How to Develop Reading Habits for Your Child

Here are simple strategies you can use to develop routines at a critical period of engagement.

Jan 03, 2024
How to Develop Reading Habits for Your Child

Jan 03, 2024

Throughout the school year and beyond, it’s important to identify at-home routines that create a healthy learning environment for your child. A good place to start is by building time into your family’s weekly schedule for reading habits.

Scholastic research has shown that regular reading habits not only produces voracious readers (children who read five days a week or more for pleasure), but also readers with better social-emotional well-being, a stronger vocabulary and language fluency, and a willingness to participate in conversations about the world around them. Experts agree: Taking time to read every day makes a difference that can last a lifetime.

“It is so important that children read every day, as this helps them build background knowledge, enhances vocabulary, exposes them to new cultures and concepts, and encourages them to make connections with characters experiencing a variety of emotions,” says Karen Burke, senior vice president of data analysis and academic planning at Scholastic Education. “Reading improves concentration, curiosity, and inner calm.”

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The Critical Period for Good Reading Habits

The Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report has tracked reading frequency among children ages 6 to 17 since 2010. While the report shows the rate of children reading one to four days per week has remained steady, the percentage of those who read every day is down and there’s been a slight uptick in the number of children who read less than one day a week. What’s more, trends show that after age 9 – third grade, typically – children read with dramatically less frequency. The good news is thatc this presents an opportunity to get your child to read more by instilling good reading habits. 

At a time when parents and educators are making a coordinated effort to accelerate learning in and outside the classroom, it’s important to pin down strategies for establishing reading routines.

“During the past two years, many children have experienced an interruption in instruction, impacting learning,” Burke says. “Reading daily for a minimum of 20 minutes and having conversations with children about what they are reading will help build fluency, enhance vocabulary, and foster a deeper comprehension. Children who read regularly do better in school, not just in reading but in all subjects.”

Strategies for Reading at Home

  • Devote a cozy space to reading. Just as books provide a chance to explore or escape, a child’s reading environment should support these imaginative pursuits. "Create a special place to read, decorate it, and make it comfy and inviting so that children want to be there," recommends Burke.
  • Establish a reading routine. “Maybe read a passage from a book before they head out to school,” Burke recommends. “And reading before bed can have a calming effect after a busy day.” Either way, every page counts toward building better reading habits and motivating an innate desire to read.
  • Be a reading role model. This can be particularly helpful with young or reluctant readers. “One of the most important things you can do is model good reading behavior. Turn off the TV, put away your phone, and spend quality time with a book. Your child will see that books offer their own enjoyment,” says Katie Carella, a former teacher and executive editor at Scholastic who oversees the Acorn and Branches book series for early readers.
  • Set reading goals. These can do double duty to build ability and pride, and are particularly helpful for children who respond well to goal-setting or incremental wins. “Allowing children to set goals in reading engages them and builds a sense of accomplishment,” says Burke. “Establishing and accomplishing goals build executive functions that last a lifetime.”
  • Make reading social. “Capitalize on children and their friends and the social nature of children by encouraging a small group to read the same book,” says Burke. “Ask children to discuss what they liked or didn’t like about the book. Children can text each other feelings they had about the book, FaceTime a friend about the book being read, and so on.”

However you choose to develop good reading habits with your child, what’s important is that they enjoy what they read. After all, this is how you can get your child to read more! The more enjoyment a child gets out of reading, the more they’ll want to continue. 

“If children love what they read and see it as a pleasurable experience, they will want to repeat the activity,” says Burke. “Children need to build connections with characters, their experiences, and their feelings to truly engage with the book and the story. When children make this connection, there is greater motivation to read more.”

Let Children Choose Their Books

If children read more when they enjoy what they read, then it makes sense that children prefer what they discover themselves. Scholastic experts and educators agree on this golden rule: Let your child choose their books. 

“The most important thing is to get children excited about reading, and that happens when they are encouraged to choose their own books,” says Carella. “And all book choices are good book choices because when a child chooses a book, it means they want to read it.” 

If you’re unsure how to guide your child’s book selection, try these strategies:

  • Ask your child about what topics they’re most excited about right now. “Talk with children about their interests and browse books with them,” says Burke. “Conversations about what books children enjoyed reading help them better understand what to select next to read.” 
  • While you’re at it, encourage your child to share their burgeoning love of books with others. Giving books as gifts can be a novel peer-to-peer exercise for developing good reading habits. “Let children buy books for special presents, give books as presents, and build a home library that reflects the child’s interests,” says Burke. 
  • Don't forget about the magic of a good series to get your child to read more. Once your child engages with the first book in a series, they’ll automatically be reaching for the next title in the set. 

Looking for more tips? See all expert advice about establishing reading routines at home, including how to choose just-right books

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