7 Tips for Inspiring a Child to Love Books

by On March 8, 2013 in General, Reading

Most grownups don’t need convincing that books are wonderful things. However, we may need reminding that a child’s appreciation for books isn’t a given. Some children seem to naturally love books. For others, that love must be cultivated.

In addition to reading to our daughter Hope each night, we’ve been exploring other ways to inspire her love of books. Here are 7 strategies we’ve taken for a test-drive with good results:

1. Model a love of books

Are your own books in storage, or a visible, accessible place? Does your child see you reading for pleasure? The idea is to show your child that books are a meaningful part of your life as well. Even seeing a parent read for a few stolen moments of a busy day can send a positive message.

2. Share the stories behind your favorite books

I recently showed Hope my treasured copy of The Little Prince and told her why it is one of my favorite things. My beloved fourth grade teacher read this classic to our class and then gave a copy to each child, inscribed with a beautiful personalized letter. Hope now holds this book with a look of wonder, excited to hear the story when she’s a little older.

3. Ensure kids have a dedicated place for their books?

When their books are tossed in toy chests or piled up on any available surface, kids are less likely to see their books as special. If space for bookshelves is an issue, consider low-mounted wall shelves or portable book baskets meant only for books, not toys.

4. Help kids see books as meaningful gifts

We parents often end up in toy stores buying kid-party gifts, our children pulling us towards “pink aisles” and “action figure aisles,” begging for their own new toys. Next time you get a kid party invite, ask your child “What are some of your friend’s interests? Let’s find a book on that topic.” Hope has come to love the hunt for “the perfect birthday book” for her buddies. Sure, she sometimes picks pink princess books and action hero books, but hey, she’s picking books! (And when she asks if she can also have a book, I consider that a win.)

5. Rethink “goodie bags”

Speaking of kids’ parties, we’ve all dealt with “goodie bag” party favors filled with cheap plastic toys and candy. Consider bucking the trend: give books as favors. You may even spend less (discount stores offer affordable boxed book sets that can be divvied up). We gave board books at our daughter’s last party that complimented the party theme. ?Kids looked happy and parents looked very pleasantly surprised.

6. Help children discover their inner author

Most kids are born storytellers; just listen to the plots and character development in their play. The next time they are spinning a grand tale, make a suggestion: “That’s a great story; can you turn that into a book?” Even reticent readers like this suggestion. Make sure to have basic writing and drawing supplies on hand. Better yet, gift your child a cool blank book and watch a young author bloom.

7. Make books the payoff

As parents, we use a variety of incentives with our kids for their behavior, effort, and achievements. For example, we might offer special treats, trips, money, or staying up late privileges. But how often are books the incentive? In our home, the promise of an extra story at bedtime is a sure-fire motivator for our five-year old. For an older child, offering the next title in their favorite book series might work well.

It’s useful to see that Bookboard’s “unlock feature” also illustrates the “books as payoff” logic: if kids read a certain number of books, a spinning key appears, unlocking a treasure chest which yields -– a new book!

Does it work? Check out my daughter’s smile in the photo after unlocking her newest book. She goes after keys and reward books with a vengeance!

Bottom line, inspiring your kids to love books may take some time and creativity, but the potential payoff is worth the effort. When kids love books, it’s a beautiful thing.

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Diana is a sociologist, freelance writer and mom, though rarely in that order. Her writing spans topics from parenting joys and challenges to prevention education. She writes a monthly parenting blog for Yahoo and has published feature articles on adoption, family rituals and the childcare industry for parenting publications. Diana earned her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Santa Cruz. These days find her hanging with her husband and book-loving six year old in the San Francisco Bay Area, while happily blogging and serving as a reading advocate for Bookboard.

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