So how did I raise a reader?
Be a ReaderIf you don't read, don't expect your child to read either. Monkey See, Monkey Do is the rule here. So if you want your child to read, boost your own reading habits! We have bookshelves dripping with books in almost every room of the house (including hers). She sees us reading constantly. We take books on vacation with us for her and for ourselves.
Make Reading Fun
Read to themWe read to her all the time. Even when she was a few weeks old, I read board books to her. I pointed to the illustrations. As she got older, I traced the words I was reading while I read them. I read a Mother Goose nursery rhyme book to her over and over, daily. I read to her all the time: at breakfast, throughout the day, before bed.
Let them move aroundI let her move when she’s listening. On Saturdays, it’s not unusual for me to read to her for an hour or more – when we started Harry Potter all her waking leisure hours were devoted to listening to me read. But she’s a kid, so she’s not going to sit still and listen. And she’s not going to stare at a page that’s covered in text. So I let her rough house and play. I sit and read and she jumps around the room, colors, does crafts, or plays with a doll or two. I know she’s soaking in the story, even if it looks like she isn’t. Even at bedtime reading, I let her move freely around her room. Sometimes she spends that time constantly jumping off the bed.
Push their reading limitsI read books that are beyond her reading capacity. Board books and Mother Goose gets old really fast. So as soon as I could, I upped the game. I started her on Dr. Suess when she was not quite 2 years old. We read A.A. Milne Pooh stories to her when she was just three years old. We started the Narnia books when she was four. She is almost 7 years old now and we have read the following books to her: the entire Narnia series, the entire Little House on the Prairie series, the first two Harry Potter books, the first three Wrinkle in Time books, The Hobbit, several Roald Dahl books, and the first two Anne of Green Gables books. It may seem too advanced, but kids love extended story lines. Chapters books are like serial TV shows. They end with a cliffhanger, follow the stories of multiple characters, and have distinct stories in each chapter. If your kid can follow a TV show, your kid can follow a chapter book plot.
Read classicsClassic books get that way for a reason. Yes, the culture and language of The Secret Garden or Narnia might be a bit odd to modern ears. But the stories are eternally appealing and understandable. And while you might think a book like The Hobbit is not really appropriate for a 6 year old, my daughter would beg to differ. I've read some of the books that are based on TV shows and movies, and let me tell you, they are crap. No kid is going to fall in love with reading by reading a badly written synopsis of a cartoon TV show. And you don't have to go old school. The Harry Potter series is well written and will become a classic. Your librarian will be able to help you a lot here.
Pick fun booksYes, we started our daughter with basic classics. Although she enjoyed Little House in the Big Woods, when we started Farmer Boy, we lost her. In fact, it took a year to convince her to listen to another Little House book because she was so turned off by Almanzo! So if your kid hates a book, don't force it on them. We moved on to Narnia after the Farmer Boy disaster, and she loved it. After we read through the entire Narnia series twice, we graduated to Harry Potter (just the first two books). When I started Harry Potter, she was on fire! Every minute of every day, she wanted to listen to Harry Potter.
We recently read Anne of Green Gables followed by Anne of Avonlea. She loves the characters, but at the end of Anne of Avonlea, decided against reading more Anne. She told me that Anne was getting too grown up. So we've stopped reading that series - I'm confident she'll return to it in a few years.
Another super favorite author of hers is Roald Dahl. We had read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to her a couple of times. Now, some parents might shy away from Dahl, with the dark humor and violence. Yet she loves the books. In fact, she loves them so much that she is beginning to read them independently. They are just right above her reading level, but she enjoys them so much that she struggles through just for the satisfaction of it.
Make reading a rewardI let her stay up past bedtime to read. Her bedtime is 7:30 PM, and we are pretty strict about that. She’s a night owl, and can easily stay up until 10 or 11 PM without getting irritable. So it’s important to get her in bed early so she has sufficient time to wind down and fall asleep. But for Christmas this year, Santa brought her a night table and lamp. I knew she was just starting to read, so I decided to give her an incentive to improve her reading. I gave her permission to stay up as late as she wanted, as long as she was in bed reading a book. It could be any book – challenging or simple. I often came in her room at 9:30 or 10:00 to check on her and would find her fast asleep face down on a book! She’s also learning how to self regulate the amount of sleep she gets.
Don't teach, just readI explain some concepts, but not all of them. Many of the words in these books are far beyond her vocabulary. But the context explains them well enough. If she interrupts to ask what a word means, I define it. Or if it’s a foreign concept, I explain it. But generally, I just read along. Stopping to look up a word while reading interrupts the entire process for an individual. The ability to press on through the story and let the context define the word is good for reading comprehension.
I've inserted some links to articles that support or expand on these concepts, but basically this is my own strategy. I hope you find it helpful! Feel free to add your own successful techniques in the comments.