As an English teacher, I know how incredibly important it is to foster literacy skills in young children. In fact, the number one thing you can do to build vocabulary and improve test scores is to read.

As a mom, I know how quickly the hours fly by and how difficult it is to create a reading-friendly environment amongst the chaos of everyday life.

With the new school year upon us, I want to share some of my top tips for cultivating a love of reading and a culture of literacy in your home.

Literacy doesn’t just mean reading books

Highlight moments in your day when you read or write and invite your kids to help you with those tasks. Read a recipe, instruction manual or nutrition facts. Have your kids address envelopes, write grocery lists or fill out checks.

Practice what you preach

Kids model what they see at home. Many of us are avid readers but read on our devices and so it may not be readily apparent to kids what is actually going on — since it is unlikely they will choose reading during their own digital time. Make an effort to tote a book or magazine along to the park or doctor’s offices to break up the screen time.

Give kids the freedom of choice

I cannot stress this enough — do NOT dictate what your children read during their free time. If they are obsessed with cars, allow them to read car magazines. Do they want to read “Harry Potter” for the third time? Allow it. School-assigned reading will soon dominate their time — let them be little and let them read what they like.

But then make it a non-negotiable

I tell my daughter that we are a family that reads. If she does not want to read when I say it is time, she has the option to write about her day or dream up a story instead. But every single day, there needs to be time to interact with words in some way. Make it fun — take them to the park, create a fort or invest in a reading light for reading in the dark. Strong habits build good readers.

Ask questions

We still read a story every night so that I can ask my daughter about what we read. But even if you are past this stage, check in on your kids. If they can’t recall basic details or plot elements, you may have a book that is too difficult — and reader frustration is a huge reason kids give up on reading.

As the school year begins and those reading logs come rolling in, try to maintain a positive attitude around literacy. It can be hard to steal time for the standard 30 minutes of nightly reading, but get creative and you will be rewarded with a lifelong reader.

Photo Credit: Jamie Killian

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