How To Raise A Reader: Part 1

By December 3, 2012General

The other day I posted this picture on Instagram. My girls and I were having a girls night out. At dinner, my oldest finished the book she was reading.

A few minutes later I noticed her moving in sync with her sister. Left, right, up down. Finally, I realized she was so desperate for something to read she was trying to read the back of the book her sister was reading!

It was cute and hilarious.

A friend asked how we have raised kids who love to read so much. It’s a question I get asked a lot and I wish I had a step by step solution for you, but I honestly don’t know how much is what we’ve done and how much is just the way our kids are wired.

In any case, I thought I’d share some things that I think have helped. This will be a series and today is possibly the most important tip…

How To Raise A Reader Step 1: Be A Reader

(Note: This photo is not a political statement. My kids are into learning about the Presidents right now and these biographies were in the grocery store checkout lane.)

Our kids value what we value. If we are intent on constantly learning, we will inspire them to live the same way.

It is important that our children know we are reading and purposeful about growing. My husband loves to read books. I like to read aloud to the kids, but I’m not the best at actually sitting down and finishing a book…

Problem: What If I Don’t Like To Read?
I wrote about this last year, so I thought I’d just share it again today. I know that as moms, it is hard to find the time to read and it’s also hard to find the energy to read helpful books instead of just fluff books. Here is the solution that has worked for me.

(The following was originally posted on 2/8/11)

Confession: I’m Not A Reader

I used to read voraciously, but lately my pile of books to read just keeps growing and growing. In this season of life, busy with small children at home, audio books have been my saving grace.

I don’t have many moments when I can just sit down and read a book. But I have lots and lots of moments when I can just listen. I’ve made a considerable dent in my “to read” book pile since I discovered how well audio books work for me.

Listen While You Work

I actually look forward to doing chores because I know I’ll be able to listen to my book. Formerly boring chores like washing dishes, folding laundry and scrubbing tubs are now…wait for it…f-u-n. It makes the time go by quickly and I feel productive while even doing mundane repetitive tasks.

Listen While You Run

I also love to listen while running. If I’m in a particularly unmotivated season of exercise, I’ll even make the rule that I can only listen to a certain book WHILE I run. Another advantage of audio books is that they don’t mess with your running or breathing rhythm like music can.

(This is the book I’m currently “reading”. It’s SO good.)

I Relisten Better Than I Reread

Sadly, I’m not one of those people who likes to read books over and over. But I’ve learned that I really enjoy listening to books multiple times. I’m now able to glean many levels of wisdom from the books I read.

How I Listen

I use to buy my audiobooks and their iPhone app to listen to them. I listen on my iPhone using earbuds. If my kids are awake and playing I use regular earbuds and typically only listen in one ear so I can be sure to hear them.

If I’m doing dishes, while Jimmy gets them ready for bed, I’ll use sound isolating earbuds so I don’t have to turn the volume up too loud to drown out the sound of the water.

You can also listen to audiobook cd’s from the library. If you commute, your drive is a great time to listen to books.

Getting Your Kids Interested

We don’t have a DVD player in our car, but I don’t think our kids care one bit. We have a supply of books by each seat and lots of audio books (and Adventures in Odessey episodes) on hand. This is especially great for road trips or books that the children are too young to read, but would enjoy listening to.

They love hearing the stories and imagining the scenes. Frankly, so do Jimmy and I.

Get a Free Audiobook offers a free trial which includes a FREE audiobook (!) so even if you have no problem finding time to read books it might be worth it to check out and have books on hand for Christmas road trips. Here is the link to the free trial.

Now, it is more expensive for me to buy audiobooks than it is to buy paperbacks. But I have read 10x as many books this year, good thought provoking books (A Thousand Gifts – for the third time, Kisses from Katie, Grace Based Parenting) that I probably would never have finished if I had to read them, so it has been a very worthwhile investment for me.

Questions For You

What book are you reading right now? Do your kids like to read? What tips do you have for those trying to instill a love of reading in their children? Click here to join in the discussion!

(note: this post contains an affiliate link. I share what I use and love.)

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  • Emily says:

    My kids both read well, and I believe it’s because my husband & I both value reading and we read all kinds of things! Magazines, books, newspapers, Google info on the computer, I even had the kids read cereal boxes to me at the grocery store when I took them. My 10-year-old likes to read non-fiction now, so we got him a subscription to a science magazine for his birthday. Just keep on them, and eventually kids read almost anything. 🙂

    • Kat Lee says:

      A magazine subscription – great idea. I hadn’t really thought about that for my 10 year old.

    • Joyce says:

      Emily, we’re the same way. I will read anything. If I run out of stuff at our house, I end up reading Car & Driver or catalogs. :p We’ve read to our girls from day 1.

      Kat, Melody really enjoys her Clubhouse Jr. magazine from Focus on the Family. I think Clubhouse magazine is the one for older kids. We order God’s World News through our homeschool group and it has a neat way applying the biblical view to what’s going on in current events. And it goes by their grade level.

  • Amanda Cross says:

    I’m reading The Bible Study Handbook by Lindsay Olesberg. My son is almost three and he loves to read…well, he loves to be read to and he loves to look through the book and point out words, letters, and pictures he recognizes. He also wants to read from his toddler Bible daily. We read at least one Bible story before he goes to bed at night. Since realizing that daily Bible reading for me is essential, I see that my son needs those life giving words too. I see faith already being produced in him and cannot wait until the day when he is able to understand it and profess it. 🙂

  • Sara says:

    I loved to read as a kid, and would happily have sat around reading the whole day long. However, my mom saw this as a negative thing, because reading is a very self-oriented task, and she wanted me to interact with my siblings more. I had an allotted time frame to read, kind of like I only had so much TV-time allowed. I do see pros and cons with both sides, if I would have been allowed to read as much as I wanted I would have chosen books before my sisters every time, curling up with fantasy instead of learning to be other-centered. On the other hand, I do think a love for reading is a good thing to have. Has anybody else thought about not letting kids read too much? Or was it just my mom? I only ever hear of “how to make your kids read more” , not “how to make your kids put the book down and love their sisters”. 🙂 Any thoughts?

    • Sharon says:

      Sara: That’s interesting. I’ve never heard about limiting the amount of time your children read. I do remember though, that my Mom limited the amount of time I could listen to the radio! (If I remember right, I could listen for 15 min/day). I still think it was totally ridiculous that she did that, but one good thing that came from it is I am a music lover.

    • Well, my parents did give me a limit…. but it was “you can’t read more than 5 hours a day”. If I hit the 5 hour mark they made me go outside. 🙂

    • Kat Lee says:

      I’ve not thought about having a limit for my kids, although I have kicked them out to the backyard on occasion to play and enjoy the sunshine.

    • Mandy Moore says:

      I spent years working with teens in churches and one thing I was always sad to see was a teenager at church or a social function sitting to themselves reading a novel or something other than the Bible. I came across several youth who struggled to connect with people socially. We do not allow our older girls to take books to church or a social event for this reason. I am not trying to say you we’re doing this, I was just giving one example of limits we set and why.

  • Heather says:

    I am not reading anything specific right now, just the Christmas books that we keep bringing home 🙂 My kids are not reading yet, they are 4 and 2, but I read to them constantly. Something I have done since my oldest was born is to read a lot of what I am reading myself, to them. I still read all the fun children’s books too, but I think there is something awesome about reading Pride and Prejudice to my kids, or the Narnia series…And they sit still for it, so that is a plus!

    • Kat Lee says:

      Pride and Prejudice and Narnia? Two of my favorite books. I imagine the advanced language of those books is really good for them to hear and help develop their comprehension.

  • Sharon says:

    I’m currently reading “Families Where Grace is in Place.” I have been a reader for as long as I can remember. My daughter is almost 3 and from the time she was quite small, she’d pick up books and pretend to read them. She also enjoys being read to. I read tons of books when she was nursing and would also read some each day while she played in the same room as me. I hope and pray that my love for reading will be a life long love that we can share.

    • Kat Lee says:

      That sounds like a good book. Is it along the lines of Grace Based Parenting?

      • Sharon says:

        That’s what I *thought* it was going to be about! But, the first part is actually more about marriage. I’m nearing the end of the book and they do talk about grace based parenting. For me, it turned out to be just what I needed to be reading right now. FYI – the full title (which I never bothered to look at!) is: Families Where Grace is in Place: Getting Free from the Burden of Pressuring, Controlling, and Manipulating Your Spouse and Children.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I read to them daily!
    As a good southern baptist, one year for Lent I gave up reading fiction (too much of that fluff you were talking about) and now I LOVE real life faith stories. I just finished Dreams & Visions by Tom Doyle (about Jesus visiting Muslims) and Anne Lamott’s gritty but real Traveling Mercies.
    Kat as much as I like you and read every blog post its funny how much stuff you do that doesn’t work for me (like a Mom cave-claustrophobia calling!!) I just have a hard time finding time to listen to stuff. My husband does tons of podcasts and he also can only get through a book if its audio but I have to have the paper in my hand while laying on the couch 🙂 so I do it Sunday afternoons, and evenings, sometimes during rest time or while my youngest is watching tv. I also keep up with all I read by doing Goodreads so I don’t forget what I’ve read and liked.

    • Kat Lee says:

      I’m sure there are plenty of readers here who are just like you and can’t do the audiobook thing. I think it’s SO great when people know themselves well enough to know what will and won’t work for them.

  • I’m currently reading The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton via my Audible app, Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, and Soul Detox by Craig Groeschel. Last night I just finished Fire Study by Maria V Snyder – the final installment in a v. addicting YA fantasy trilogy!

    • Kat Lee says:

      You ARE a bookworm (as your name says). Those sound like great reads…do you recommend them?

      • I’m really liking both the nonfictions. And — The Secret Keeper was AWESOME. Highly recommended.

        As for passing on my love of reading – I summed it up in my guest post on Simple Mom a while ago, but it makes my bookworm heart happy that my 2 year old loves books too! 🙂

  • Andrew says:

    Great tips, Kat!

    I believe being a reader yourself is the most important of all 🙂

    Children have the tendency to follow and immitate their parents, thus if you’re a reader, your children will also most likely enjoy this habit!

  • Sheila says:

    I’m currently reading a culinary mystery fiction. I’m more into paper based books than audio books. I can’t listen intently when I’m doing something else. I tend to read during waiting times and at night before I sleep. I started reading a bedtime story to my five year old ever since he was a baby. So now even if we’re tired at night and I want him to just go straight to bed, he insists on reading a book still. On some boring days he would flip through a picture book. When he sits in the potty sometimes he also wants to read a book. I guess it carried over from the potty training days.

  • Kimberly Todd says:

    Ironic time for me to read this post. I’m reading The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease about reading aloud to children. Really excellent. And in the back is a huge treasury of children’s literature.

    • Kat Lee says:

      That sounds like a great book – do you recommend it? (Off to check it out on Amazon…)

      • Kimberly Todd says:

        Kat, I HIGHLY recommend it, particularly for those who have an interest in literacy, and for those families who want to have an intentional impact on their children’s education.

  • YAY! So glad you wrote this post!! See? Never hurts to make suggestions! HAHAHA! So great! Thanks so much!

  • Tehila says:

    At the moment I am reading, “When You Rise Up” by R.C. Sproul! Great book… highly recommended!

    My children LOVE to read… seriously… we’re talking bookworms deluxe! They walk around the house reading, they walk to the park reading, they just can’t get enough of it!

    What did I do to get them to read? I exemplified it for sure, but I guess more than that, I just got them books to read that they ENJOYED reading. I’m actually quite picky with what they read, just as I am with what they watch. For the child that loves adventure, I took out good adventure stories from the library. For the child that can’t get enough of science, I took out great books on fish, human anatomy, and volcanos… I stuck to age appropriate resources that they just gobbled up alive. It worked 🙂

    God bless you as you abide in Him!

  • Kacey says:

    I love to read too! My ideal vacation would be a cozy reading nook with hours and hours of uninterrupted reading time. I’m currently reading The Mom Walk, Desperate and My Treasures. Question about audio books–With ebooks and paper books, you can highlight or bookmark something you want to remember. How do you do this with audio books?

  • Dawn says:

    Great post! I also find it amazing how early you can start your kids. My kids are 3.5 and almost 2 and every morning before starting our day, they hang out in bed for a bit with some books … I love watching my almost 2 year -old look through her books. They both love it, despite the fact that neither can yet read. 🙂

  • I love reading…holding a REAL book in my hands, underlining the parts that jump out to me…I love it…what great creative ideas though with the audio books…thanks!!

  • Mandy Moore says:

    I am currently reading Kisses from Katie :). My kids are readers as well! I totally agree that having parents who read is the foundation to having children who read. One thing we do is give books as gifts! There is rarely a holiday or gift giving opportunity that goes by with out a book being given. I do the work to find books my kids enjoy and I pay the big bucks for the special hard copy new edition of a series they love as a special gift. Currently, my 12 year old is reading the newest Benedict Society book and my 11 year old is reading the sequel to Princess Academy. Reading is such a blessing!

  • Joyce says:

    Currently reading The Mission of Motherhood (I think you’ve heard of it), Desperate, and Mockingjay….and I have a whole pile on the side that is calling my name…

  • Yonedi says:

    Im 35 with 4 kids. One teenager and three toddlers. I often feel like i just dont know what im doing. Frustrated and lost! My kids r paying the price. I googled in search for some help and found this site. Its perfect…