Raising Readers / by Madeleine Riley

Today we’re talking about raising readers — something that I’m definitely not an expert in, but nonetheless a topic that I love to talk about with the parents in my life. As a teacher, I get asked this question all the time. “How can I make my child love reading?”

From an educational perspective, I go with the statistics — parents who are readers themselves and who show their children that reading has inherent value in their lives, often raise independent and enthusiastic readers. Children learn by example, so when we show them that reading is fun, they come to see it as a hobby worth their time. Today I’ve asked Caroline, whom you may know on Instagram as @readtotheend. Caroline first came to my attention as an enthusiastic member of the Diverse Books Club. Her daughter, Chloe, has her own #bookstagram account, @chloebookworm, where she frequently shares the books she’s reading. I love seeing young readers like Chloe sharing their books! Below they share some of their tips, tricks, and recommendations.

Interview with Caroline on Raising Readers

Caroline, tell us a little about yourself!

I'm a working mom of 2 kids - a son who is 12 and a daughter who is 8. I'm an avid home cook and baker as well and also for fun follow national food days (I know, a strange hobby).

Tell us about your grown-up reading life! What kind of books do you like to read? When and where do you get your reading done?

I like to read mostly contemporary fiction and love to read authors of color, especially Asian American authors. I didn't come across an Asian American author until I was a senior in high school and it was mind blowing to me.  I also am obsessed with reading the book before watching the movie, so if I get my hands on a list for the coming season, I will prioritize those.  It's a treat to myself to go to the movie.  I started this when my children were small and I needed any excuse to have some "me" time and get away from them!  I tend to read in parking lots, waiting for my children to finish their activities or in the evenings after dinner and dishes are put away. It's a way to unwind.  

How do you go about raising readers? Do both of your children enjoy reading? How does reading factor into your family time?

I try to raise readers by modeling it myself.  They see me tear through books. They see me update my Goodreads. They see me groan about getting through books I don't love and they see me finish a book and talk nonstop about it at dinner.  My daughter enjoys reading a lot but I'm not sure if she truly LOVES it or if she does it as a way to bond with me  - she's a pleaser by nature. I do think she likes it but I'm not sure she would read to the degree that she does without my encouragement.  My son really resists reading. He is a strong reader, especially in comprehension but he just doesn't like to sit down and read.  I've spent so much of my energy trying to find ways to engage him and again, I think that's why Chloe, my daughter, likes to swoop in and have that connection with me.  For Joshua,my son, I have tried incentives like read the book and then go to the movies WITH a friend AND concessions AND without your sister tagging along!! I really have to sell it!  Our family time is not affected so much by reading but often you'll find me and Chloe reading in bed on a rare weekend morning. I try NOT to make reading a chore but rather an enhancement or even a way of life.

Do you have a hand in picking books for Chloe, or do you let her read whatever catches her eye?

I do both. At the library, I let her pick whatever she wants.  I do sometimes direct her attention by just getting books for her.  Reading along with the Diverse Books Club has been so fun for us this summer because she also gets great satisfaction from crossing things off a list so the summer reading guide was really fun to work through together.  She's an old pro at getting the holds off the hold shelf at our library and when she doesn't recognize something she's picked, she says "Is this for DBC?"  I also let her know that it's ok not to love all books.  I think at first when I started asking her about books she would be shy to say she didn't like a book. I try to steer the conversation to - what did you like about this book? What didn't work for you?  We talk about how it is someone's hard work so we don't want to be disrespectful but not all books have to be for all people.

If you had to give one piece of advice to new (or hopeful) parents, what would you say about raising readers?

I would advise new or hopeful parents to not force reading.  I try not to make it a chore.  I will use incentives or motivate them to try new things but ultimately, if it feels like a punishment I fear they will hate reading even more.  I have to remember that while I would love for both my kids to be book lovers, it may not be their path.  They have their own interests and hobbies and just like I don't force them to play a certain sport or instrument, I try not to force reading as a hobby on them.  I do require a certain amount because it is related to schoolwork and competence but I can only hope they will take on more for enjoyment.

Interview with Chloe on Being a young reader

Chloe, tell us about yourself! 

Well, I'm a dancer and model and I love to read as you already know!  I am 8 years old and going into the 3rd grade this year.

Tell us about your reading life! You read a lot! How do you choose which books to read? When do you find time to read?

Well, my mom is a reader and she is always reading and so I want to read with her so I just started and I kept reading and then I started my own bookstagram.  Also, my mom and I will go to the library together and sometimes she picks books out for me and sometimes I pick books out for myself! Whenever I am not at school or at dance, I'll usually use that time to read a nice book.  

Where do you get the books you read? A bookstore? The library?

I find my books at my local library.  At that library, there is a bookstore too and sometimes I will get books from there too.

You have a knack for getting fellow readers excited about books! Do you share your book recommendations with your friends, too?

Well, some of my dance friends follow me on my bookstagram but my school friends aren't all on Instagram but they see what I'm reading at my desk.  My mom will tell my friend's moms good books that their kids will like. 

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Tell us three books you've loved so far this year and why!

I am really into graphic novels right now but here are my 3 favorites - 

  1. Invisible Emmie by Terri Liebenson because there are parts of the book where she finds out she can just be herself and I love that message!

  2. Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson because the unicorn in this book is really different - she is very stuck up and that's kind of why I like her! She's funny and people usually think unicorns are beautiful and sweet and happy but this one is not!

  3. Olga series by Elise Gravel because I love all the made up words in this book. Reminds me of the BFG. 

I also love art and love to draw so I think I really like looking at the artwork in graphic novels. It's so good!

Chloe, if you were giving advice about spreading a love for reading, what would you say?

I would tell people that if you don't like reading, think of it as you being the author. If there aren't any pictures, make the pictures up in your head - it can help!  

Thank you, Caroline and Chloe!

Do you have any tips for raising readers? Share below!