Three Secrets To Raising A Child Who Loves Reading


Reading helps calm me down by pulling me into another dimension. Leaving my body, I enter a portal into the book. When someone intrudes, I get sucked out like I’m taking a bullet train. (excerpt from “Hey, It’s Time To Read” a narrative writing exercise by T in fourth grade)

One of the greatest joys in my life is that I have two boys who love to read. Seeing them curled up with books gives me a huge metaphorical parental pat on the back. Reading is a passion for me and I love that this gift is being passed on to them.

The benefits are huge, but reading is particularly important when it comes to being smart about money. There’s a reason that it’s called financial literacy. Research shows that many financial documents – those you need to read and sign when applying for a credit card or a mortgage, for example – are written at a grade 12 reading level. And, shockingly, the majority of people cannot understand this level of language.

People often ask me what we did to help the boys love reading. I’ve written about this before, but I read a post recently about kids illiteracy that prompted me to share our “secrets” in more detail:

Have closed captioning switched on whenever your children are watching TV

This is my favorite tip that I share with everyone I can. I got it from the wonderful Jim Trelease, in his book The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth Edition. You can also read this tip in his leaflet, Ten Facts Parents Should Know About Reading. We did this when the boys were in preschool through to 1st grade for M when T (then in 3rd grade) asked if we could turn it off. It’s an incredibly powerful way of helping them acquire reading skills without effort.

We didn’t realize how powerful this was until T was in Kindergarten and I was about to read him his bedtime story. I was slow in starting because I was talking with Z. T said, “C’mon, Mom, start reading” and then read the first line of the chapter to get me started. I was really surprised and asked him to keep reading. He immediately read aloud the rest of the page without hesitation. For M, it took longer and he needed to practice reading aloud and sounding out words with us but, like his brother, he’s also now reading a grade ahead.

Turn off the TV

You knew this piece of advice was coming, didn’t you?! My boys are not allowed TV or video games from Monday to Thursday. From Friday to Sunday, they are allowed an hour each of TV and video games although we’ve recently been more lenient about the TV time and it’s been creeping up.

We hear from the teachers all the time that the kids should be reading 20 minutes every day. T and M usually read 2-3 hours per day – about an hour in the morning and then an hour or more in the afternoon/evening. So, compared to some kids who might be reading 2 hours 20 minutes per week, they are reading a minimum of 14 hours a week. In a year, the comparison is 121 hours and 40 minutes versus 730 hours. It makes a huge difference in their reading levels and their vocabulary.

We actually got the idea of the Monday-Thursday no screen time from another family and instituted it about three years ago. There was grumbling and whining for a few days but we held firm and within two weeks, they’d forgotten that there ever used to be TV on school days. Pam, over at MoneyTrail, cancelled cable TV back in January and noticed immediately that everyone in the family started reading more.

Feed the habit!

We have a constant fresh supply of books in our home. As you can see from the photo above, the boys have been exposed to books all their lives. We visit the library at least once every two weeks (sometimes more often) and we leave with 40 books in our bags. (I’m amazed when I see kids leaving with just one or two books!) We have a special table exclusively for library books (very necessary so we can keep track of them) and it’s out in the living room for easy access.

For boys, I’ve learned that it’s really important to have a mix of books. We always have some comic books available and at least a third of our library books are non-fiction books. The topics range from history to science to biographies. Occasionally, I’ll add some poetry books although I must admit it always stuns me when I see them reading poems for pleasure.

I’m a big believer in letting my boys read what pleases them, not me. I loved “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” as a child but neither of them are interested in it. If they want to read comics, they can. As long as they are reading. There are too many options waiting for them on our library table for them not to get tempted to explore other types of books too.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can raise a reader, I highly recommend checking out Jim Trelease’s site as he has a ton more tips that can help. Your child will thank you when it’s time to review that first credit card contract.

What’s your biggest challenge with helping your child read?


2 Responses to Three Secrets To Raising A Child Who Loves Reading

  1. Getting kids to read is a big passion of mine also. The list of benefits is tremendously long and touches all aspects of life. Two of my sons have gone through phases where they did not enjoy reading at all. School book reports were close to torture for them. We kept making it a priority and would occassionally require them to read for a designated amount of minutes before they could watch tv or play games. Now they really enjoy reading and go through books like crazy.

    Encouraging kids to find their interests is huge. One of my boys likes fantasy books, one likes non-fiction (history), another likes adventure stories and my daughter will read just about anything. When you hit a point where it is difficult to get a child to read, consider alternatives, such as scrabble, texting each other, notes in the lunch box and puzzles (word find or crosswords).

    I love your idea about close captioning on the TV! I’ll have to give that a try!

  2. Suzanne says:

    We haven’t hit a phase where the boys don’t enjoy reading so I’m so glad to hear that if this does happen, it’s a phase and there are things you can do to get through it.

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