At this point in school cancellations and shelter-in-place, you’ve likely seen the advice that if you only do one “school” thing a day, choose reading (either independent reading time or read-aloud time). And this advice is given for good reason — research shows that both the amount of time children spend reading and the amount they are read to are strongly correlated to academic performance in all subjects down the road (Jim Trelease thoroughly documents research on both read aloud time and sustained silent reading time in his book The Read-Aloud Handbook).
So, how’s that reading time going for you all? As you can imagine, the read-aloud time comes naturally in our house, so we just continued on with our normal read alouds (take a moment to read my Practical Tips for Making Read-Aloud Time Easier if you’re struggling with read-aloud time in your house). However, we’ve never had a formal time for everyone in the house to read independently. We’ve been given the gift of time, though, so there was no time like the present to make independent reading part of our daily ritual, too! Read on for some ideas on motivating your children to read independently.
So, how can you make independent reading time pleasant for everyone involved? I’ve got 3 easy tips for you! One of my biggest pieces of advice is to give children choice over what they read! Newspapers, comic books, picture books, the dictionary… Just let them read! To make this choice even more exciting, our girls decorated their own book baskets, which they then filled with their own chosen high-interest books to read. This book basket completely changed our 4.5-year-old’s attitude about this independent reading time!
Our almost seven-year-old has become an avid reader, but even she was highly motivated by decorating and filling her own book basket. She is tearing her way through her chosen books! At the beginning of 2020, I printed out Reading Logs from Janssen at Everyday Reading for both her and me, and she’s so excited to track her books! (She and I are going to have some special one-on-one time to celebrate when she reads 100 chapter books!).
My third major trick for making independent reading time pleasant for both kids and adults is to read with your children. Research shows that when children see their teachers and/or parents reading independently alongside their children, that modeling is even more impactful than the total time spent reading (Trelease’s The Read Aloud Handbook, 7th edition, page 90). It’s essential that parents model reading if they want their children to see it as desirable and enjoyable. Otherwise, what child wouldn’t rather play on their phone or a computer instead of read if they think that’s an option? And, I have to admit, I’m loving having a set daytime time to read instead of solely relying on reading in bed… I’ve personally read so much more in the past 5 weeks than I had in a long time!
Aside from personalized book baskets, a way to track progress, and reading with your children, some other suggestions I have to make independent reading time a happy time include:
- Remember that for young prereaders, flipping through books and looking at pictures counts as reading. Start building these independent reading habits early!
- Play gentle music in the background. You can read research about the effect of Baroque music in particular on learning and attention here, here, and here.
- Get comfortable! We like to pile on the couch together, especially under cozy blankets.
- Add a snack. Help your children build an association between reading and something they really love.
- Let your children abandon books if necessary. The last thing you want to do is force them to read something they’re not connecting with.
What other tips do you have for parents? Comment below so that we can all benefit!
For more research and motivation for both read aloud and independent reading, grab a copy of Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook (I actually prefer his 7th edition over the more recent 8th edition, revised and updated by someone else, but both are great!). All links for purchase are Amazon Affiliate links. Thank you for considering making a purchase through my links!