cultivating a love for reading in your kids

awwwwwwwwwwww. right? 

But seriously. Aside from the adorable collage of my son playing with a book, I'm curious how to instill a love for reading in my kids. I know some kids will really take to it and find a great pastime in books, and others will read the bare minimum to get by (no shame if your last Classic was in grade 12 English), and a lot of it is probably personality. But as a parent, I want to do my part too.

Brad and I place reading as a high value around here - the hubs especially. He shared this youtube video with me once and I couldn't even believe how much that was a glimpse into our life. But I digress.

I'd say as a busy adult, reading for pleasure isn't one of my favourite things, but I do read for other reasons - and pleasure is part, just not my total purpose. I have a really hard time finding fiction out there that I don't find too cheesy or too smutty. Can I say that? Do you know what I mean? It's like, there's not much out there in between Christian fiction and 50 Shades of Grey, it sometimes seems (though I'm always open to book suggestions!). But most of my reading falls into the category of research + learning. Of course, I do find pleasure in reading theology, Parenting books, and the odd pop psych (anything by Malcolm Gladwell, for instance), but the original goal is to learn, not to entertain. And Brad and I have found a true gem of a shared pastime in listening to audio books! Right now we're trying to listen to one Classic a month, and are only *slightly* behind. Does that count as reading? I hope so!

Anyway, our kids. How do we pass something like reading on to our kids. My husband is downright passionate about reading and is never not in the middle of a book with a long line of must-reads behind it. While I'm not as much an enthusiast as him or my sister (she is the fastest reader I know!), I still read about a book a month and am aiming to read the Bible cover to cover in a couple months right now and find great joy in the written word. And listening to the written word, ha!

My hope is that my kids will see our high value in reading and pick up on it, but what else can we do?

One idea I have is helping them find a character or series they like, and then getting every book in the series, so they build almost a relationship with the character/series. Lily has tons of books but the ones that are part of series tend to be her favourite - Madeline, Babar, Clifford, etc. I've started collecting all the Harry Potter books (though I haven't read them yet) and Nancy Drew books with the hopes of one day reading them together.

Another idea is to often buy new books (even if used) and let her pick out books whenever possible. I want Lily, and one day Oli, to feel ownership when it comes to books, and hopefully that will help grow the love. I still remember my dad taking me up to the book fair at my elementary school and I was shocked when he let me pick not one but two Goosebumps books. It was pure awesome. Also, anyone remember Goosebumps? Ya.

So what ideas can you share with me?
I'd love to hear how your parents cultivated a love for reading in you,
How you are doing the same to your kids, 
or how you're hoping to one day.


  1. Maggie13.2.13

    As you know, I'm a huge book geek, so I might get a little mushy talking about books, but I think that a huge part of cultivating a love of reading isn't to pressure your children to read, or learn to read, but just to enjoy books! Looking at pictures is "reading", as is retelling the stories! I mean, think about high school - how much better would those books and poems have been if we didn't have to analyze them, but could just enjoy them? Also, I think finding book series or types of books that kids like is so important - one of my kiddos doesn't read much at home, but after we read Arthur books during a mini author study, he began taking them home during library to "read" to his brothers. Same goes for ISpy! All of my kids try to read the clue...they go NUTS for ISpy!

    1. Mags, I was hoping you'd comment!! I admire your love for reading so much - you and Lisa are the most avid recreational readers I know (Brad too, but a lot of his is study)!

      Thanks for reminding me that at their young age, playing with and looking at books IS reading! That's a good point.

  2. I would agree with you that some of it is just personality. My parents are big readers, and I ended up being the same, while my brother doesn't often read for pleasure (although he is a lawyer, so he does a lot of reading for work). My grandpa observed in his daily log that I was a "budding bookworm" when I was all of 11 months old, so clearly I was always drawn to books.

    As you said, having books around and letting kids choose their own books from the library or bookstore are good ideas. It's also a good thing that your kids see you and Brad reading and enjoying books, which shows that books aren't just for school.

  3. Books by far are my most treasured gifts from my parents. I have loads of them that were gifted to me through the years. From a very young age, my parents would sit with me and read a book to me as i fell asleep. We would look at the pictures, and when i could, discuss what was happening in the plot.

    Enid Blyton is a GREAT children's author. I'd recommend any of the stuff she wrote. I also grew up reading a lot of Noddy books.

    When i come over (please Lord, let it be soon!) i'll play/read with the kids.

    1. yess, I hope that day is soon!!

      we are busy in March but what about April?

  4. Hi Emily,

    I cannot say that my parents did a lot of efforts to get me to love reading, but I have a friend who's mother would bring him to the public library every 1-2 weeks where he could just go around and choose books to bring back home. I would go with him at times. When we were younger it would be mostly comic books, but all kinds of books gradually started being part of the mixed as well.

    I think doing that is a great idea to get kids to like reading.


  5. well i have 3 kiddos and each do love reading. i love reading. my husband does not. i told him that our kids WILL like books lol.

    I think personally it isn't always about "reading" my son loves letters and counting so sometimes we just look at the pictures and we count how many trees or how many letters do we know? for him this helps him like books.

    I also will read the same book 10 times if that is what they like. :)

    subject matter is a good thing to keep in mind as well. my daughter loves princesses so if that is the books she takes interest in then that is what we read :)

    don't underestimate the library mine love going and picking out their own books :)

    i think you are right on with your points. happy reading!

    mine love the no david! books and llama llama books

    also we pair up character with books ie: cinderella reads the princess books, winnie the pooh and so on ;)

    1. yes, I definitely find myself reading the same books 10+ times a day some days :) It's fun that they have a preference and are starting to be drawn to certain types of books. Oli lokes this baby book right now called "where is baby's belly button" and calls it BAY-BEE the whole time I read it :)

  6. Leslie13.2.13

    My kids are obsessed with books. Daniel is actually starting to be able to really read (in senior kindergarten, a little ahead of the curve, I'm proud :). You know that John is a huge reader and I read sometimes too, so I think a lot is example. Both John and I read constantly as kids, so maybe it's genetic? But there are some other things we do too... one is just having lots of books available. Now that we have more space, toys are downstairs in the playroom and books are pretty much the only things they have to play with in their rooms, but books are their favorites toys anyway. They are on low shelves that are easily accessible. We have a very wide variety of books, most have been chosen by Daniel or given to us as gifts. We have some TV character ones but the vast majority are not. But they are usually about topics that interest them (likes space for Daniel or babies and colours for Christina). We have fiction and non fiction children's books. We read to them endlessly. I'm helping teach Daniel to read. We discuss the stories we read (especially for Bible stories, we ask comprehension type questions, get him to tell us the main ideas). We read to them from the regular, adult Bible sometimes. We indulge Christina's desire to have books read to her for hours.

    Sometimes I want to complain. I think, what! Not another book!? No, we're done reading! Daniel, turn off your light and go to bed. Stop reading, it's time to sleep! But obviously it's better to have this problem than the opposite.

    1. totally agree! I can much more easily say "no more TV" than "no more books"!!

  7. Anonymous13.2.13

    For us, it was simple. Read to them. So many nights, Maggie and Sarah and I would be snuggled in our bed with me reading to them. This went on for years! Long after they needed me to read to them, I still did. Nancy Drew, you bet. One of our favorites was called Mamma's Bed. We did actions, laughed hysterically and really enjoyed our time together. Bob, Maggie and I are huge readers. Sarah enjoys it when she finds a great author. For Lily and Oli great books have lots of repitition like Brown Bear, Brown Bear. Btw, can't figure out how to properly post so it says anonymous , but you know who I am :)

    1. Thanks aunti anne :)
      I remember you always reading with maggie and sarah (even at older ages) or reading the same books as them at times (Harry Potter, etc) and always thought that was cool. It's a great way to be "in" their lives too, eh?
      Lily LOVEs brown bear, brown bear right now! In fact I just hid it for a couple days because I was reading it so much I was going crazy!

  8. My mom read to me every night before I went to bed. It really cultivated a love of reading in me so that by the time I was old enough to read to myself, I did!

  9. Saturday is my computer day, so that's why I'm commenting sooo late, but I LOVE to read. I was such a late bloomer, and didn't learn to actually read until I was about eight-years-old. After that, I devoured everything and my reading level was way above average. My mom always read around me, and would often recommend books to me that she liked at my age. Right now I'm reading old classics that I never read as a child like Little Women and Anne of Green Gables.

    One thing I wished I had as a child is a reading nook. I always wanted one. I think any house can have one, even our tiny apartment! We have a big storage space under our stairs, and we're in the process of transforming it into a reading nook with Pen's books and toys. We plan on always having a designated reading space for our kids.

  10. I agree with Sabin! The library rocks.
    I used to go to the Fonthill Library with my grandma every week. We would both get to pick out our own books, and then we could go home and read together (but separately). I loved spending time with her this way.
    I loved getting to feel like an "adult" by doing the same thing as my grandma, and I'd feel really accomplished bringing my huge bag of books back to the library every week to return them :)

    My parents read to me a lot and my dad reads at least one book a week. So I looked up to him by example. I think another thing that really motivated me was when my dad gave me a book of his to read. I remember in kindergarten, he gave me a book about atomic theory (thinking back to this, it's hilarious). And I loved reading that book so much. I didn't know all the words, but the figures were interesting and I could understand the basic concepts. I just liked knowing I was reading something that my dad read at one point and it was special!