by Melanie Walski

Every parent knows the more their child reads the better reader he or she will become. But how do you encourage reading beyond saying, “Read more”? There are, in fact many tricks you can employ to get your child to read more, and they won’t even know what you are up to!

View reading as an enjoyable activity

Make sure your child hears you say positive things about books and reading. Mention how you can’t wait to read the next chapter in a book you just started. Express interest and excitement about whatever your child is reading, whether it is Wuthering Heights, Twilight, Captain Underpants, or their Science textbook.

Set aside time and space for reading

Families are busy. Having a set time for reading everyday can help reign in some of the chaos and stress of the day. A half an hour before bedtime can work for some families, but anytime you can fit it in is great.

Build a home library

Building a home library doesn’t have to be expensive. The book club order forms your elementary school child brings home often have great deals, and public libraries often have book sales where great books can be brought for very little. Hit the next yard sale, or try organizing a book swap with friends. Having a variety of reading material available will encourage more reading, as well as rereading when it is part of your home collection.

Value reading in all forms

This includes the classics but also magazines, newspapers, graphic novels, online blogs, and the backs of cereal boxes. If your child is a reluctant or struggling reader, don’t insist he or she read only grade level books. Let them choose books that are a little easier or that are a graphic novel. The more of any type of reading they do builds their vocabulary, comprehension, and overall reading skills.

Talk a lot

Talk to your child about what you see around you, an article you read, the latest Xbox game, what’s for dinner, their favorite outfit…anything! The point here is to develop and build vocabulary with your child. When you talk to your child be aware of the kinds of words you use. Don’t opt for the word he or she knows, choose one that is a little beyond his or her. The more your child hears less-common words, the more quickly these words will become part of his or her vocabulary.

Play with your child

Even if your child is years beyond asking you to play with him or her, take advantage of older kids’ competitiveness and play commercial board games together. There are many games available that build spelling and vocabulary skills. Introduce games like Boggle, Scrabble, Taboo, Jr., Bananagrams, and Pictionary Jr. around age 8, and for the older kids (starting around age 12) check out Blurt, Apples to Apples, Cranium, and Scattergories. And don’t overlook the mighty pencil and paper! Play Hangman, make up some word scrambles, or try that game teachers love. Write down a long word (like dictionary) and see how many smaller words can be made from the letters in that word (dot, ton, yarn, tar, cat).

Remember, at every age children learn more from what we show them, than what we tell them. Be the example you want your child to follow. Show interest, value reading, and connect with your child through literature and literacy activities often.

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Melanie Walski, who as a graduate student in the Education with Reading Specialist Certification program at Dominican University, contributed this article to the education materials created to accompany The Exquisite Corpse Adventure on the NCBLA’s website.

© 2009 Melanie Walski; The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance