How To Encourage Our Children to Read

Written by Ryan Evans on June 8th, 2017

How many books have you read this year? The statistics from a recent survey look bleak: One in five women, and nearly one in three adult men did not read a book in the last year. (A survey of Providence parents would, I’m sure, reveal much more promising numbers). The list of reasons for not reading seems to be growing:

  • Schedules are increasingly more packed
  • Ceaseless distractions with technology
  • Amusements such as sports, television, or video games that soak up our time
  • An inability to concentrate for the length of time necessary to follow ideas in novel or work of non-fiction

The age of Twitter affects us all. As a recent article in BreakPoint indicated, “When it comes to reading anything longer than a 140-character tweet, our ability to concentrate has plummeted. Be honest, now: How difficult is it for you to get through a half-hour Bible study without succumbing to the urge to check Facebook?” See  the full article here: BreakPoint.

How can we encourage our children to be readers? A study about ten years ago by the National Endowment of the Arts highlighted the data that supports the benefits of reading. “All of the data suggests how powerfully reading transforms the lives of individuals—whatever their social circumstances. Regular reading not only boosts the likelihood of an individual’s academic and economic success—facts that are not especially surprising—but it also seems to awaken a person’s social and civic sense. Reading correlates with almost every measurement of positive personal and social behavior surveyed.”

So what can we do to promote reading in our families and with our children? Some ideas:

  1. Read to your children – This one is pretty obvious, with a strong correlation between young people who are read becoming readers. Consider listening to audio books in the car – I’ve heard from several Providence families that this tradition has been strongly embraced by their children.
  2. Model reading for your children – This one may be slightly more surprising but intuitive: Parents who read and prioritize reading model for their children the importance and value of reading. Simply modeling the joy of reading for children has a positive effect on them.
  3. Buy books – Most interestingly, the NEA study found a correlation between children who become readers and the amount of books in the home. Perhaps most surprisingly, even if the parents weren’t committed readers, the mere presence of books encouraged children to read.
  4. Consider a media fast – Perhaps it’s just an evening, maybe it’s a whole weekend, but turn off the phones, and unplug the television and video consoles. Time can be used for family board games, recreational activities outside, and reading.
  5. Set a reading goal – As we close another year, considering a resolution in 2017 to set a goal for number of books read. Perhaps you can start at five books for the year, or maybe one a month. In any case, creating a goal tends to instill a deeper desire to work to attain it.

When a birthday or Christmas approaches, find a book to give your children based on their interests. Ask them about a series they like, or talk with a teacher to get a recommendation. Extensive book lists by grade level are available as a resource on the Providence web site as well. Helping children build their own libraries is one more small step to helping your child develop into a reader.