How Do You Teach Children to Love Reading?

This is my question to all mothers and fathers and teachers out there: How do you get you kids to read? I work with them at my job, and I can’t seem to bribe or cajole or trick them into willingly reading. It’s like pulling teeth. I can tell them that everything depends on literacy, that no future occupation or job is free of it, but they’re 9 years old; they care only about drawing, recess, and candy.

Today’s Action for Happiness calendar reads:

“Reframe a problem you face as a potential opportunity.”

So here’s my reframed problem: How can I encourage children to love books as much as I do? How do you do it? I know what my own mom did: she read to us from the beginning. Some of my earliest memories were of story time (followed by the dreaded nap time) and family reading in my parents big king-sized bed. At Christmas my dad would read us Christmas stories by candlelight. At 6 a.m. we would all read the scriptures before my dad went to work and the rest of us went to school. Books and words and reading have filled my life.

But that isn’t an option with these kids. What do I do now? Keep in mind, I have limited time. I have about 90 minutes a day max. And somehow I have to use that limited time to practice reading skills, language skills, and writing skills while keeping up with the regular class work. Then instill the love of reading in one year? Uphill battle.

If you have suggestions, please please please tell me what they are. I’ve been doing some reading, and PBS makes some (I hope) useful suggestions:

  • Use the child’s interests.
  • Don’t overwhelm them.
  • Read with them.

I should mention that the school I work for is wonderful at trying to encourage reading, providing plenty of reading time, and giving extra help to those who need it. The school’s not at fault; some of the children just lack—for whatever reason—a desire to read. It’s one of my jobs to help them find that desire. I consider reading one of life’s great joys; I want children to feel that as well.

Choose Joy.

—A

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