Emily Buchwald once said, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” That’s the theme of this week’s coloring page. But I want to unpack it a little. What, exactly, can parents do to raise children who love to read?
As a homeschool mom, I want my children to enjoy devouring good books as much as their dad and I do. That’s one of my deepest desires.
First and foremost, I want them to love the Word of God. I want them to read the Bible daily, hide it in their hearts, and look to it for guidance.
If children can learn to love books on the laps of their parents, they can learn to love the Lord from the same vantage point. Scripture backs this idea:
- “You brought me safely from my mother’s womb and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast… You have been my God from the moment I was born.” (Psalm 22:9-10)
- “From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15)
- “Lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and… teach them your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” (see Deuteronomy 11:18-23)
Beyond passing on to our children a deep faith and hunger for God’s Word, we want to cultivate in them a love for learning. A thirst for knowledge. An active mind that is curious about everything and asks lots of questions.
That’s why reading is key. The more kids read and love to read, the easier all those other goals become.
Raising children who love to read
As it turns out, the practices that studies cite as most predictive for childhood literacy and academic success are the very things my husband and I have been doing — almost without thinking — for three decades of child-rearing. If you want your kids to be bookworms, these 10 habits will help:
Read aloud to your kids
Start early, while they’re still babies. Read often — daily if possible. And don’t quit, even after they learn to read on their own. Even our college students still enjoy hearing Dad read aloud to the family each evening after dinner and before bedtime. So they sit in on story time as often as their schedules will allow.
Discuss what you read
Let kids retell the story in their own words — something Charlotte Mason calls narrating. If different family members are reading different books, let them share what they’re learning and thus expand everybody’s knowledge base. When reading a story together, don’t be afraid to stop in the middle to define unfamiliar words or explain cultural references. Ask questions to make sure everybody’s paying attention. When a character says or does something unexpected, take turns guessing why or predicting what will happen next.
Build a home library
Multiple studies have demonstrated the importance of a child’s having easy access to books and other printed material. In fact, reading scores vary directly with the number of books in a child’s home. Also, kids who grow up in homes with at least 20 books average three more years of schooling than children from bookless homes. So start collecting good books right away and add to it as you’re able.
Limit time spent on digital devices
Books are awesome. But until their love for reading is firmly established and their powers of imagination well-honed, video programs and computer games will undermine your child’s literacy. YouTube, Netflix, and Nintendo are the junk food of entertainment. Occasional tastes won’t ruin them, but a steady diet of such fare will keep their minds from being as quick and sharp as they’d otherwise be. Far better to spend the bulk of their time between the covers of a good book than staring at a screen.
Set a good example
Rather than spending every spare minute scrolling through social media, reach for a book when you have downtime. Let your kids catch you with your nose in a novel. Don’t just tell them reading is important — show them, by your own choices, it is important to you.
Challenge them to read more
Give them an easy way to track their reading. Print one of my year-at-a-glance calendars, and have your child check off each day he reads something for pleasure. Tape a caterpillar head to her bedroom wall and add a body segment for every book she finishes. Give your kids a copy of my reading challenge and race to see who can finish the list first.
Listen to books on tape
Remember: Audio books count as read-alouds, too. And, depending on the narrator, listening can be almost as entertaining as watching a movie (while still giving visualization skills a good workout). You can use the Libby app to check out audiobooks from your local library, listen to public domain works for free on Librivox, or join a streaming service or audiobook club like Audible or Christian Audio and get your choice of best sellers and new releases.
Reward them for reading
The jury is out on whether rewarding kids for reading is a smart idea or not. Some say — and I agree — that reading should be its own reward. But summer book clubs and reading reward programs have incentivized our kids to spend sufficient time reading to develop good reading habits. And to realize they really enjoy reading. And to eventually realize that the pleasure they get from finishing a book is all the reward they need.
Let your child read to you
If he’s just learning, have him read passages from Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. If he knows how to read but struggles with fluency, try alternating pages. You read the odd pages and let him read the even. If you own more than one copy of a book, have him follow along as you read, then pause occasionally for him to pick up where you left off.
As important as reading long and often to your children is picking “twaddle-free” books that captivate their attention. Choose books you can read over and over again and never tire of. I don’t care if you’re reading an 8-page board book or a 2000-page trilogy, if it doesn’t hold your interest (or at least contain delightful illustrations), you are wasting your time. And slogging through mind-numbing texts might possibly turn them against reading altogether. So choose your books wisely. (Scroll down for a list of our family’s favorites)
Katherine Mansfield observed, “The pleasure of reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books.”
This is so true. Good books are even better when shared. Whenever I read a wonderful book, I want my family and friends to read it, too. That way, we can discuss it afterwards.
In that vein, I’m linking several of our family’s favorite books below. These lists are in no particular order and are by no means exhaustive. But they highlight books that can be enjoyed by all ages, most of which we’ve read multiple times.
Click on the links of any title that interests you for more information or to purchase through our affiliate link. (When you do so, we earn a small referral fee, at no additional cost to you. These fees help defray the expense of running this website and allow us to continue offering the bulk of our resources for FREE. So thank you for your support!)
Don’t have a big budget for new books? Make a list of what you’re looking for and buy used. Keep an eye peeled for choice titles at garage sales and thrift stores. Or ask grandparents to buy books off your wish list for birthdays and Christmas.
Great picture books to read to your little ones
Several of these titles are available in board book versions. If your children are babies, you’ll want to get at least a few titles in that more durable format, so they’ll survive enthusiastic page-turning and other not-so-gentle treatment. For even more picture book recommendations, follow this link: 50 Picture Books Every Child Should Read
- The Napping House by Audrey Wood
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin, Jr.
- Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
- King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey & Don Wood
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
- Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
- Going to Sleep on the Farm by Wendy Cheyette Lewison
- Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman
- Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman
- Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner
- Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss
- Tiki Tiki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
Great chapter books for reading aloud
If you are new to reading longer books out loud to your kids, I’d suggest starting with a stand-alone title before tackling a lengthy series. Here are some of our family’s favorite chapter books.
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
- The Iron Ring by Lloyd Alexander
- Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth
- Larger than Life Lara by Dandi Daley Mackall
- The First Two Lives of Lukas Kasha by Lloyd Alexander
- Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
- Schooled by Gordon Korman
- Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
- Watership Down by Richard Adams
- Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
- Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
- Restart by Gordon Korman
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Wonderful series to share with your youngsters
We’ve read a lot of great book series over the years, but these are our favorites. We’ve read all but the Fun Jungle Mysteries (which are still relatively new) multiple times. They never grow old.
- The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Little Britches Series by Ralph Moody
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis
- The Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
- Fun Jungle Mysteries by Stuart Gibbs
Whew! That’s enough for now. I know I’ve left lots of great books off my list, but this post is too long already.
If you look closely at the coloring page I shared in this post, you’ll find John 21:25 written around the edge of it. “Jesus did many other things. If they were all written in books, I don’t suppose there would be room enough in the whole world for all the books.”
I definitely know what it’s like to have more books than can fit in the space allotted to them! We have every bookshelf, closet, and cabinet filled to bursting with books as it is — and I have a hard time parting with any of them.
If you’re anything like me, you can think of several titles that should be listed with the other classics above. If so, let me know in the comments below. I’m always looking for a new favorite! 🙂