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How I Got My Children to Read More Kid's Books

I’m warning you now, this is not a blog about how easy and fun it can be to get your kids to read every day. I know. I love easy answers and finding shortcuts.

Sorry. That’s not going to happen.

But, I will promise that there are great payoffs and parental inner peace when you stick to it and prioritize the importance of reading to your kids.

Now, for some kids the magic does happen easily. Even though my older son was a late reader (2nd grade), he loved our bedtime reading ritual. Once he was able to read on his own, he devoured books. Our weekend past time was going to the library and checking out a stack of books (read here about why reading paper books is better for comprehension). He would finish them in a few weeks and be ready for more.

The rule in our house was that he had to read 30 minutes a day for fun. He could read whatever he wanted…..comic books, cook books, the newspaper. I didn’t care what he read, I just cared that he read.

As a single mom, that time before bed when he opened his book was magical. Our apartment was quiet. To be honest, I started the rule to carve out solace in my day. It’s the same reason I always made him go to bed early-I needed the break. It’s only later that I read about the importance of reading and sleep for kids. Whew…. glad meeting my needs provided benefits for my son!

To this day, he remains a passionate reader.

But, that wasn’t the case with my younger son. My stepson came into my life when he was 10. He didn’t have an established reading routine. In fact, he hated to read. He thought he read slow and just didn’t want to do it. He’s very bright and so struggling with reading felt like a blow.

By now, I had read the research and knew the importance of reading. I suggested he begin a reading routine. He was not on board at all.

At dinner when we discussed the new routine, you would have thought we told him he was going to the dentist. He got a sour look on his face. That weekend we went to the library to find books. He was not having it and chose a few books reluctantly. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.

On Monday when we announced reading time, the tears began. He protested. We insisted. He eventually began reading and crying at the same time. It took him 30 minutes to just get his book. We kept our cool and stood firm. We read at the same time.

The second and third day were worse. The protests got more intense. As hard as it was we stayed firm. He eventually lost the battle and got to reading.

By the weekend, he resisted less. During dinners, we would discuss his books. One day he came home proud. He had been called to read in class and did a great job. You could feel the confidence and joy in his tone.

The following weekend he was ready for new books. As a reward, we took him to the book store to buy a book. He found an adventure book series, the Inheritance Cycle. In the car, I turned to talk to him and he had already begun to read.

It took a week of tears and resistance, but it happened. We didn’t negotiate (I’m not big on negotiating with kids and we agreed this was a non-negotiable issue). We stood firm. We gave him choice. We rewarded him with trips to the bookstore on occasion.

It worked.

He became an avid reader. His grades improved. His confidence improved.

Yeah, as a teenager, we nudge him to read sometimes. But, he does it and loses himself in books.

It’s not easy, but well worth the investment.

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