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How to Raise a Lifelong Reader: Tips for a Mom with 14 Book-Loving Kids

Tips on how to raise a reader from a mom with 14 kids.

How to Raise a Lifelong Reader: Tips for a Mom with 14 Book-Loving Kids

My kids are all avid readers and I know they will be lifelong readers. Whether they began reading at age 4 (Judah and Hezekiah) or age 8 (Enoch) they are all now strong readers who love to lose themselves in a good book. After 22 years of parenting with a 100% success rate (including my children with special needs), I decided to share my thoughts on how to raise a lifelong reader.

Tips on how to raise a reader from a mom with 14 kids.
Reading at the table. My kids are book lovers, there is no doubt.

Read to Your Kids

This one is obvious and I’m guessing that anyone reading this blog right now reads to their kids, but I want to offer a few suggestions. When Iris was a baby Chuck and I only had one car and I didn’t have a single mom friend. This meant I spent long days alone with a newborn baby. If I wasn’t walking with a fussy baby or breastfeeding, I was bored. Because of this, I started reading to Iris, daily, when she was only six weeks old. We had a copy of Dr. Suess’s Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? that I had picked up at a garage sale. I would stick Iris in her baby swing and read it to her every single day. Within a week or two I had the entire thing memorized.

While it might seem silly to read to an infant, research shows that babies who are read to develop language faster and reading to a baby clearly benefits their brains. Once the habit of reading with my firstborn was established, it was easy to keep it up as our family grew.

Play with me is an endearing book about friendship and compromise.

Don’t Keep Books You Don’t Enjoy

Have you ever had your child ask you to read to them, then when they bring you their chosen book, you groaned inside as you tried to give your child an encouraging smile? I have many times. It took me years to learn this simple trick: I don’t keep books that I hate to read out loud. Now, don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that I need to love every kids’ book that crosses our threshold. It simply means if I hate reading a book to my kids, I sent it off to Goodwill. Why? Because I found when the kids would bring me a book I hated, I dreaded reading to them. It was making me feel negative about reading to them, a feeling I sometimes had trouble hiding. That, vs, true enthusiasm when I was reading books I enjoyed as well.

Read the Same Book Over and Over

While reading the same book 734 times in a row can seem boring to us adults, this repetitive use of language helps our children’s brains develop. Their attention span grows, they learn to anticipate what is coming next in the story and they expand their vocabulary. When my children were young I used Five in a Row with them for homeschooling. You simply read the same well-chosen book to the kids five days in a row (Monday-Friday) and each day had fun (and simple) crafts or activities to go along with the current story.

Tacos and tailgating at the library make for a great mini-adventure.

Lifelong Readers Utilize the Library

Are you a reader yourself? Don’t you love the thrill and anticipation of walking into the library and browsing the books? The excitement of walking out with a stack of new stories to dive into? Share this experience with your children at a young age. Let them explore the shelves and learn the joy of bringing home stacks of books. If you are worried about mounting library finds, read my post How to Avoid Library Fines and Use the Library Without Going Broke.

Homeschooling with anxiety is a daily challenge and keeps me busy finding activities for Apollo. Reading daily can help you raise a lifelong reader.

Let Them Pick Their Own Books

When your children are young let them pick their own books from the library. There is something almost magical about exploring the shelves of a library. Choosing their own books is how children learn what they love to read. Twenty picture books? Perfect. Five Amelia Bedelia books? Excellent. Eleven books on their favorite dinosaur? Awesome! Let them develop their own taste in books.

2018 Book reviews of my favorite books.

Ignore Reading Levels and Focus on What They Enjoy

It’s no secret that I hate AR Tests and Reading Logs at school. I have seen firsthand how it has dampened my children’s enthusiasm for reading. It has turned the joy and wonder of losing themselves in a story into a chore. I remember when Tucker started first grade at our local public school he was limited to reading books of off certain shelves of the school library and wasn’t allowed to read books “above his reading level”. He came home from school crying about it. Thankfully, at our public library, he was able to choose whichever books he wanted no matter how “easy” or “challenging” they were.

ews Flash: Puberty Sucks. The how to survive guide for parents and kids}

Provide the Time and Space for Reading

Obviously, if you want to raise readers you need to provide the time and space for your children to read. When our children were young, I read to them every single day. This isn’t because it was on my schedule to read, it is because our house was filled with books. The kids loved to drag an entire stack of books over to me and we would plow through them, one by one.

Reading became part of our daily ritual. Before naps, before bed, when they first woke up. Once the kids got older, they began reading in bed before lights out. We provided our kids with book lamps and without any effort at all, reading before bed became a well-loved habit for them.

2018 Book reviews of my favorite books. Tips on how to raise a lifelong reader.

Set an Example for Your Kids: Be a Lifelong Reader Yourself

Chuck and I are both avid readers. Our children have grown up watching us read and enjoy books. They have seen by example that reading is what you do before bed, in waiting rooms, while nursing a baby, in those little snippets of downtime during the day. Reading is an activity that the kids see us do daily simply because we love reading.

I read a lot of books on my Kindle Paperwhite. My minimalist heart loves the lack of clutter and I like the ability to carry my entire library with me when I go somewhere. Sometimes, however, my Kindle goes missing (so sad) and when that happens I will continue reading my book on the Kindle app on my phone. I rarely do this anymore because I realized that while I may have been reading a book on the Kindle app, it looked no different to my children than if I was scrolling through Instagram or Facebook. I want my children to see me reading, not scrolling on my phone, so I try to avoid reading books on my phone whenever possible.

Teen boy in village books

Continue Reading to Your Children When They Are Old Enough to Read on Their Own

If you are really want to raise a lifelong reader, don’t stop reading aloud to your when they are old enough to read independently. Keep reading to them until they beg you to stop, or get married, or move to New Zealand. There is something very special about sharing a book with another person. I have so many beautiful memories of reading to my children from infants up to teens.

For some great books suggestions, check out these posts:

5 Coming of Age Books Every Child Should Read

How to Encourage Your Children to Read at Home

Books, Books, and More Books

Books We Love: Large Family Homeschooling

And if you have a struggling reader, check out my post on the Reading Buddy app and Resources to Teach Your Child to Read.



    • bemis

      My kids are preschool/early elementary age and love reading with me on the couch. In fact, if things are getting out of control, I find that offering to read will usually settle everyone. I read a good tip a few years ago about asking if each child is comfortable before starting to read. When they’re fighting over a spot or complaining that they won’t be able to see the pictures, I assure them that we’ll make sure everyone is comfortable and can see before we start. I have occasionally had to excuse a child from the couch for being disruptive or not leaving someone else alone (sometimes they can just hang over the back of the couch, but sometimes they’re relegated to a few minutes on the bottom step…where they can still hear the book but can’t see any pictures; it’s also not very comfortable sitting there. Usually the sadness of not having a good comfortable spot on the couch is enough to curtail the issues in the future.

  1. Lucía

    I do all of these things and my kids (I got 2) are not readers. Well, the youngest might be a reader someday because he loves stories, but the eldest will probably not.
    Just my 2 cents. Probably because I’m jelous of your success!!

    • Renee

      Thanks for your input! If we didn’t have adopted kids, I might chalk it up to genetics, but my five adopted children (even the ones with special needs) love to read. One of my brothers who is super smart, has never read a book for pleasure but loves to read tech magazines. There is no perfect formula, but this is what I’ve done.

      • Lucía

        Yes, and I’ve always believed these things would make my children readers. They are both adopted, BTW, no biological relationship between them. It’s a bit of a sore spot for me (I’m a book worm) and I hope I didn’t sound too rash. I still read to them out loud (they are 14 and 12). The 14 yo pays no attention and comes and goes. The 12 yo does pay attention but never reads on his own. I mean, not even dialogues in his video games. Reading is hard for him (he has special needs), so I hope that will change as he grows more confident. Right now I’m working on accepting they are different from me and have their own lifes and pleasures, and reading might never be something we share, but we do have other things.

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