I don’t know about you, but when I look back on my early parenting moments, I cringe.
I made a lot of mistakes.
Towards the top of the list would be failing my kids when it came to instilling a love of reading and books.
I didn’t realize I was doing it – it was something I sort of passively fell into.
In fact, teaching your kid to hate reading is something you don’t even have to try to do.
It’s mostly things that you DON’T do that turn out to be the problem.
All is Not Lost
If you see yourself in the list below, don’t panic.
I have done almost all of these things, and my kids have fully recovered from my mistakes.
With some strategic and intentional changes, my kids have gone from seeing books as boring to being obsessed with them!
They are all over the house, stacked up in bedrooms, and I have even found one of my kids asleep with a book on her face.
Apparently she just couldn’t put it down!
If you want that for your kids too, make sure to avoid these huge pitfalls that will definitely make your kids hate all things reading and books.
7 Easy Ways to Make Sure Your Kids Hate Reading
1. Don’t Make Reading to Your Kids a Priority
This was our first and worst offense.
We just did not take the time to read aloud on a regular basis to our kids.
Sure, we would read a quick bedtime story, but that was only about 5 minutes and we would often skip sentences or whole pages to just get to the end of the book.
There always seemed time for playing, going to the park, or watching TV, but time seemed to get really short at bedtime.
What To Do About It
What are some things that really matter to you when it comes to your kids?
Eating healthy food?
Wearing clean clothes?
Then you probably make it a high priority to buy food regularly and keep up with the laundry.
Your kids sense that kind of thing.
They also see that reading is not on your priority list, so eventually, it will not be on their priority list either.
If you really want kids that love reading, you need to show them that reading aloud is a top priority for you!
Make a regular time slot of 20-30 minutes a day and stick to it.
Maybe that means you plan to read to them after their afternoon nap, after dinnertime, or you start bedtime earlier so there is more time to read.
If your kids have a short attention span, try reading to them during lunch or a snack. It helps to have them seated and busy with something else while you are reading.
I started reading “Little House in the Big Woods” at lunchtime and it was the beginning of a huge change in our family.
My kids loved it and we have been a reading family ever since!
Not sure what to read? Sarah Mackenzie from Read Aloud Revival has a great book list to get you started!
2. Never Take Them to the Library
I know it’s a huge risk and somewhat time-consuming to take young kids to a library…which is why we rarely, if ever, went to one.
I was afraid of the librarian giving me side-eye about my 3 unruly kids.
I didn’t want to disturb other people at the library with my 3 unruly kids.
It seemed like too much work to haul my stroller out of the car, constantly shush my kids, remind everybody to walk and not run, and then have to keep track of all these books at home and not get jelly smeared on them.
Nope. Not worth it.
What do Do About It
Bite the bullet.
I had a friend urge me to take my kids to the library, and kept telling me that they were really missing out.
So I took them to the library and prepared for the worst.
And it turned out to be the best!
Taking your kids to the library is like taking them to a grocery store for books and everything is free!
My kids stacked up piles and piles of books and they were so excited take them home and start reading!
We now go to the library weekly and get so many books that my oldest daughter had to get a library card too.
This constant flow of new books is crucial to keep my kids engaged and focused on reading.
I like to think of it as competing with Netflix – if they have a constant stream of entertainment, then I need to have a constant stream of books to compete with them.
3. Don’t Buy Them New Books Either
I went to an Usborne book party to support a friend’s new business and she said something that really struck me:
“You should buy books for your kids as often as you buy them new clothes. Their brain is growing and developing in the same way their body is.”
Okay, so I know she was trying to sell some books that night, but she had a point.
My oldest child was 4 at the time and I realized that the majority of the books we read to her were baby books that were gifted to us when she was born.
They were almost all board books, with simple words, and minimal plot.
No wonder my kid wasn’t that into books – her 4 year old mind was not challenged or engaged.
What to Do About It
You buy your kids quality food, solid shoes, and warm coats – tickets to the movies, a Netflix subscription, and trips to the ice cream store.
These are things and experiences that you value and you are willing to pay money for it.
When you spend money on books, that shows your kids that reading is really important!
It tells your kids that reading is something you value and it is worth your hard-earned money to get and keep books that are treasures to your family.
I encourage you to buy a few new age-appropriate books every time you buy a new batch of seasonal clothes.
Tell relatives to buy books for birthdays and holidays too.
I even let my kids look through the kid’s books on Amazon and tell me which ones are their favorite.
This gets them excited and engaged with what is coming in the mail!
4. Don’t Limit Screen Time
There was a time when I was in survival mode with three young kids and there were little to no limits on screen time.
I felt guilty about it, but didn’t know how to get out of the trap I had created. They seemed to only want to look at screens and they whined so much when I turned them off.
It just seemed easier to have TV, tablets, and phones available to keep them quiet and entertained while I tried to maintain my sanity and get the things done around the house.
The problem (well one of the problems) with this is that books cannot compete with a screen. Ever.
Why in the world would my kids ever walk away from a never ending streaming Netflix show to pick up a book and quietly look through the pictures?
What To Do About It
In my situation, I ended up having to do something drastic.
I spontaneously unplugged our TV and put it in a storage closet. For a long time.
I had to completely remove the temptation of the screen in order to reset their little brains.
And then magic happened.
I would often find them sitting with piles of books, quietly flipping through the pages.
They started asking me to read to them constantly.
I noticed their attention span lengthened incredibly as they were able to sit and listen to me read book after book.
You may not need to go as drastic as I did with the TV in the closet, but strongly consider putting tight, consistent restrictions on screen time.
If kids know for sure that you will not change your mind, they will eventually stop begging and look for other things to do.
5. Don’t Let Them Get Bored
This is right along the same vein as limiting screen time.
I was just talking to another mom this week who was frustrated about constantly entertaining her two kids and how they were always saying they were bored.
I flashed right back to when I was still struggling so hard with my kids and screen time.
I tried to be the fun mom and compete with the TV with all of these crafts, trips to the park, baking projects, and other activities. But as soon as my bag of tricks ran out, they started to whine about being bored and just wanted me to turn on the TV.
When I finally put the TV in the storage closet as mentioned above, I did not take on the role as their full time entertainer.
I told them mom is busy, and they need to go and play.
Why Getting Bored is Magic
Letting my kids get bored and doing nothing about it, has led to a super charge in their creativity, pretending, playing, and reading.
My kids started doing the classic childhood stuff of building forts, playing house, having tea parties with their stuffed animals, and making obstacle courses.
More importantly, they suddenly had much more interest in the big pile of library books we had. They spent huge amounts of time flipping through pages even though they couldn’t all read yet.
Their interest in reading and desire to improve their reading skills has skyrocketed!
When the TV and the constant flow of mom entertainment are stopped, there is time and space to be quiet and get lost in a book.
6. Don’t Read to Your Kids Once They Learn to Read
I absolutely made this mistake and I think its a common misunderstanding parents have about the reading process.
When my oldest kid started to read more fluently, I would kindly turn her away when she came to me with a book to read to her.
I told her that she could read now and she could do it herself.
As kids grow up, parents hold them to the standards they are capable of. They need to learn to feed themselves, dress themselves, pick up after themselves, etc.
It’s a little different when it comes to reading though.
Yes, kids need to have daily practice with reading, but there is still tremendous value in continuing to read to kids well after they’ve learned how to read.
Reading aloud to older kids:
- creates family memories
- provides a shared experience and lots of family conversation
- increases attention span
- increases vocabulary
- increases comprehension
- communicates the family value of reading
But most importantly…
Reading aloud to your older kids encourages them to LOVE reading!
They will internalize and remember your enthusiasm for books and the magic of “traveling” somewhere with you and meeting exciting characters.
They will see the value and hopefully it will spur them on to be an avid reader all their lives.
Not just a competent reader who makes decent grades.
7. Don’t Wait Till Your Kids are Ready to Read
I was at the library one day and I saw one of the most uncomfortable parenting moments I’ve ever seen.
A well meaning dad was trying to teach his young daughter to read a book.
He kept saying a lot of things like, “Just look at the word and remember what it looks like. When you see it again, you’ll know what it is.”
“We just looked at that word, how come you don’t remember what it is?!”
I was in physical pain while I thumbed through books nearby.
Parents know reading is important and there is so much pressure to get them reading earlier and earlier.
Some kids have a desire to read and will take to it like a duck to water.
But for MOST kids it is a delicate process, that takes time, energy, consistency, and a mountain of patience (from both of you).
If you try to push your kid to climb that mountain too early, you will reap a lot of frustration, tears, and a child who associates reading with failure.
What to do about it
I know the pressure is intense (especially for a homeschooling mom) to have kids reading as early as possible.
Before teaching your child to read, make sure that they are showing signs of readiness and a desire to learn.
No matter how well-intentioned you are, if you try to blast forward before your child is ready, you could unknowingly do so much more damage than good.
Your focus should be on teaching them to love reading at this tender age, not necessarily the mechanics of how to read.
Once they learn to love reading and see the value in it, they will be motivated to start unlocking the meaning of letters for themselves.
If you have any (or all) of the above mistakes, I promise it is fixable.
You can start raising a kid who loves reading today!
I challenge you to commit to doing at least one thing today to start a change in your household.
- Commit to your family the time slot you want to start reading together every day?
- Register for a library card?
- Take your kid out to buy a book together?
- Set more limits on screen time?
- Provide more unstructured play time for your kids?
- Invite your older kids to story time too?
I can promise that the fruit of your labor will be so worth it!
You will never regret making the effort to instill a love of reading in your children.
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