How Do You Encourage Your Kids to Read?

So I left Osaka this evening and arrived in SF this morning. An amazing trip but I’m in decompress mode so today I’m going to continue with the change of pace. Like last week, I will share a response to another friend’s question and in the process also ask for your help.

My buddy Khe in the #parenting channel of the RadReads Slack posed the following:

We’re entering kindergarten and it’s all about reading. My 5 year old loves it and I’m wondering how you all encouraged and helped them learn. I’m doing the obvious, i.e. reading together A LOT and learning letters, sounds, and sight words — but it feels like I’m making it up on the fly. I don’t want to helicopter this set of tasks, but feel like a few simple principles could go a long way. (fwiw, haven’t googled this q as I’d find the results too overwhelming).

My full response:

I tried an incentive [to my older kid]: when you start trying to read books on your own I’ll let you get a headlamp and you can read a little extra after you get put to bed. This so far hasn’t moved anything along faster. A friend of mine thinks it did help. We are pretty relaxed about it otherwise. Try to read with the boys every nite. We go to the library so they (and I) can take books out. The library is a nice place, we like just being there.

Some nites we don’t read and instead play a game. I constantly talk to the 6 yr old about the benefits of reading pointing out that it’s like a superpower that lets you solve mysteries. I point out his older cousins reading habits etc. It’s all soft suggestion and keeping them surrounded by books. I don’t force anything. He’ll come around when he comes around. He is into Pokemon so the reference book is constantly in his hands. He even made his own book. And he copies the names of the characters into it. But he doesn’t really read on his own and isn’t super eager about doing so. He’s more of a cataloguer or something. With math problems, I’ll pose a word problem and leave him alone. “Just get back to me whenever you want” That actually makes him more aggressive about wanting to solve it.

In general, I find forcing things to be counterproductive and I have some deep-seated concern about associating learning with competition or timetables (there’s a therapy session in there somewhere). Also, I’m in no rush about reading. Waldorf Schools start much later. And the world is probably more mystical before you can read. I see no harm in letting that be.

Your children won a genetic lotto as far as smarts almost certainly and you can probably see they are bright. While I, like you, feel like I should be doing “more” sometimes, I’m actively trying to be super chill about it at least at these ages. More into encouraging projects, creativity, awareness (his teacher wants the first graders to be able to “read the room”. Recognize emotion, impatience, etc). I basically agree with this. I might be overcompensating for immigrant grindstone upbringing. So consider this all disclaimed.

I’d love to hear Moontower reader perspectives and if you feel comfortable may share some back into this letter.

And for those of you who have kids a bit older that are exposed to the internet and social media, this convo between some smart folk I follow on Twitter might help you think about internet policies in your own home.

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