by Lisa A. Beach
Since my childhood days of reading comic books and Nancy Drew mysteries, I’ve always been a voracious reader. As the family bookworm, I earned the nickname “Booka” from my dad, who was a big reader himself. And my mom helped foster my obsession with the printed word by reading my favorite books to me.
Now that I have my own family, I wanted to make sure I passed on my “first true love” to my two boys, now in their teens.
Sadly, plenty of research, such as the report by the National Endowment for the Arts, points to a downward trend in recreational reading, particularly among teens and young adults. Most alarming, cites the report, is that “both reading ability and the habit of regular reading have greatly declined among college graduates.”
One way to stem the tide of this disturbing trend is to instill the love of reading in your kids and not to rely on schools to do this. In fact, some school practices can destroy their love of reading, as noted in a recent article by clinical psychologist Erica Reischer in The Atlantic about the negative effects of forced reading logs.
“When motivation to do an activity comes from outside, via rewards or mandates, it tends to undermine people’s interest in doing that activity for its own sake,” writes Reischer. “This decline in motivation ultimately affects enjoyment, creativity, and even performance.”
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to foster the love of reading in your own home. Let these ideas jumpstart your own family’s love affair with books.
1) Be a reader role model. Make sure your kids see you reading frequently, whether it’s the newspaper in the morning, a magazine while dinner is cooking or your favorite novel before bed. Bring books with you everywhere you go—from a small paperback you stuff in your purse to a few magazines you stash in the car to a Kindle loaded with books for your next family vacation. Make books a habit in your own life first.
2) Fill your home with books. Literally, put reading material in baskets and on shelves all over the house—in the living room, the family room, the bathroom, etc.
3) Create a comfy reading nook. Perhaps you’ve got a cozy window seat with great natural light streaming through. Or maybe you’ve got a beanbag chair you can place next to a basket of books. Even just one comfortable chair will work. Add soft pillows, a blanket and good lighting for the perfect reading getaway.
4) Get kids hooked on a series or a favorite author. Once they finish one book, they’ll be ready to jump into another one.
5) Borrow, rent or buy audiobooks. Listening to a great audiobook without worrying about vocabulary or correct pronunciation offers a convenient and effortless way to get lost in a story. Many public libraries offer free CDs to borrow as well as downloadable mp3s or streaming audio. Although you can purchase many audiobooks on iTunes and join paid subscription services like Audible, you can also take advantage of free audio books on websites such as Open Culture, Thought Audio, Lit2Go and Podiobooks.
6) Start a tween book club.
If you as a parent are part of a book club, your child sees the impact the camaraderie and conversation is having on you. “I wanted my daughter to develop a love for reading that I didn’t acquire until much later in life, says Lakewood mom Brooke Gibbs on why she helped create a tween book club. “Tween girls are at such an awkward phase so coming together and getting the chance to give their opinions is huge!”
Use these ideas to nurture your family’s love of books, and you’ll increase the odds of hooking your kids on a lifetime reading habit.