2. Be a role model.
Every parent knows that children mimic what they do. Small children love to dress up in your clothes, wear lipstick or pretend to shave, just like Mum and Dad. If you use a swear word in front of a child, they will inevitably parrot it back to you.
There is no difference with reading. One of the biggest reasons children make reading a habit is because it is the habit of their parents. In my experience this is especially true with boys and their fathers. If dad reads, then the son is more likely to read.
It’s a case of do as I do, not do as I say. If you tell your child how important reading is, how it will improve their vocabulary and critical thinking skills then fail to read yourself, your message carries less weight. If, however, you practise what you preach and your child sees you reading and enjoying it, there is more likelihood that they will follow in your footsteps.
When you do read, it is a good idea to become familiar with the books your child is reading (or that you want them to read). For younger children, this may mean becoming familiar with a picture book before you read it to them. For a teenager, it means reading the sorts of books they read: young adult fiction.
Young adult fiction is a fabulous genre. You will be amazed at the quantity and quality of books written for teenagers these days. If you read some of these books, it will help you ‘sell’ the book to your child. After they have read it, you will be better able to discuss or explain it with them.
(If you’re not comfortable with reading young adult fiction, then you will need to take good notice of Rule Eight).
It doesn’t hurt to make a family routine of reading. In my house, Friday nights have always been “movie night” where we choose a movie the whole family will enjoy, buy a pizza and enjoy a relaxing family evening together. Luckily we’ve always been readers, but if either of my children had been reluctant readers I would have been quick to change movie night to story night. This would involve the whole family sitting in the lounge room with a book or books, some popcorn, maybe soft music in the background. It would probably also involve sharing of stories and reading aloud.
If you don’t want to go to this extreme, choose other times when it is appropriate for the family to read: holidays around the pool is an obvious choice, but early bedtimes are also an option. The whole family could save on power and electricity by turning off the heaters and appliances one hour early, and going to bed to read some chapters.
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