Editor's note: I loved the suggestions in this piece when contributing editor Jessica Collins submitted it in November 2018, and the Connecticut Press Club Award judges agreed. Congratulations to Jessica on her first place award! Here again are her 10 wise suggestions:
A conversation over coffee led me to ponder this question. How do you help foster a child's love of reading? Here are my suggestions (for the record, I'm one person, and these are simply suggestions, please take them as such).
1. Let your child chose what they want to read
There are so many great books I would love for my child to read, but everyone has their own preferences, and my insisting they read a book won't make them love it. Let them find the books they want to read.
2. Ask questions
Not interested in a story about a dinosaur but your child is....ask them about it. You may not fall in love with the story, but hearing your child excitedly talk about this book...priceless.
My children love to hear what my favorites books were when I was their age, because they want to hear about a book that made me excited when I was a kid (and sometimes they ask if I still have my copy so they can read it).
4. Read the same book
A few years ago, we started attending "Reading is a Family Affair" at our library. Parents and children read the same book and have a group discussion. It's awesome if you can do this in a large group, but even if you don't have a group...read a book as a family.
5. Read a book aloud
We read so many books aloud when my children were small. As they got older, I thought they were moving past that, but they still enjoy hearing a story aloud (and I still believe something magical happens when you read a story aloud and give the characters voices).
6. Revisit holiday favorites from years past
I packed away with our holiday decorations the holiday children's books that my children enjoyed. While I thought they were done with those books (and reading level-wise they are), each year as we unpack holiday decorations I see them flipping through the pages of those old favorites, revisiting their old friends.
7. Be open to different kinds of books
I never read a graphic novel until my children and I read Flora & Ulysses together. It took a bit for me to get used to the format, but my children were instantly engrossed in the story. They loved the combination of words and pictures, and their enthusiasm was contagious.
8. Model a love of reading
Read. Let your children see you read. Tell them "this book I'm reading is so good, it's hard to put it down." Share that you were sad when something bad happened to a character that you like or that you can't wait to find out what will happen in your book. While my children aren't specifically interested in the book I'm reading, they love hearing me say how much I'm enjoying a book.
9. Plan a bookish event like read the book then see the movie
Raising a child who is waiting for their Hogwarts letter? Search on Pinterest for some super easy Hogwarts ideas and have a Harry Potter movie night. Hang a few Hogwarts letters from the ceiling by the mail slot, draw a lighting bolt scar, watch the movie, and ask your child what they liked best about the movie and what they liked best about the book.
10. Visit your local library and book store
Magical things happen at libraries and book stores (especially local independent book stores). Many have programs or story times for little ones and the best part....they know books and are a bit like magicians. When a child says "I love dinosaurs and trucks," they somehow know the book that's about a dinosaur and a truck and know exactly where to find it.
Lastly, just follow your gut. If one of these suggestions works for your family, that's great. If you find something totally different that works for you, that's great too.
This piece was originally published on Nov. 30, 2018.