Read Across America Day—Get Kids to Love Reading!

“How do I get my kids to love reading?” This is a common question that I am often asked as a teacher. Today, March 2, is Dr. Seuss’ birthday, and the day that teachers, librarians, and parents across the country come together to celebrate reading and to motivate children to get excited about literature. We know that children who read tend to be more successful learners, better at comprehending texts, and better writers, but how do we motivate the children who genuinely dislike the idea of reading? Since today is National Education Association’s Read Across America Day, I thought I’d share some of my tips to get kids to love reading.

Don’t give up on them!

I don’t know one child who hates being read to—so if they recoil at the thought of picking up a book, then read to them! Make this a daily ritual. Be sure to mix up your selections to introduce them to a variety of genres. We naturally read to our young children; we give our infants board books to chew on and look at, and we read the same picture book a million times with our preschoolers. Don’t just stop as soon as they’ve mastered decoding words on their own. Keep reading to them! My third-grade class’s favorite time of the day was near dismissal (obviously), because I would read aloud from a chapter book. It would take us weeks to finish, but they were so focused on the story. The best part: I’d always stop on a cliffhanger to keep them engaged and ready to read the next day. The groans across the room when I’d snap the book shut were glorious! When we finished, they were always eager to find the second book in the series to read themselves.

Find out what they’re passionate about and make sure they have those book available to them.

My son loves anything that has to do with trains. He’s an emergent reader and enjoys “reading” books by making up stories to match the pictures. I’ve made sure that he has all of his train books in one accessible space in his room so that he can easily get to them. I even caught him showing one of his train books to his two-year-old sister the other day. My heart melted! Because a lot of books for preschoolers are “predictable readers,” children start to feel confident with sharing stories with others because they know what’s coming next (think Brown Bear, Brown Bear). Even though they’re merely memorizing the story or anticipating repeated phrases, they’re still practicing and strengthening pre-reading skills.

Visit the library often.

Even if they decide to check out the same books over and over (my son will only check out train books—sometimes he tries to sneak in multiple copies of the same book), continue to take them as often as you can. If time allows, take them to a story time or an event that the library is hosting. My kids love the tiny kid-sized furniture and always insist on reading at least one of the books they’re checking out before we leave.

Ask questions.

As your child gets older, they’re moving away from the “learning to read” phase toward “reading to learn.” Ask them questions about what they’re reading to help develop their comprehension skills, especially if it’s an assigned book that they aren’t particularly enjoying. Help them make comparisons among other books they’ve read, ask them how they might change the ending, find out which character they most identify with and why, and have them critique the story. By critically thinking about what they’re reading, they’ll be more engaged in the story and eager to see how it ends. If it’s a book you’ve never read, consider reading along with them and coming together to have a mini book club.

Help them find a comfortable space for their reading.

My six-year-old likes to read under the coffee table. She also likes to read books outside while sitting on the patio or up in her playhouse. While I prefer to read in a quiet place, she doesn’t like to be confined to her room to read because she feels isolated. Let them read where they feel the coziest, even if it means letting them build a blanket fort and using flashlights to read in their “cave.”

Model it.

Finally, let them see you reading and enjoying a story, a news article, or a magazine. Make reading a normal part of life (because it is!) and not a chore. Use Read Across America Day to jump-start a literacy-rich household—a household of kids who read are constantly engaging their minds, making inferences about the world around them, developing opinions, strengthening their imaginations, and adding to their knowledge bases whenever they reach for a book.

Jessica Grubb
Jessica, a native of North Texas, lives in Wylie with her husband of 8 years, David. She is an elementary teacher, turned stay-at-home mom, turned preschool teacher. When she’s not up to her elbows in a random project, writing and re-writing lesson plans, or reading (trying to finish?) a good book, she and her husband are busy raising their three incredibly amazing kids: Emily, who just started Kindergarten, loves science, and wants to be a chemist when she grows up, Liam, a 3-year-old who can always be found playing with trains and building intricate tracks, and Charlotte, a 1 ½ year old who enjoys dragging her Lambie around and belting out songs in the middle of the store/doctor’s office/library. Jessica graduated from UT Dallas with a degree in Literary Studies and then went on to receive her teaching certification from Texas A&M Commerce. She has taught private school in Garland and public school in Plano ISD. She is currently teaching at a preschool in Wylie where her middle and little also attend. She thinks it’s great that she’s right down the hall from them and is happy to be back in the classroom! She loves to write and recently started a blog about being a mom, wife, and teacher: I'm Sorry for What I Said When I Was Tired