Updated: Sep 3
They say, there really aren't kids who hate reading, there are only kids who are reading the wrong books.
Teaching Kids to Read, and Love Reading!
The ability to read opens a huge amount of doors for kids. It allows them to learn about anything in the world that they want to know. This presents opportunity throughout life, to learn and engage with all different types of content, from fiction to non-fiction.
Keeping books around the house, both for the kiddos and yourself, allows kids to see that reading is an important part of their lives. With my toddler, we keep picture books around the house, in her bedroom and the living room. Also, we have a bookshelf in the living room with adult books, and coffee table books with beautiful pictures.
Providing a large variety of books lets kids see that there are many different things to explore through reading. A lot of times, when I go to the store, I will put a new book on my daughter's bookshelf, and she always notices and asks for the new story at her bedtime.
Building reading into your child's routine is also helpful! With young ones, it is a great activity to read a story together right before nap or bedtime. Reading is a quiet, focused activity that helps them to wind down. It also gets them used to reading every day!
Once they get into school, many teachers will assign 10-20 minutes of reading as homework. It is great to do this right after school while you are making dinner, or you can have them read to you to make it more fun!
Going to the library on a weekly or monthly basis is another great way to encourage reading. Many libraries will have a baby or toddler story time, where they get to read a book or make a craft as a group. This is really helpful to get kids to socialize, as well as make reading fun! Our library also has a summer reading program for older kids, where they need to read a certain amount of books so that they will win a prize.
Many kids love to check out books at the library, and when they find one they especially love, you can also buy a copy from the book store for them to keep at home. Keep in mind that kids' book choices may not mirror your own, and that's ok! Getting to choose their own books helps them learn to develop their interests and individuality!
Help them pursue their interests.
One of the most important things that we can teach our kids is to love learning for it's own sake. In order to do that, I have found that it helps to encourage kids to learn more about the things that they are interested in.
When my oldest was little, she was really interested in different types of bugs. It wasn't something that I was interested in, or even that I knew very much about. So, every week, we would go to the library and check out a book about a different type of bug.
In school, she wrote papers about bees and praying mantis, and got high marks on each. Later, she got her first volunteering position at the Butterfly Pavilion, and passed on some of her knowledge to other kids eager to learn.
By actively taking an interest in the things that our kids are interested in, it helps show them that we care. It also shows them that their interests are valid, and important to you. Encouraging our kids interests helps them to be authentically themselves, and helps them to have confidence.
As my oldest became a teen she was interested in Cosplay and makeup design. We would go to conventions together, wearing all kids of costumes that we made. In our free time, we watched tutorials about how to make costumes, and learned a lot of different skills along the way!
Make learning an adventure.
Kids, especially little ones, find excitement everywhere. We can help make learning equally exciting. By doing so, it helps to instill a love of learning.
We can teach kids colors, letters, numbers and more using games. Board games like Candy Land teach kids to move a piece marker to different colors. Games with dice teach counting skills. Scrabble and Boggle teach word recognition. Uno teaches matching numbers and colors. And these are just a few examples.
If you have kids that like to get outside, you can teach them about different types of plants and animals. You can do this in your own back yard, on a nature walk, or on a camping trip.
Cooking presents many teaching opportunities too. Kids can learn time management skills when they are making different dishes at the same time. They can learn weights and measures when they are pouring out ingredients. You can also teach them about healthy eating in the kitchen as well. Learning to cook is also an important life skill that they will use for their whole life. Allowing them to choose their own recipes, and participate in the daily family routine can help them feel responsible and grown up too!
If you have a child that likes to play sports, encourage them by enrolling them in sports lessons. Both of my kids love gymnastics and swimming. We also got a pool in the yard so that they can swim all summer. It is a great opportunity to teach them a useful skill, and they have a ton of fun too! If your kids like team sports, that is a wonderful opportunity as well, they learn teamwork as well as the sporting skills. Learning to love fitness can serve them well throughout life, by creating an active lifestyle!
Encourage School Performance!
Even with little kids, school is important for a huge amount of their learning! I tell my kids, every day I go to work and you go to school. Think of school as your job. In school, you are responsible for preparing for the rest of your life. This has seemed to work well for them so far. My oldest just graduated high school with high marks, and my toddler is learning about letters and numbers in preschool.
When kids are doing well in school, be sure to praise their effort! Even when they may not do well on one assignment, let them know that you aren't angry as long as they are doing their best. Encourage them to study for exams, and reach out to teachers for additional help if they are struggling.
In the younger grades, when kids are first starting to get homework, set up good study skills from the beginning. Taking time to help kids with assignments until they get the hang of it is also a useful way to stay engaged with what they are doing. Showing that you care about what they are learning, and allowing them to discuss assignments with you also helps them to see that you are interested in what they are doing. Support from caring adults shows kids that what they are doing is important!
As children get older, they may need less help with homework. I make sure to ask every day if they have any homework, to make sure they are on track with getting it done. I also ask what they are learning about, what they find interesting, or what they are struggling with. That way, I can see what needs more reinforcement.
Once kids get to High School, you may be less able to help with the homework itself, so stressing good study skills and researching may be all you can do. My daughter took many AP courses in High School, so she was learning things that I never actually learned graduating college! One time I tried to help her with Statistics homework, and after extensive reading in her book and class notes, basically determined that the amount of math I know, she had learned by her freshman year!
For more about helping your kids in school check out:
Make Sure Kids Take Fun Classes Too!
This can be especially important if your child is taking a heavy academic load! School shouldn't be pure drudgery, or they will have no motivation to learn. My daughter took American Sign Language courses, and actually loved it so much she is now enrolled in College to become an interpreter! She fell into the class purely by accident, as she had taken 5 years Spanish in Elementary, and wanted a different class for high school.
Every child has different interests. For some, it may be art or music, for others it is math and science. Whatever they love to do, encourage them to do more of that! School is a time for kids to explore different subjects to find what they have an aptitude and a passion for.
When kids are allowed to take a wide variety of coursework, it allows them to find their niche. Exploring different interests and learning new things widens their worldview, enriches their experience, and helps them choose a path for the future.
Another thing I stress with my kids is that you don't have to stay with the same job for your whole life. The average person today goes through 5 different careers in their lifetime. I let them know that it is OK to change your mind, and to go a different direction, if you find something that is more interesting than what you are currently doing. Allowing this openness helps them to see that they don't have to feel pressured when they go into the work world, and lets them know that no matter what their age, they can pursue something new!
Show Yourself as an Example of Life-Long Learning.
When you read new books, or learn new skills or hobbies, it shows kids that adults are still learners too! Maybe you are in a book club, art or cooking lessons. Maybe you play an instrument and perform. Or maybe you choose to get a higher academic credential.
Whatever it is, show your kids that you are always learning too.
Earlier this year, I went back to school and got my certification in Paralegal Studies. It was great to show my girls that mommy had to go to class too (even though it was on Zoom) and do some homework after work!
Another way I demonstrate this is by admitting that I don't know everything. If it is my toddler asking what countries that people speak French, or what a mole looks like, I am happy to admit I have no idea, and look it up on the computer for them!
Showing kids how to find answers to their questions, if it is in the library or using Siri, helps to set them up for success in the future. Also, having a learning mindset instead of a closed mindset yourself, shows them that there are always new things to learn!
You can also learn from your kids too! They might learn something in school they are excited to share with you, that you never learned before. Letting them be the teacher sometimes helps them to take a sense of pride in themselves too! It is fun for little ones to have information that no one else in the family has.
Let me know in the comments if you have more ways that you make learning fun for your kids! Also, let me know if there are topics you would like me to cover in future articles!