing thing happened. That school had all their pupils reading by age eight. The kids were excited about reading and their successful experiences helped to fuel that excitement. You will not need to force your child to read if you consistently provide them with happy opportunities to enjoy reading.