How do you get children to fall in love with reading?
My children love reading. I’ve always tried to support their interests and that includes their book selections. In raising unschoolers, I’ve tried to avoid ‘required’ reading or assigned books. For me, and I think for most people, being required to read something or do something is almost a surefire way to kill joy and enthusiasm.
Instead, I’ve found that the key to getting kids excited about reading–and reading different genres of books–is having a wide selection of books available to my children at home, making bookstores and libraries part of the fabric of our lifestyle, and modeling a passion for reading.
I’ve never rushed my kids to learn to read, and I think that’s also a big reason why they love to read.
There’s No Rush to Read – Trust Your Child’s Own Timetable
Like in the Waldorf tradition, I have come to see the beauty and personal/emotional rewards (for my child), such as developing a deep love of learning and self-confidence, with a natural, exploratory approach to early education that emphasizes oral learning, listening, and telling/re-telling of stories before emphasizing reading or written work.
My oldest child went to school for preschool, kindergarten, and almost all of first grade, and perhaps it is merely coincidental, but out of my children, it took her the longest period of time to truly fall in love with reading and not consider it a chore. My other daughter, who has never attended preschool or school, taught herself to read at age four. My boys taught themselves to read around 8 and 9 years old. With my first son, I worried that he was learning to read ‘too late’ compared to school standards, but I had to remind myself to trust him and his timetable–and to trust myself. When he started reading, he jumped right into ‘thick’ chapter books, including non-fiction books published for much older readers.
I’ve never set rules or age limits on what my kids can or can’t read. It made me happy to learn that author Dayna Martin, a prominent unschooling mom, and author of Radical Unschooling: A Revolution Has Begun, took a similar approach when her children learned to read; she tells on a Facebook post that one of the first books her daughter read was by Marilyn Manson.
Books That Just Might Make Your Reluctant Readers Fall in Love With Reading
If you’re looking for book ideas for your children, here are some books that my unschoolers have loved over the years. Sprinkle some of these around your house, and you might be surprised to see your children gravitate to them–give them time and space, and believe it or not, you might just see them put down their screens and pick up a book. As a note, depending on your child, audio books or Kindle books might be a great option–some children, like some adults, really do prefer and find reading easier on a screen.
Graphic Novels, think comic books, are awesome reads for kids to develop curiosity and enthusiasm for reading. It’s hard to go wrong with graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier. They are geared toward middle school readers (grades 4-8).
My kids love this graphic novel!
And this one…
And this one too…
Graphic novels are also a fun way to ‘sneak in’ versions of classics into your children’s reading. I am sure that my daughter’s interest in the graphic biography of Anne Frank had something to do with her desire to read the full Diary of Anne Frank (Diary of a Young Girl). There are other classics, too, in graphic novel form. If there’s a book you’d like your child to read or they’ve expressed interest in one that they aren’t quite ready to grasp (perhaps because of the length or depth), see if there’s a graphic novel version to get him/her started.
If your older children or teens seem reluctant to read, poetry or short stories can be a great way to build interest in reading and reader confidence. Look for ‘social media’ poetry, like InstaPoets (poets made famous through Instagram), which your teens may find relatable, short and sweet, and easy to read – but hard to put down. You may also find you love reading instapoetry. Even my grandmother loves reading Rupi Kaur’s poetry. Keep in mind, some of this modern, instapoetry is raw, un-sugarcoated, brutally honest, and graphic (blush, cringe, cry, or laugh worthy), so if you have concerns about that, you may wish to do your own preview of the book first. Vogue published a good list of the Best Poets on Instagram here.
Winner, winner, chicken dinner, right here! It’s hard to go wrong with these short story reads. For years, I’ve found these books featuring creative, empowering, and fun short stories beside my children’s beds after they’ve fallen asleep reading them, like the Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series.
If you’re thinking about homeschooling, changing your homeschooling approach, or adopting a travel/schooling lifestyle, these are some books I recommend, like Becoming Barenaked, the true story about a family who sold everything to travel and homeschool.
So, Ditch the Required School Reads and Help Your Children Fall in Love with Reading
Reading is scrumptious. It’s empowering. It’s life changing. Fill your home with amazing, inspiring books and watch your children fall head over heals in love with reading and learning.
Please drop a line if these books inspire your children (or you) to fall in love with self-led and self-motivated reading.