How to help your kids learn to love reading

To the editor:

Reading is so important in our day-to-day lives and can be tremendously appealing and satisfying to children once they are hooked. But they need the adults in their lives to consistently build it into their daily schedules. The key is getting children started. Babies and little kids are easy; let’s face it, they love to be read to. It’s the older, school-aged children who are a little bit harder.

I have found that the following seven strategies will help even the most reluctant reader become more enthusiastic about reading. Although a little bribery doesn’t hurt either. That’s why the library offers the Summer Reading Program for kids. Except I like to call it “Positive Reinforcement.”

The Summer Reading Program, sponsored by the Friends of the Mifflin County Library, is for children of all ages, birth to recent high school grads. And if you have a reluctant reader at home, please consider joining the Summer Reading Program – we give out little prizes for books read – and try these suggestions. You may be surprised by the results.

1. Start with the child’s passions. Children will be more excited about reading when they can choose books or magazines related to their interests. This suggestion is far and away the most powerful one when it comes to encouraging those who are reluctant to read. When kids own the choice of what they will read, motivation increases significantly. The library has tons of truck books, dinosaur books, pro-wrestling and sports books.

2. Make reading a social experience. Children who don’t enjoy reading alone often enjoy reading with someone else. Children can read with their parents, siblings, other relatives, and friends. Some children even start mini-book clubs and discuss books related to their common interests. Asking children to read to their younger siblings and cousins can powerfully impact their own motivation to read. Many children enjoy reading to their pets. Dogs love to be read to.

3. Read aloud to children. Many parents regularly read aloud to their children when they are very young, yet stop this activity as the kids get older. Parents should read aloud to children throughout the elementary grades. Doing so makes reading more enjoyable, improves listening skills, builds comprehension, lengthens attention spans, and grows the imagination. The library has a slew of audio CD books and playaways in which professional actors read the book with different voices for the characters and sound effects.

4. Take advantage of new technology. Children who may not find books interesting may enjoy reading the same texts on smart phones, computers, and electronic readers, such as the iPad or Kindle. Technology makes everything seem cooler and more engaging to children, and we should capitalize on this fact when it comes to reading. The Mifflin County Library has downloadable books available on our website as well as a new kids eBook site called TumbleBooks. Please visit to learn more.

5. Be a role model to children. When children see their parents reading frequently, discussing what they have read, and carrying books around, they will value reading to a greater extent. The power of modeling cannot be underestimated. The librarians at the Mifflin County Library love to talk to kids about books, especially me.

6. Camouflage reading. Parents can increase the amount of time their children spend reading by subtly building the activity into other, seemingly unrelated activities. Examples include reading menus at restaurants, reading the directions to board games, and looking at various websites together. Children who may not yet enjoy reading for its own sake may enjoy it tremendously when it’s incorporated into other engaging pastimes.

7. Be sure that children read books that are appropriately challenging. Many times kids don’t want to read simply because the books they encounter are too difficult. This seemingly obvious point is frequently forgotten. None of us want to encounter frustration, and we will go to great lengths to avoid experiences that make us feel this way. Encountering a small number of difficult words can help children grow in their reading skills, but encountering too many of these words can interfere with fluency and lead to discouragement. To find a “just right” book for your child’s reading level, use the Five Finger Rule: Have your child pick a book and open it to any page, start reading the page, and then hold up one finger for every word he/she doesn’t know. If your child doesn’t know zero-one words, the book is too easy. If your child doesn’t know four-five words, the book is too hard. If your child doesn’t know two-three words, the book is just right.

Commit to trying one or more of these ideas to help your child become a more enthusiastic reader. Teaching the whole child means that we focus on developing children’s academic skills, but just as important, we focus on children’s attitudes about these skills. We want to raise children who read well and read because they want to do it, not because they have to.

The library has offered a summer reading program since I was about 6 years old and thanks to the generosity of our community, we will continue this tradition. Email the library or visit our web, Facebook or Twitter pages for more information.

Susan Miriello

Children’s Librarian

Mifflin County Library