Eleven Fun Ways to Encourage Reading
In my homeschool, I always tried to build a habit of reading in my kids by sitting them down for a formal reading time. “It’s two o’clock!” I would call out. “Go get your books and read for thirty minutes!” Then I’d have them sit there for a half hour while they got some quiet time in reading. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this approach, but it is helpful to remember that there are other ways you can stimulate reading outside of structured reading time. Today, I present eleven fun ways you can encourage reading in your home!
1. Pen Pals
Writing to a pen pal is a classic, time-tested way of developing writing skills and building friendships! If you ever had a pen pal as a kid, you remember the excitement of getting a hand-written letter in the mail, the joy of reading it, and how you carefully craft a response to all their questions, adding questions of your own to satisfy your curiosity about the person on the other side of the paper. Writing to a pen pal develops a love of correspondence and provides a hefty motivation to get your homeschooler writing and reading.
2. Exchange Cards with Grandparents
If there’s two things grandparents love, its sending cards and receiving cards. Have your children exchange cards with their grandparents, using the gesture as an opportunity to practice writing and reading skills. What have your kids been up to lately? What important life-milestones have they passed this year? What are they hoping to the following year? Have them write it all down in the card. Or, alternately, they can use the card to ask their grandparents about their lives; they’ll be surprised at the depth and richness of answers they receive! Like having a pen pal, exchanging cards with grandparents is a fine way to develop reading skills and build bonds.
3. Cooking Together
Much of what we read on a day to day basis is not literature, but basic instructions: road signs, navigational directions, or prompts on a computer or phone screen. The ability to read instructions is an essential part of literacy. Now, of course, no child likes to read instructions; you can’t just sit a child down and say, “Here, review this instruction manual for that IKEA futon. I’ll be expecting a book report tomorrow.” One way you can teach children to read and follow written directions, however, is to cook together and have your children read the recipe. Kids love cooking with their parents—so much that they won’t even notice you’re having them practice their reading!
4. Map Reading on Road Trips
Every good road trip needs a “navigator,” that person who is in charge of the directions and helping the driver understand where to go. Give you child an old-school map and charge them with “navigating” the trip. Reading map skills and developing bird’s eye view perception are important aspects of reading comprehension. Of course, if you don’t quite trust your budding reader to get it right, keep the GPS running in the background just to be safe ; )
5. Chalkboard Paint
If you leave an opportunity for kids to read and write, they will take it! Chalkboard paint allows you to turn any smooth surface into a chalkboard. In my house, we used to have our refrigerator coated in chalkboard paint. You can also buy pre-coated boards that you can hang up on the wall that can be written on with chalk. Wherever you choose to use the chalkboard paint, leave messages for your kids to read every day. Your kids will be delighted, and chances are, they will take the opportunity to write their own messages as well.
6. Leave Post-It Notes
Leaving post-it notes around the house is a fun way to communicate with your kids. They can be instructional (“Remember to close the toilet lid!”), or just little nuggets of affection; when my daughters were little, I used to put post-it notes inside their lunch-boxes before sending them off to co-op for the day. When they opened their lunch box, they’d get a little note that said, “Daddy loves you” or “May the Lord bless you” or something like that. As they got older, I could write more complex messages. No matter how old they were, they always liked getting these little post-it note messages.
7. Play Board Games that Require Reading
Children love playing board games. As they start to develop their reading skills, you can ease them into board games that require reading. There are tons of options: Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Boggle, or Apples to Apples are all great places to start. For more suggestions, check out Scholastic’s list of the best literacy-boosting board games for children.
8. Keep Stocked Up on Journals, Spiral Notebooks
In economics there is a saying that “supply creates its own demand.” This is certainly true when it comes to notebooks and journals. Keeping an ample supply of blank notebooks and journals is a surefire way to get your kids writing and reading; if its blank, they will fill it up. Ditto with sketchpads. This is an example of strewing, the practice of keeping educational resources “laying around” for your kids to find and use as they feel so inspired.
9. Have Children Make the Shopping List
One thing that almost every adult has to write every single week is a shopping list. This is a great thing to include young children on who are just learning to read. When it’s time to shop, have them write the list for you—you go through the kitchen reading off the items you need while the child writes them down. Then, when you are in the store, make your child the “Keeper of the List,” whose job it is to read off what you need and cross off items as they are tossed into the cart.
10. Mad Libs and More!
Times may change, styles may come and go, but kids will always love Mad Libs! If you’re not familiar with Mad Libs, it is a fill-in-the-blank word game where one player prompts others for a list of words to substitute for blanks in a story before reading aloud, usually with hilarious results. They are particularly helpful at teaching basic grammatical structure, as the blanks are usually classified as “noun,” “verb,” or “adjective.” Mad libs books are widely available in dollar stores and any place magazines are sold. They’re especially helpful on long car trips. Word puzzles books and crossword puzzles are also great for this sort of thing! And, there are even Catholic versions of Mad Libs!
11. Most Importantly…
Probably the most important thing you can do to cultivate reading in your kids is to make sure that they see you reading around the house—and I’m not talking about on your phone. Instead, let them see you reading books, magazines, newspapers, and physical media! Children need to see that reading is a normative part of life, something that is done not just as a school chore, but for recreation and self-improvement. Kids who grow up around books are much more likely to become avid readers than kids who never see their parents reading.
One of the awesome things about homeschooling is that education is always happening. It’s not just something we do between 9 AM and 3 PM. Sure, we have our formal periods of study, but homeschooling is more than just study at home; it is a lifestyle, and part of that lifestyle is recognizing that opportunities to learn do not end when class is over. They spill over into every aspect of life! Things as mundane as making a shopping list or following a recipe can become occasions to build your child’s reading skills.
What other strategies do you have for encouraging reading in your Catholic homeschool? Visit and let us know in our Catholic Homeschool Community.
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