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How to Grow Your Child's Love of Reading Parenting Recipe

OK, so now your child is reading. Now what? Now you want to grow their literacy. This means exposing your kids to the written word in all its various forms. It means nudging them with a stick and carrot to keep reading. It means continuing to read to them until they are in college. The following list is only meant to be a springboard for your own ideas. Don't feel the need to do all of it, just choose what you works for your family. I gathered these ideas from many different sources.

  1. I don't care what the kids are reading as long as they are reading. (Of course, within reason.) Gross books, humorous books, comics, picture books, fairy tales - the more time spent with the written word, the better they will be at producing their own written words and also at digesting what they read. Some fun early reading books kids love are the Tin Tin books, the Asterix books, anything Star Wars, and the Disney Fairy books.

  2. Leave books of all sorts and all genres lying around. If they are having trouble getting started, read the first chapter or two, and then suddenly become "busy". If they want to read ahead, allow them to. You might even suggest it. They usually can't resist.

  3. Don't be too quick to put away the kids' picture books. My kids still like to go back and read Dr. Seuss. The sophisticated picture books, those that are meant to be read aloud to the kids, have incredible vocabulary and include more complex topics. Here are some to start with:

    • The Rainbabies
    • Zathura or any other book by Van Allsburg
    • Miss Rumphius
    • Swamp Angel
    • Rikki Tikki Tavi by Rudyard Kipling and illustrated by Pinkney
    • The Billy and Blaze books
    • The Merbaby
    • Lon Po Po
    • The Rough-Face Girl
    • The Little House, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, or any other book by Virginia Lee Burton
    • Rapuzel, Rumpeltstiltskin, Hansel and Gretel, or any other fairy tale adapted by Zelinksy

  4. Do not just file books and other reading material away neatly on shelves. Leave books and magazines sitting out on tables. Stack books in piles on the floor, leave a bunch next to their beds and in the bathroom. Kids tend to be a bit lazy about seeking out information but when it is sitting right in front of them, they can't resist. For example, subscribing to a newspaper on an e-reader is not the same for the kids as having the paper sitting on the kitchen counter. Children are such obvious products of their environment, and the more enriched the environment, the "smarter" the kid. (The most famous experiments have been done with mice. The harder the mazes and the more stimulating the environment, the "smarter" the mouse. The mice in the enriched environment actually developed heavier brains!)

  5. Use movies as a motivating factor. When I knew The Hobbit movie was being released, I started reading The Hobbit and then the Lord of the Rings Trilogy to my kids BEFORE they saw the movie. I like the kids to imagine the characters themselves first before seeing someone else's interpretation. We also did this with movies which were already released. I read the entire Harry Potter Series to the kids before they watched a single movie. (It took one LONG year.) We then watched a different Harry Potter every weekend. It was so much fun to see the kids recognize every one of the characters immediately when they appeared on the screen for the first time.

  6. Continue reading to the kids until they head off to college. Pick books that are either above their reading level or which are really good for discussion. Pick different genres. I was reading the parenting book Queen Bees and Wannabees by myself when I realized it would be even better if my 12 year old daughter read it. So we read it together, and it helped her dissect some of the girls' patterns of behavior which were going on in her class at the time.

  7. Nothing is better than a trip to a good bookstore. Take along a friend of the kids who is a good reader and watch them recommend different books to each other. We go to the Bankstreet Bookstore in NYC twice a year. It is the best! There is a woman there who knows every kids' book. The kids try to stump her by asking her for suggestions for books they haven't yet read. When she suggests a book they have already read, they feel so accomplished!

  8. I often refer to The New York Times newspaper as the "The School of the New York Times." It is the best "school" in the world. I have my kids pick an article every day to read. I don't care what it is, as long as they are reading. My 3rd grader loves sports, my older daughter loves the technology section, and my other daughter loves health. I often suggest articles for each of them. Start with the shorter articles. Leave the paper lying open in the kitchen turned to a good article and they usually can't resist.

  9. Listen to audio books in the car or at home before bed. Harry Potter is fantastic as an audio book, the narrator Jim Dale is outstanding. Jim Weiss is another fantastic narrator, he has a great voice and his audiobooks range from very funny fairy tales to Sherlock Holmes to Shakespeare. Introduce different genres with audiobooks. The Story of the World Series by Susan Wise Bauer is a great way to introduce history to grade school kids. It is also narrated by Jim Weiss.

  10. Subscribe to magazines and leave them everywhere: in the car, in the bathroom, and in the kitchen. National Geographic and National Geographic for Kids are a good place to start. Add in Scientific American and Time. If you are feeling really motivated, try the Economist, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Discover and Wired. For younger kids, try Ask, Zoobooks, Cricket, Click and National Geographic Little Kids. Most subscriptions are available on Make sure to read the magazines with the kids first to get them in the habit of picking them up.

  11. Use a reward system to help motivate the kids. We used poker chips. Please see my reward system recipe post for details.

  12. Read as a family. Some weekends when everyone is home, my husband will tell everyone to put away what they are doing because it is reading time. We all hang out together in the living room with everyone reading their own stuff.

  13. Bring a suitcase (small, with wheels) filled with books with you on vacation. The suitcase is usually very heavy and makes it impossible to "travel light" but it is worth it when you get there. This is the time when the kids have the most free time. Usually by the end of the vacation, I have to resort to e-readers because the kids have read everything I brought along.

The Story of the World Vol.1: The Ancient Times (From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor)
The Story of the World Vol.2: The Middle Ages (From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance)
The Story of the World Vol.4: The Modern Age (From Victoria's Empire to the End of the USSR)
A Tale of Two Cities
Galileo and the Stargazers
Egyptian Treasures: Mummies and Myths
Treasure Island
Heroes in Mythology: Theseus, Prometheus, and Odin
Mystery! Mystery! For Children
Sherlock Holmes for Children
Spooky Classics For Children
The Queen's Pirate: Elizabeth I and Sir Francis Drake, Explorer Extraordinaire
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Abraham Lincoln and the Heart of America
The Prince & The Pauper: The Mark Twain Classic
Thomas Jefferson's America
Romeo and Juliet
Tales From the Old Testament
Fairytale Favorites in Story & Song
The Three Musketeers & Robin Hood
Greek Myths

Greek Myths

King Arthur and His Knights
A Christmas Carol and Other Favorites
Rip Van Winkle & Gulliver's Travels
Best Loved Stories in Song & Dance
She & He: Adventures in Mythology
Jewish Holiday Stories
Giants! A Colossal Collection of Tales and Tunes
A Treasury of Wisdom: True Stories Of Hope and Inspiration
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea
Masters of the Renaissance: Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and More
Women in Blue or Gray: True Stories from Both Sides of the American Civil War
Tales From Cultures Far and Near
Famously Funny: A Collection of Beloved Stories and Poems
Good Luck Duck
Gone West: Bold Adventures of American Explorers & Pioneers
Animal Tales

Animal Tales

Sweet Dreams

Sweet Dreams

Good Night

Good Night

Uncle Wiggly's Storybook
Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories
The Story of the World Vol.3: Early Modern Times (From Elizabeth I to the Forty-Niners)
The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book


Out of stock

Celtic Treasures

Celtic Treasures


Out of stock

Arabian Nights

Arabian Nights


Out of stock

William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and The Story of Rome
American Tall Tales

American Tall Tales


Out of stock