What are some simple things we can do at home to make reading more fun for children?

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008 | Reading

** This article originally appeared on QueryCat.com **

Let’s face it—whether we like it or not, it is all too common for children to be more enthralled with a television show or a video game than to be enchanted with a book.  Admittedly, even though I hold a Ph.D. in Reading, and I am a University professor, I can often be found spending hours in front of the TV, rather than with books.  Still, my heart breaks a little every time I hear a child proclaim that he/she hates to read, or that reading isn’t fun.  In this article, I will share simple, affordable tips for making reading a fun activity to do at home.  In our efforts, we want to create authentic experiences surrounding reading so that children will actually want to read, and so that through reading, children will make strong, personal connections.

Here are some straightforward tips to help us get started:

  • One of the reasons many of us prefer television over reading is because the two activities utilize and stimulate different areas of the brain.  Not surprisingly, watching television tends to be a more passive activity.
  • If your child claims that he/she hates to read, it is often not true.  Frequently, a child who is struggling with reading realizes what a fun and important activity it is, but the child’s embarrassment over his/her difficulties with reading cause him/her to declare reading as a boring or distasteful activity.  If your child describes reading as a tedious or intolerable activity, the answer could be as simple as finding books he/she can actually read with comfort and enjoyment.
  • Last but not least, reading is fun!  Show your child that it is!  Do you read at home?  If not, you may have just uncovered why your child does not think reading is fun.  You are the most powerful force in your child’s life.  You need to model meaningful reading everyday, just as you would model healthy eating and exercising.  Just as you would make nutritious foods and exercise an important aspect of your day, make reading a genuine part of your everyday life.  After all—life is what we make of it.  Just as a personal fitness trainer would advise you to select exercises you actually enjoy and that you can do painlessly, I am merely suggesting the same with reading.

In my other recently featured article on QueryCat entitled, “How do we foster a love of reading in our children?” I wrote:

“Carve out special time in the day and/or week, whether it’s at bedtime, or Sunday afternoons, when you can create ‘warm fuzzy’ memories together that are associated with reading.  By ‘warm fuzzy’ I mean a multi-sensory experience, which doesn’t have to be fancy.  The fact is that the reading will be more memorable and enjoyable if you bring your child’s senses alive along with the experience, whether it’s enjoying a mug of hot chocolate along with the book, or reading beneath a make-shift tent made from chairs and a blanket.  Be creative!”

By inventing fun activities surrounding reading that you can do regularly, you will establish a firm foundation of reading in your child’s life, which can yield joy you may have previously thought was unimaginable.  In another article I recently wrote for QueryCat entitled, “How can we help struggling readers?” I said, “I challenge you to think of creative ways to make reading more fun in your households, so that it just becomes another healthy aspect of your lifestyles.  Reading is just another activity we hope children will do independently, and successfully.” 

I am a woman who practices what she preaches!  So, in my own efforts to come up with creative ways to bring reading alive at home, I pondered inexpensive and simple ways to bring favorite books alive in passionate, memorable ways for elementary-aged children. 

A couple of years ago, Southern New Hampshire University thought of an ingenious way to merge the efforts of their students who were majoring in Education, with students who were majoring in Culinary Arts.  Future teachers and future chefs seemed like an unlikely pair, yet the results were unmistakably, deliciously creative… all the while making reading fun.  College-aged students collaborated with elementary-aged students to make book-themed cookies.  They all savored cookies while delighting in reading the books upon which the cookies were based.

Whether it is making artwork, cookies, or make-shift forts… couple great books with great, simple projects.  Make reading a lively, multi-sensory experience each week in your home.

Here are some suggestions, which are based upon the recommendations I provided to the University students for their Cookies & Books Party:

1.  I immediately thought of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes.  It would be great fun to make cookies shaped like the main character—a mouse, or of her purse, of course!

2.  Kevin Henkes is one of my favorite author/illustrators, so I also thought of his book Kitten’s First Full Moon, which won the Caldecott Medal in 2005.  It is a favorite among elementary-aged students.  Children could make moon or kitten- shaped cookies!
3.  You might want to throw in a classic book or two, such as Where the Wild Things Are.  You can’t go wrong with this Maurice Sendak classic tale of Max, visiting the wild creatures.  Imagine the monster-shaped cookies!
4.  Along the line of classic children’s picture books, you might consider a title or two by other all-time favorite author/illustrators, such as Eric Carle or Tomie dePaola.  Carle’s Very Busy Spider or Very Hungry Caterpillar would inspire gorgeous web-shaped or butterfly-shaped cookies.  Tomie dePaola also has many classics, such as The Art Lesson, which may inspire palette or paint brush themed cookies.

5.  Getting back to more modern literature for children, I would recommend a relatively new title, Traction Man is Here by Mini Grey.  It is a British book that won awards all over the world.  I have it has required reading in my current university-level children’s literature class, and my adult students adore the book.  There are so many ideas for cookies from that book, too.  Traction Man is a modern day super hero, so children could make cookies shaped like his cape, etc.

6.  Last, on a more serious, academic note, I might recommend a more educational title such as Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson.  This book has exquisite illustrations of quilts, and how quilts have historically played a role in the lives of African Americans, especially with roots to the Underground Railroad.  Children could make gorgeous, colorful cookies shaped and designed like quilts.

Of course, these are merely ideas to help spark your own creations.  I am confident that you and your children can come up with even better ideas!  Please don’t feel restricted to cookies, either.  Painting, clay, sidewalk chalk, or even non-baked items in the kitchen would all be intriguing ways to make reading a sincere blast on a regular basis in your home.  I would even recommend a trip to the library for books, quickly followed by a brief excursion to a dollar store for inexpensive items and inspirations to go along with your reading adventures.

After exploring reading in these invigorating ways, on a regular basis in your home, I would be shocked to hear that your child still says reading is boring or that he/she hates it.  Who knows—you and your children may just even be pulled away from the television long enough to enjoy a chapter book or two together!

No comments yet.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.