Have you ever thought about what you would say if someone asked you, “What’s the most important part of your homeschooled child’s education?” We’d probably all have different answers. (And I’m sure they’re all good ones! That’s the beauty of homeschooling. )
But here’s what I would say: a love of reading.
Written by Kathryn of Write Where You Are.
I’m totally convinced that helping your child develop a love of reading is one of the very best things you can do for him or her. While all aspects of learning are important, I think that reading is where all of it starts. It’s the gateway to every other area of study. And a positive relationship with reading can help kids develop a positive relationship with all other types of independent learning as they get older.
My passion for this particular soapbox goes way back. As a kindergarten straggler in the public school system (I have ADHD), I was ingrained with this idea that I was a struggling reader, or maybe just not a good student. Reading didn’t interest me initially, and the truth is that I probably didn’t really try. I remember feeling singled out and being treated differently because I learned differently. It impacted how I saw myself. It impacted how I viewed reading and learning, too.
It was only when my mom decided to homeschool me that reading captured my imagination. My parents created “a reading culture” in our home. This reading culture offered a safe space where I could learn in my own way and where books had positive associations. We shared many stories as a family, made regular trips to the library, and spent a lot of cozy evenings curled up with our respective books. It was during this time that stories like Little House on the Prairie, The Wizard of Oz, Anne of Green Gables, and Harry Potter helped me to understand that I loved reading–and I loved learning independently, too!
Later, when I attended a private high school (and college and graduate school), I excelled. I was known as a “good student” (not a bad one). The truth is that reading itself was never the real struggle when I was a very young student. The real struggle was that I just hadn’t found my love of reading yet. Once I did discover a love of reading, all other academics became much easier because I knew that I enjoyed reading and learning new things. Looking back, I’m able to see that the reading culture my parents created for me in our home/homeschool was largely responsible for this important change in my life.
Want Your Kids to Love Reading? Try This!
What is a Reading Culture?
Okay, so now you know that I’m all about creating a family culture of reading, but let’s talk about what that means so you can try this out at home (because I know you want to)!
First of all, “a reading culture,” is the name I have given to a family mindset: a collective view that reading is something valuable, fun, and important for everyone. When you establish a reading culture, you make sure that your kids know that reading isn’t a have to, it’s a get to. You establish the habit of reading as an oasis, a privilege, a tool, and an adventure.
Basically, having a “reading culture” means embracing reading as a family and making it one of your core values– a part of your little tribe’s identity.
Here are some reasons I love this approach:
- It’s based on mindset, which will shape how your kids think about reading.
- It’s a perfect approach for parents who like to read or who would like to read more.
- It’s a great way to share stories together and learn more about each other.
- When done right, creating a reading culture at home will also create lots of good family memories in addition to positive associations with reading!
Important Sidenote: I know that some of you do have kids at home who have reading disorders and that this can make it extra difficult to help them fall in love with reading. It may be very challenging. However, personal experience teaching children like this has shown me that falling in love with reading is just as much – if not more- important for kids who find reading to be difficult. Although helping your child fall in love with reading might be more complicated than it would be for others, I hope you’ll try creating a reading culture at home to make it fun. If you want some more tips about how to help struggling readers, you may want to check out this article, too. One more thing: you rock.
Tips for Creating a Reading Culture in Your Home
Just like anything else, creating an effective reading culture is all about consistency. If you want to help your kids fall in love with reading and/or be a family with a strong reading culture, here are some habits you may want to cultivate over time. You don’t need to do all of these, though. Start by trying one that you know you can stick to!
1. Be a grown-up who reads.
I honestly think that one of the biggest, most important things you can do to nourish the readers in your home is to be one yourself. I know we’re all busy. I know we don’t always give ourselves time to do things that we may see as “luxurious,” like reading. However, if you want to raise kids who read, the simplest thing you can do is set an example. Our kids are always watching our priorities. Let them see you make time to read for fun.
2. Have a time of day when everyone reads.
If you don’t already do this, have a time in your home/ homeschool day that is set aside for independent reading time. This isn’t a time to tell your kids what they need to read, either. This is a time for them to read what they want. This helps them make a habit of reading and positive associations with it, too! For young kids, you can make this extra fun by creating a little reading area or blanket fort. If you’re trying to make more time to read for yourself, you could even use this time to get your own reading in, too.
3. Make friends with your library.
I’m preaching to the choir writing this to homeschool parents, but – if you don’t already- make an effort to be friends with your local library. Libraries are magical, and often librarians are, too. Libraries, as institutions, send the message that reading is for everyone, and that knowledge and learning don’t have to cost a cent. That’s so important for kids to realize! I could write a whole separate blog about the beauty of libraries. Even if your local library isn’t well-stocked, there are many benefits to going regularly and being part of your community reading culture. When I was growing up, my family went to the library every Friday afternoon, and we spent a lot of time on the weekends lying around reading our books. It was so cozy!
4. Always have an audiobook.
One great and easy way to foster a reading culture is to always have an audiobook going that you can listen to with your kids – either at home or in the car! Audiobooks build children’s reading skills by helping them practice using their imaginations as they create images out of words. Listening to fun stories together that are just slightly higher than your children’s reading level is also a great way to boost vocabulary and comprehension skills. For kids who do have trouble with reading, audiobooks are a great way to build these aspects of reading while also motivating their desire to read and giving them enjoyable experiences with books! If you have a library card, you can even use it to sign up for Hoopla–a free library app that allows you to access tons of audiobooks from your phone.
5. Read a series together!
Whether you listen to an audiobook series together, read aloud together, or read the same books independently so that you can discuss them, reading a series together is a super fun way to create a reading culture in your family. Pick a kids’ series that will be rich and engrossing for all ages, and dive in. Summer is possibly the best time to discover a new, fun series together! Of course, depending on what series you are reading, there are plenty of fun ways to enhance this even more with hands-on activities, movie watching, and field trips. You know better than anyone else what to do to make it extra fun for your kids!
Hopefully, these ideas are getting you excited as you think about what a “reading culture” could look like in your family. Sometimes we teach our kids how to do something, and other times we show them how to love something. I really think that creating a family reading culture is one of the easiest and most fun ways to guide your kids towards a love of reading. There’s no better time to start than now.
Comment below with your additional tips for creating a reading culture at home! I bet some of you have some really great ideas to share!