It’s important for family members to model reading for children. Not only is it important to read TO your child, but it is also to read AROUND her. Children who see adults reading and see reading material in their houses are more likely to pick up the habit of reading themselves.
But what if you, the parent who is supposed to be the reading role model, don’t like to read yourself? I have been surprised by how many of people have admitted to me that they don’t like to read since I started talking about this post with people. They have given me a variety of reasons, all of them valid. But even if you have a valid reason for not liking to read, that doesn’t get you off the hook. Children need to be able to read in order to succeed in school. And one of the best predictors of a child’s liking to read is that they see adults reading.
Besides, reading is good for YOU, too. For example, reading can lower your stress levels and help keep your thinking abilities sharpened, among other things. One study found that reading for just 6 minutes a day could reduce stress levels by up to 68%.
So, let’s take a look at some of the reasons that adults have said that they don’t like to read, and some possible solutions.
1) I don’t have time to read. We are all busy these days, especially parents. And how are you supposed to make time to read yourself when you are trying to make time to read to your child? Here are some suggestions:
a. Keep reading material with you. We do a lot of waiting in this world, for appointments, for other people we are supposed to be meeting, even for our children to get their things together for school. Reading is a great way to reduce the stress caused by having to wait for yet another person! If you carry a book, magazine, graphic novel or Kindle in your purse, backpack, or even coat pocket, you can get in reading time any time. And you set a really good example for your children. Just imagine, if they learn to read while they wait, you won’t have to figure out how to entertain them in line at the grocery store!
b. Read something shorter than a full-length book. Short stories are an option. So are magazines. And poems. These are all relatively short pieces that could be read quickly, standing in line for example.
c. Set a time to read. I suggested this for reading to your children but you can do this for yourself as well. Maybe after you read to your child and put him to bed, you can take 30 minutes for yourself. You might sleep better, too. Or set up a time when both you and your children read to yourselves. Another opportunity for some great role modeling!
d. DO NOT force yourself to finish reading things that you do not like. We don’t have enough time in this world to read things that are boring or not enjoyable to us. Yet there are some people who feel that if they start a book/article/story, they have to finish it. Let it go! Put down the boring book and find another one that you like more. You will be more likely to find the time to read it.
2) I do better learning from pictures and graphics than words. Well, you are in luck because graphic novels are really easy to find these days! And they cover a wide range of topics. And they are in English and Spanish and a number of other languages. Here is one list of graphic novels for adults.
3) I haven’t found books that I like to read. There are so many different types of books: fiction, non-fiction, mysteries, science fiction, travel, graphic novels, etc. There are also a number of good web sites that offer reviews and suggestions about a range of reading materials, including Book Riot, Nerdy Book Club, and Good Reads. And here’s a good suggestion that I recently found: go to the library and check out a lot of different books, then only read the ones that you like. Don’t feel like you have to limit the number of books that you check out or read all of them.
4) I don’t read very well so it’s hard to read to myself or others. This is a tough one because it can be really hard to admit to other people that you have trouble reading. However, one of the best ways to get better at reading is to practice. And some of the best books for practicing are children’s books. So you have another great reason to read to your children! Children are also pretty forgiving about reading. So they don’t mind if you read more slowly. In fact, they might like it because they get extra time to look at the pictures and to snuggle. There are also some great resources online to help build reading skills, including services that take news stories and turn them into easier to read, shorter articles. Newsela is one free service that does this. And as you read to your children and practice yourself, you can prevent them from having trouble reading when they are older.
5) Books are too expensive. At $15 or more for a paperback, I sometimes experience sticker shock at bookstores. But there are less expensive ways to read. Libraries are one of the least expensive (i.e., free) places to find books, magazines, audiobooks, etc. Second-hand bookstores, thrift stores, and yard sales are also great places to find gently used books at much lower prices. You can also trade with friends. And nowadays, you can find books at Little Free Libraries in many neighborhoods. Put up by book lovers and offering books for free, you never know where you will find one. Check out this site for locations near you.
6) I don’t mind reading adult books, but I think children’s books are boring. As an inveterate reader of children’s books, I think that you probably just have not found the right books. Children’s books are not just about single words and line drawings anymore. There are thousands of books and many have very sophisticated stories with complex messages and gorgeous illustrations. Check out these lists of the New York Times best illustrated children’s books of 2015, NPR’s suggestions for children’s books that adults want to read, and this blog on beautiful children’s books to find some good reads for both your children and yourself.
Even though it can take time and sometimes you find yourself not enjoying a particular book or article, reading has so many great benefits. It is really worth trying to make it a regular pastime. It gets easier and more enjoyable over time. And it’s a great habit to pass on to your children. You may find yourself competing with them to see who can get to the library door the fastest!
This article is brought to you by Kids In Transition To School (KITS) author Dr. Katherine Pears. KITS is an evidence-based school readiness program developed at the Oregon Social Learning Center. For more information about KITS, please visit their website (http://www.kidsintransitiontoschool.org/)