Let Them See You Read: Fostering a Love for Books in Children


“I don’t like school and I hate to read!” My second grader sobbed as I sat at the kitchen table and watched helplessly as giant tears dripped on her folded hands.
“But reading is wonderful! Why don’t you like it?” I pressed.
“Because the words are hard, and the stories I have to read are boring. And you’re always telling me to read faster!”

It was true. My daughter’s reading comprehension was strong, but she was a slow reader. Reading assignments took her twice as long to complete than her peers. As a result, I was constantly nagging her to read faster and to try harder. 

“I know some of the reading you do for school is not your favorite, but plenty of books are really wonderful and reading can truly be fun,” I insisted. 
“Then why don’t I ever see you read?” she asked. She wasn’t being disrespectful; she was simply making an observation, and the accuracy of that made me squirm.
“I read all the time,” I answered a little defensively.
“Your computer and your phone are not books, mom. I never see you reading actual books.” 

My eight-year-old had called me out. The truth was that I hadn’t picked up a book to read for pleasure in months because, well, who really has time to read just for pleasure? Sure, reading is one of my top five hobbies according to my Instagram profile. But as wonderful as the idea of books for fun seemed, I was just far too busy being a mom, wife, and teacher to drop my many responsibilities and read. Or was I? I remember seeing my parents read regularly. Even though my dad had a full-time job and my mom had busy days as a SAHM, I distinctly remember seeing them take time in the evenings or weekends to sit down with a book or magazine and simply enjoy reading. 


Scrolling through Facebook statuses on my phone or reading news articles on the computer were no substitute for taking time out of my busy day to get involved in a great piece of literature. So that day I purposed to let my children see me read, not on a screen, but with actual pages to turn. Since that conversation, my daughter and I have developed a cozy ritual that has not only changed her attitude toward reading, but has developed a precious mother/daughter bonding time. 

Would you like to see your children embrace reading? Here are some tried and true methods that have worked for our family:

Let Them Choose 

My kids and I make regular trips to the library where I let my daughter pick out a number of books that interest her. I try to give her as much freedom as possible in picking out her own books. One of my few stipulations is that they must be at her reading level. 

Make Reading Time Special

During book time with my daughter, I let my four-year-old watch his favorite show and remind him that Sissy and I are not to be disturbed. While he’s busy, my daughter and I snuggle under a cozy blanket on the couch or a bed, and enjoy tea and cookies while we each read our books silently for thirty minutes.

Discuss What They Read

After our reading time, we talk about what she read. I ask her about the plot, the characters, and the motives behind their actions. I love hearing her enthusiastically describe the events that unfold in the chapter she read and the goofy or dramatic things the characters said or did.   

Relax and enjoy 

Reading with my daughter has finally cured me of the guilt I experience when I take a break from my many responsibilities to sit down with a good book. The dishes, laundry, groceries, and grading will always be there. Right now I have a small window in my daughter’s young life to show her the magic and importance of literature. Furthermore, I benefit from giving myself permission to take a break during my busy day to relax and expand my mind. And makes it a win-win for both of us. 

I challenge you to encourage your kids to love books by allowing them to see YOU read, too!

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After visiting family in Oregon as a young girl, Kathleen became smitten with the Pacific Northwest and decided that someday she would settle and raise a family in this rainy wonderland. Bitten by the travel bug, she went to college, travelled, studied and worked in Europe for 3 years. But upon her return to New Mexico where she grew up, she knew it was time to pursue that childhood dream. She moved to Portland in 2003 with her adventurous fiance (now husband) who she met on an elevator. She still pinches herself occasionally when she realizes how blessed they are to live in this amazing state. Kathleen is mother to two entertaining children. The flexibility of her part-time job as a writing instructor at a local college allows her to work mostly from home, as well as home school her oldest child two days per week. When she’s not grading essays, wiping snotty noses, or picking up dog poo, she spends her time gardening, discovering hiking trails, teaching herself the fiddle, and exploring Oregon with her little brood.