How To Encourage Your Child To Read

Houses do not build themselves, and when you do it yourself, you work hard for something you’ll be very grateful for later. Sophie and Rose, original oil painting and signed limited edition print at Steve Henderson Fine Art; licensed open edition art print at Great Big Canvas.

For two years, we lived as a family of six in a renovated barn while we built our house. Available living space was somewhat under 1200 square feet, with a chunk of that devoted to the Norwegian Artist’s office — at the time he was a telecommuting commercial illustrator. At night, we all slept together in the loft — four kids aged 2-10 in bunk beds; the Norwegian and I on a full-sized mattress set precariously atop a wooden bed frame that frequently buckled during the night, but only if one of us turned over.

Rain pelted merrily — and noisily — on the tin roof, and when the wind blew (which it did, violently, for the two winters we were there), the moaning was almost human. A wood stove kept us warm, and yes, we did have electric lights.

While it all sounds cozy and warm and comfy, it had its opposite moments, but 15 years later as I look back the primary thing I remember was our nightly story reading. Once it was dark, everyone bundled into their appropriate bed, I adjusted the ticky tacky light over our non-existent headboard, and I read aloud to the kids and the Norwegian. Appropriately, we enjoyed Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, and while we were crowded and tired from working all day and building on our house in the evenings and the barn was messy and our bath tub was a big green plastic Christmas ornament storage box, we were grateful that insulation kept the wind from blowing snow onto our ceiling.

After the Little House series, we traveled to C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, and after that, we tackled Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which is arguably not little kid fare, something that became obvious in the next to the last chapter when the seven-year-old asked, “Who is Mr. Darcy?” (That seven-year-old is now 22 and a confirmed Austenite; not only does she know who Mr. Darcy is and wishes she could meet a 21st century equivalent, she quotes extensively from Jane’s writings. She also knows that Jane’s last name is spelled with an “e” and not and “i.”)

Reading is the ultimate travel experience. Embrace Each Day poster, based upon the original painting, Provincial Afternoon, by Steve Henderson. See the complete line of inspirational posters at Steve Henderson Fine Art.

Reading aloud is a timeless activity that is well worth exploring with your own family, especially, but not exclusively, if you homeschool. As a society, we get really tense about the whole concept of reading, focusing on Success by Six and pushing our children to perform by that age or less, convinced that the reason people read less and not as well these days is because they didn’t learn to do so early enough.

None of my kids learned to read until they were 7; one was 8 — as adults, all four of them read extensively, all the time, and wildly different things: The Son and Heir is the walking encyclopedia replete with information about penguins in Southern Australia and the warfare plans of the Battle of Hastings; Eldest Supreme, who can’t get enough of Elizabethan and Edwardian royal history, consults her brother when she, for some reason, needs to know the mating practices of Monarch butterflies.

But they all read — and they all remember, with fondness, the many many evenings that we explored the world of books together as a family. The beauty of reading to your children is that you can introduce them to really good literature that is beyond their own ability to tackle right now: Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, despite its clear prose, is beyond the reading ability of the average 6-year-old, but well within his or her listening capacity. When you, as an adult, read to a child, you free him from the world of Green Eggs and

These, my friend, are memories well worth having. Seaside Story, licensed open edition art print by Steve Henderson at Great Big Canvas.

Ham (which is a great book, by the way) and let him enter the wonderful, magical world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbit.

Even Beatrix Potter, associated as a children’s writer, is better with an adult in charge: “They implored him to exert himself,” is a line my four-year-old granddaughter can repeat, in tandem with me, from The Tale of Peter Rabbit. She doesn’t know what she’s saying, but she sure has fun saying it.

If you want your child to read, then read aloud to him. Show her the wonderful world of books, allow him to create images in his mind to match the words, explore brave new worlds together. I assure you that the memories you build will be fine, strong, beautiful, enduring ones.

Yes, we lived in a barn. This experience is one of the reasons that the house we live in now is fully paid for and has never required a mortgage payment.While this may not be your experience, you, too, can free your

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This article is linked to Natural Living MamaButter BelieverA Blossoming LifeMama Dianethe Prairie HomesteadMoms the Word, The Chicken Chick, Alderberry HillMop the Floor,  a Mama’s StoryThe Character CornerTeaching What Is GoodMemories by the MileCoastal CharmGrowing Home, Walking Redeemed, A Wise Woman, A Little R and R, Wholehearted Home, Raising Homemakers, Deep Roots at Home, Hope in Every Season,  Simply Helping Him, Frugally Sustainable, Thriving Thursday, Thankful Thursday, Live Laugh Rowe, Jenny Mullinix, We Are That Family, Graced Simplicity, Katherine’s CornerHearts for Home,


2 Responses

  1. I am a retired English teacher and librarian, and you have hit the nail on the head. Reading out loud, choosing the literature that you know that they will love, is one of the best ways to encourage a love of reading. Love your story and picturing ya’ll reading around the fireplace! Another great way to encourage your child to read is to SET THE EXAMPLE. I can’t tell you how many parents say, “How do I get my child to read?” to me, but when I say set an example, they immediately backtrack. “Oh, I don’t like to read,” they will say. Then why do you think your child will read? My son once told me that he really always remembered and appreciated seeing his dad and me with a book in our hands all the time. Thanks for this thoughtful post!

    1. Bev — I remember in grade school when the teacher would read to us after recess — many of the books I shared with my own children were discovered many years before, as I sat with my eyes closed and head on my desk.

      Thank you for your kind comments, and I love your take on reading. It is so very, very wonderful. Like your son, I grew up seeing people with books in their hands all the time, and that’s what our own kids saw in their childhood. Now they call me with recommendations for the next great read!

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