Lifestyle

10 Ways to Get Your Entire Family Hooked on Books

In 52 Small Changes for the Family, bestselling author Brett Blumenthal teams up with family health practitioner Danielle Shea Tan to reveal how to build a foundation of health and happiness in the family. The idea is simple: Make one small change a week for 52 weeks and at the end of the year, you and your children will enjoy a happier, healthier lifestyle.

The excerpt below features their tips on how to get the whole family hooked on reading. After all, Dr. Seuss said it best: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

52 Small Changes for the Family

Reading bedtime stories is an age-old tradition that invokes heartwarming memories for most of us. And since reading has been shown to reduce stress, it is also a perfect way to relax into slumber. Once a child learns to read, this favorite pastime need not end. Children of all ages, including tweens and teens, enjoy being read to, and continue to flourish from the benefits.

With the explosive growth of technology, reading for pleasure may become a thing of the past for older kids. The National Center for Education Statistics indicates the population of teens who read for pleasure daily has dropped from 35 percent to 27 percent among thirteen-year-olds and from 31 percent to 19 percent among seventeen-year-olds. Yet reading is a critical skill that requires repetition and constant practice for continued development and mastery.

Unlike watching television or videos, reading is an active process that develops neural pathways, which makes us smarter. In one study, researchers scanned the brains of children ages three to five as they listened to prerecorded stories. They observed activity in several areas of the left side of the brain, and this activity was higher in children who lived in a more literacy-friendly home. The more you read to your children, provide access to books, and offer literary variety, the more your children’s brain neurons will develop, increasing their abilities in comprehension, vocabulary, and language fluency.

How to Get Your Family Hooked on Books

Reading, whether done aloud to your child or independently, enhances creativity by allowing a child to personalize the images from a story using his own imagination. Reading also offers children both academic and emotional benefits. One study found that reading to children builds literacy skills more than talking to them. Researchers found vocabulary used in picture books to be more extensive than the five thousand most common English words used in conversation with children.

According to research by Thomas Sticht, children have a higher level of listening comprehension than reading comprehension. They need to hear words in context before they can speak them or understand them while reading. So the younger the age at which a child is exposed to more advanced books and words, the higher the child’s vocabulary and literacy level.

Parents are the most influential people to develop their children’s love and regular practice of reading. Children of all ages enjoy being read aloud to, even older children. According to several studies of middle schoolers, when teachers read aloud to students, a teaching practice that’s slowly been on the rise in America, the students’ levels of motivation, interest, and engagement in the content was enhanced.

Adopting your own personal reading rituals provides amazing benefits to the health of your brain and mental well-being. No matter your age, reading stimulates creativity, reduces stress, improves focus and concentration, and sharpens your mind as you gain new knowledge and strengthen your language skills.

10 Ways to Get Your Entire Family Hooked on Books

Reading with children is not only beneficial to mental well-being but can bring your family closer together as well. Over 82 percent of children identify parents as the most influential person who inspired them to read. Try the following strategies to make reading a fun priority for every family member:

1. Make Reading Part of Your Routine

Integrate reading into your routine so that it becomes a natural part of your day.

  • Read to sleep: Incorporate reading into bedtime routines. Start bedtime early to give your family plenty of time to enjoy several books together. Though tweens are reading on their own, studies show they still love to be read to by loved ones.
  • Read to relax: Schedule a regular time to relax and read books together to decompress from the hustle of modern life. Make it a weekly, if not daily, event so your family can benefit on a regular basis.
  • Read to relax: Schedule a regular time to relax and read books together to decompress from the hustle of modern life. Make it a weekly, if not daily, event so your family can benefit on a regular basis.
  • Read on vacation: Vacations are most beneficial if the schedule allows adults and children to find quiet time. When going on vacation, make it a ritual to choose new books to enjoy during your time away. This includes summer breaks: children who enjoy books throughout the summer will avoid the “summer slide”—the loss of reading comprehension skills when kids aren’t in school.

2. Bring Books Everywhere

Instead of bringing along toys to keep younger children occupied during errands, tuck a few exciting new books in your bag. Model this behavior so older children get accustomed to bringing their own reading materials, too.

3. Visit Libraries

Take your family to the local library. Since libraries are filled with books from all time periods, the discoveries are endless! Most libraries have children’s areas, so you can let younger kids explore on their own. When your children find books they are excited about, check them out so they can enjoy them at home.

4. Give Book Gifts

For birthdays and holidays, consider giving your children gift certificates to a bookstore. Explore the whole store, as most bookstores are designed to entice and inspire young readers. Check out staff picks, and relax and enjoy the adventure by test-driving a few books in some comfy chairs before making a purchase.

5. Sign Up for Book Clubs

Book clubs are a great way to motivate young readers and provide them with opportunities to connect with other kids to reflect and discuss books of interest. Encourage your chil¬dren to join a book club or start one of their own.

6. Use Books to Teach Lessons

Guiding children through stories is an effective education strategy for social and emotional learning. Children can relate to characters in the stories without the complication of parental pressure. You can find stories to support children through everything from potty training to money management. Ask friends, teachers, librarians, or local bookstore staff for recommendations.

7. Help Children Find Books

Children often lose interest in reading when it becomes difficult to find books they enjoy. Surprisingly, 41 percent of all children and 57 percent of infrequent readers have trouble finding books they enjoy. Ask other parents and librarians for book and series recommendations so you can guide your family in findings books they love.

8. Try Audiobooks

Audiobooks offer adults and children access to thousands of titles through apps available on most devices. Although many parents use audiobooks as a means of reducing screen time, they also help children fall in love with the practice of reading. Children of all ages benefit from audiobooks because listening to stories beyond their reading level can enhance literacy development and expand vocabulary. For added benefit, the child can follow along with the book on paper.

9. Go Digital

Personal electronic devices and eReaders provide access to a vast number of titles that bookstores and libraries may not have. If your older children are glued to their devices, help them find digital books that spark their interest. If you’re heading off on a trip, choose digital books to make it easier (and lighter) to bring books for the whole family to enjoy.

10. Experience Live Storytelling

Older children and adults can enjoy live and recorded performances of stories told by the authors themselves. The Moth, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote the art and craft of storytelling, hosts podcasts and runs live storytelling events in most metropolitan areas.

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You can find 52 Small Changes for the Family here, and be sure to check out Brett’s other book, 52 Small Changes for the Mind.
52 Small Changes for the Family and 52 Small Changes for the Mind

 

Brett Blumenthal

Brett Blumenthal

Brett Blumenthal is the internationally bestselling author of 52 Small Changes for the Mind, 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You, and more. She is certified by WELCOA (Wellness Council of America) and AFAA (Athletics and Fitness Association of America). She lives in North Carolina with her family.
Brett Blumenthal

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