The joy of reading at home

Reading to your child, listening to your child read or simply reading alongside your child are simple ways we, as parents, can support literacy development and healthy reading habits at home — and build a foundation for lifelong academic success. 

Our biggest challenge in making reading at home a routine of family life, is simply devoting time and energy to make it happen every day.

As a mother of four children who works full-time, I totally understand. Life is busy and we get tired. Sometimes we struggle to fit it all in. But the substantial benefits that directly correlate to reading at home with our kids make it worth the effort. 

Plus, reading together is a wonderful way to spend meaningful time with our children each day. Here are some simple strategies I use to make reading at home practical, enjoyable and fun:


Use the library often. 

When you really think about it, libraries are pretty amazing. All you need is a library card — and a world of possibilities opens in the form of literature. We try to go to our local library at least once a week and fill a bag with picture books, chapter books, magazines and the newest hit in our house: audio books. 

I often search from home and “shop” for specific titles or books around a theme of interest. Then I “order” them online through an interlibrary loan. 

We all look forward to reading a variety of new and exciting stories each week along with some of our favorite titles from our home collection.


Find great books. 

Not all literature is created equal, and treating it as though it is can make the experience of reading at home dull or even frustrating. I like to seek out recommendations for engaging texts and often look for award-winning stories. Pay attention to Newbery Medal and Honor Books (recognizing distinguished contributions to American literature for children), Caldecott Medal and Honor Books (nationally recognizing distinguished picture books) and Theodor Seuss Geisel Award books (recognizing distinguished books specifically for beginning readers). There are also several Minnesota-based award lists — including Minnesota Book Award, Minnesota Star of the North Book Award and Northeastern Minnesota Book Award lists — that recognize outstanding titles in local children’s literature.


Go age appropriate.

It’s also important to make sure the books you’re reading are a good fit for your child. Younger children love short stories with rhyme, repetition and engaging illustrations. Picture story books, which have more words and more involved stories, are better for children with more developed attention spans. Graphic novels or chapter books with occasional illustrations may be a welcome addition to read aloud at family story time with kids as young as 6 or 7. Older children, of course, can enjoy full-length novels. It can be fun to read a story that you read as a kid with your own child or to be entertained with new would-be classics.


Encourage reading-required fun.

Read together in a variety of ways. We can encourage reading at home with our children by reading recipes while cooking, reading directions for games, toys or activities and by reading labels, fliers, newspapers and magazines. 


Read on the go.

Both kids and adults often have idle time during the day that we could spend reading. Bring books with you when you leave the house. Keep books for kids in the car and in school bags. When you’re getting that oil change or waiting for your appointment, make use of the time and read!


Be a reading role model.

We need to let our children see us reading. Again, time and energy can be a challenge. To be honest, it’s been quite a while since I’ve actually read a grown-up novel for pleasure, but I do read a lot! I read dozens of books each day at school and at home when I’m not reading to my own kids. 

And I’m often reading magazines, cookbooks, blog posts or the occasional inspiring parenting book. 

Now that my daughter (who’s in fourth grade) is reading more advanced novels, I’m enjoying reading books she’s interested in, which inspires conversation and connection. When our kids see us engaged with print, it reinforces the importance of reading.


Celebrate your efforts.

Know that your efforts to establish habits of reading at home are good for both you and your child. You’re helping your child expand his vocabulary, listening skills and imagination! 

Together, let’s continue to make reading at home an important part of our family life.

Let’s Go for a Drive by Mo Willems

Press Here by Henre Tullet 

One-Dog Sleigh by Mary Casanova

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Leisl Shurtliff

Playful Learning: Develop Your Child’s Sense of Joy and Wonder by Mariah Bruehl