I can remember when my daughters were little; my favorite time of the evening was story time. Their hair would smell freshly washed and they’d have their jammies on. They’d each pick a favorite picture book from the shelf, or we might be in the middle of a chapter book from the Magic Tree House series, and we’d crowd together on the bed and snuggle in to read before bedtime. Even now, when I say goodnight to my 16-year-old, I know she goes to bed and reads on her eReader before the lights go out.

Many experts suggest that you establish a reading routine with your child early on. You can begin building your home library by purchasing books or making frequent trips to a local public library. Library trips can become an enjoyable family outing, and can build excitement for your child around the selection of books. Ask family members and friends to buy books for holiday and birthday celebrations – your children may already have plenty of toys as it is. For tech-savvy families, downloading eBooks and visiting websites with book reviews and online storybooks can be just as much fun.

In establishing a reading routine at home, one of the most important goals to keep in mind is the creation of a positive reading environment. While the acquisition of specific reading skills is essential to a child’s development, so too is the establishment of reading as an enjoyable activity. Children who are forced to read or given no choice in reading materials will often end up not reading for enjoyment at all, and without the continued practice they will inevitably begin to slip in their reading skills. There are many ways in which you can foster a positive reading environment for your child at home:

  • Model the importance of reading at home by demonstrating your own interest in reading, letting your child observe you reading books, magazines, the newspaper, or materials on an eReader.
  • Fill your home with reading materials your child can access, such as children’s magazines, picture books, or reference books written for children. Use these materials to learn new information, or as a basis for research.
  • Find internet reading resources, and let your child experience reading through interactive games and electronic picture books. Red Apple Reading has instructional videos and engaging activities that will help your child learn how to read.
  • Encourage your child to share information learned through reading, and acknowledge when a child draws a connection from reading material. You can also share news articles that are of interest to you with your child.

Also important to fostering a positive reading environment at home is establishing a daily reading time with your child. Once you have reading material in the house, pick a particular time of the day–perhaps just before bed, first thing in the morning, or both! -and designate that as a time to read with your child. When reading a book, take the time to point out anything notable in the pictures, and pause on any page that your child seems particularly interested in. When your child begins to speak, be sure to answer questions he might have about words, pictures, and the story line as it develops.

Reading to your child with expression can also be helpful in maintaining her interest, and it gives your child an introduction to the natural phrasing of sentences and written language. You can emphasize punctuation, create dramatic build-up when a big event is about to happen in the story line, or even come up with distinct voices for different characters. The more engaging and entertaining a story seems to a child, the more likely he will be to focus during reading. Here you’ll find even more great tips on reading aloud to children.

Do you and your family have any reading routines you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!