How to read to children: 20+ tips to encourage reading at every age

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how to encourage reading

Learn how to read to children in ways that spark interest and promote greater learning at every age.

If you’ve come this far, you’re certainly interested in encouraging the habit of reading at home, especially knowing how important it is for children’s development. In a world with tidal waves of stimuli and overexposure to information and digital screens, stopping to read a children’s book means creating a valuable and magical moment for the family.

This is for families with children of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers. However, each age group has its unique characteristics and relationship with reading, so it’s essential to know how to make this activity enjoyable at every stage and how to create learning opportunities from books.

Next, you will gain a better understanding of the benefits of reading and learn some tips on how to read for children of different ages.

The habit of reading during childhood

It’s no secret that encouraging the habit of reading during childhood brings many benefits, both for the child’s cognitive development and the family’s daily life.

Reading strengthens the bond between children and those who read to them, providing a moment of physical and emotional connection in which they can exchange experiences.

At the same time, books encourage imagination and creativity by putting the child in contact with make-believe worlds and realities that are different from theirs. For this very reason, books also encourage empathy.

Of course, reading is also very important for language development. Researchers from Barcelona carried out a study on the importance of reading aloud to children, confirming that listening to written stories provides learning that does not usually happen in everyday life.

Children who listen to stories have a richer vocabulary and more complex language, and are able to give more elaborate narratives as they develop. In addition, they have an easier time learning how to read and write, developing better reading comprehension and, consequently, achieving better school performance.

Below is a list of the main benefits of reading to children:

  • Strengthens family bonds
  • Encourages imagination and creativity
  • Stimulates empathy
  • Enhances language development
  • Expands vocabulary
  • Assists literacy
  • Allows for a greater understanding of texts
  • Boosts school performance

How to read to children at every age

There is no minimum or maximum age to encourage reading. This is a habit that can start even before the child is born, and reading together as a family can continue after the child has become an independent reader.

Tips on how to make reading more pleasurable, interesting, and stimulating at each age:

For babies up to 2 years

From pregnancy, babies can identify sounds and create memories of the tone of voice of those who interact with them. Therefore, reading books aloud at this stage is a way to promote this contact, producing different sounds from those of everyday life.

Babies can already start to interact with books to gain familiarity with objects, and it’s important to stimulate reading as part of the routine, along with feeding and bedtime rituals.

  • Read short passages every day to strengthen the habit instead of reading an entire book at once and then waiting a while to do so again.
  • Point out the pictures in the book and say the name of what the baby is looking at out loud.
  • Make gestures and facial expressions, and change your voice according to the story.
  • Mimic the sounds the baby makes and watch their reactions.
  • Talk to the baby about the elements in the book, pointing to them: “Look at the kitten. The kitten meows!”
  • Ask questions: “Where’s the kitten? Who meows?”
  • Smile and respond when the child speaks or points something out.
  • Let the child turn the pages.
  • Read the same story over and over if the child wants to.

For children aged 3 to 5 years

In this phase, children are very curious and like to predict things, so they often ask to read the same story several times. They’re already able to repeat sentences and participate more actively when reading, choosing books, and asking questions about what happens in the story. They even manage to retell the story in their own way. It’s therefore a great time to invest in the habit of reading so that it will become part of their lives forever.

  • As you read, ask questions to encourage understanding of the story. For example: “Who is this?”, “Where are they?”
  • Value the questions and listen carefully to the child’s comments as they reveal their understanding of the story and what they’re feeling.
  • Talk about the characters’ feelings and ask if the child felt the same way.
  • Encourage the child to tell the story in their own way.
  • When reading repeated stories, ask the child what happens next.
  • When telling the story, read the text as written without taking out seemingly difficult words. This is a way of expanding the child’s vocabulary. If they ask, explain the meaning using examples and synonyms.

For children aged 6 to 8 years

In this age group, the child is in a phase full of imagination, creativity, and energy. The literacy process allows for the child’s first autonomous readings – a special and very remarkable moment! Now more than ever, reading is a great ally for new learners.

  • Encourage the child to read the book aloud, and help out when they are having difficulties.
  • So that neither you nor the child gets tired, take turns on each page, or each of you can read a character’s lines. 
  • Be careful not to put too much pressure on reading by trying to make it a must! This will be required more and more at school, so show your little one that at home, this is leisure time. It must be fun!
  • Keep reading to the child, because even if the child is not reading alone, you can make connections with the sounds to the text on each page.
  • As the child is more mature in this phase, take advantage of the themes in the books to have conversations about feelings, behaviors, and everyday situations.

For children 9 years and over

At the age of 9 to 12, the child’s relationship with reading changes a lot. As they are already completely literate, it’s common to think that we no longer need to read to them. However, there lies the problem.

This is a time when many children lose the habit of reading, because despite reading the books required by the school, they no longer see this habit as pleasant. So, what can we do to prevent this from happening?

  • Keep reading stories to the child – bedtime can be a good time for this. Listening to an adult’s reading is important even after literacy, because the child will be observing a more experienced reader and learning from them. They will look forward to this interaction.
  • Have time to read together: each one can read their own book and then share something about what they read.
  • Have the child read for you or for siblings. They will be excited to be able to play this new role (children love to feel more grown-up!).
  • Offer books from different genres and authors so the child can know which books they like the most, thus remaining interested in the world of reading.

Check it out: Which book is best for my child?

Remember…

Reading is indeed a way to learn and develop essential skills, both for school performance and life. However, as adults and mediators for children, the best thing we can do to encourage their passion for reading is to show them that stories are a fantastic fantasy land, filled with imagination and dreams. If children see books as doors to different worlds from an early age, in which they can live endless experiences, it’s very unlikely that this interest will be lost over the years.

Did you like our tips? Share in the comments what you do at home to encourage the habit of reading.

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