Getting kids to read at home can be a challenge for many parents.
So we asked several “bookstagrammers” ― aka children’s literature lovers and influencers on Instagram ― for some of their favorite tips for getting kids, especially emerging readers, to pick up a book more often and to foster a love of reading in your children.
Mary Costello, a mom of two with a Masters in Elementary Education, spent 10 years in the classroom before becoming a stay-at-home mom. She started a website and Instagram account dedicated to recommending children’s books and literacy tips for parents. Find her at @childrenslitlove.
The Reading Ninja anonymously graffitis book art around New York City. She’s a mom of two who “leaned in hard” to children’s books while her oldest child was first learning to read. Follow her @thereadingninja.
Charnaie Gordon is a Connecticut-based diversity and inclusion expert who’s behind the viral 50 states/50 books initiative, which aimed to close the reading gap around the country. She shares her family’s recommendations for diverse books @hereweeread.
Rosemary D’Urso is a former school librarian turned stay-at-home mom who now suggests books and creates lists for parents @librarymombooks.
Here are some of their favorite and tried-and-true tips.
Keep Books Everywhere
“I will only read my kids things I will enjoy also, and only buy books that I think are really good. The way we get around it is they each have their own library cards, which I highly recommend, so they can check out whatever books they want. We have a basket of books that we keep in the car between the car seats (it’s great for picture books) that they can look at only in the car. They don’t come in the house and I can’t read them while I’m driving, obviously. They always have something to read in the car, and we know exactly where they are when it comes time to return them.” ― Mary Costello
“Have books everywhere, on the back of the toilet, on the coffee table, and try to do to a good job of swapping books out. The rotation helps bring some books out; boredom is a very powerful tool!” ― The Reading Ninja
“Create a culture of reading in your home by creating a reading routine that becomes a natural part of your day. This may mean snuggling in bed with early risers and sharing a book in the morning, enjoying a story during snack time, partaking in family reading time where everyone looks at a book on their own or together, or relishing in books at bedtime. Remember, reading doesn’t always have to occur in the same place. You can get creative and read at the park, in a fort, or while waiting at a doctor’s office.” ― Rosemary D’Urso
“Keep books accessible and all over the place — the car, the breakfast table, the family room and definitely their bedroom. I’ll even grab a blanket and have a book picnic outside with my kiddos where we read books and snack on something yummy.” ― Meg Raby
And Keep Them Accessible
“It’s good to have your kids’ favorites or the more visually appealing books at their eye level ― in shelves, bins, whatever. For instance, my local library has bookshelves that are at kid’s eye levels depending on their age (low to high). Mimic that structure in your own home.” ― Charnaie Gordon
“I installed clippy reading lights by my kid’s bed. That way, it was a special reading light and my older kid would get an extra 20 minutes of reading at night.” ― The Reading Ninja
“If you have a bookshelf, try to face some of the books with the cover out. Children will be more inclined to check out a book if they can see the cover instead of the spine.” ― D’Urso
“Create a reading nook and designate it as the reading spot. It doesn’t have to be extravagant; just put a pillow and maybe some of your kids’ favorite toys or stuffies, to make them feel like ‘Oh, this is where we read.’” ― Gordon
“Be flexible about when you try to read to your children. Most of us associate it with bedtime, but the reality is that by bedtime, in many houses, kids are tired and parents are ready to be done. So, if bedtime reading is tough, try another time. We do our best reading aloud over breakfast in the mornings. Snacks and meals work well because kids’ hands are preoccupied and they’re likely to sit still for a while while they’re eating. Baths are another great time to read out loud because kids are contained.” ― Costello
“I like to read books in a series. We do a monthly read aloud as a family where we pick a chapter book and I read that aloud every day until we’re finished with it. I think reading books in a series helps kids become more attached to the fictional characters and more invested in the story.” ― Gordon
“If you just sit and start reading out loud, it’s like a moth to a flame. Nary a child can resist a story.” ― The Reading Ninja
“You never want to give children the impression that reading is an unpleasant chore. Reading should be its own reward and not something that we have to do. When you want children to practice reading, try to approach it in a positive light, saying something like, ‘Let’s cuddle together on the couch and read’ instead of ‘You need to do your reading homework now.’” ― D’Urso
... And Read Together
“When reading picture books with kids, we usually turn the page at our adult pace, which is usually much faster than when kids are ready to move on. While we are reading, they’re usually a) taking time to process the words, and b) also ‘reading’ the picture. Counting to three before turning a page, or even better, letting your child be in charge of turning the page, can drastically increase what they get out of a picture book.” ― Costello
“If mom and dad aren’t digging what they’re reading out loud with their kiddo, then not much enthusiasm will be present. With a lack of enthusiasm, no one is going to benefit nor enjoy the shared reading time. Feel free to set a limit, like, ‘We’ll read this three times and then I get to choose a book to share.’”― Raby
Embrace Graphic Novels
“I can’t express just how great graphic novels are, especially for the reluctant reader. It’s so easy for little ones to follow and get sucked into a story by being able to read the pictures. It’s a medium that I’ve found they read and reread again and again.” ― The Reading Ninja
“Graphic novels are an excellent resource for reluctant readers, ESL students, and children with reading disabilities. Don’t let the cartoony comic book feel deter you; graphic novels can actually help children develop several essential skills. Since they usually contain lots of dialogue combined with a wide variety of punctuation and onomatopoeia, graphic novels are an outstanding way for children to practice reading with expression. Because these books are highly illustrated, new readers can use the pictures to help identify new words and better comprehend the story.” ― D’Urso
Highlight Reading In Its Many Forms
“Don’t discount e-books and audiobooks. Those count as reading too, especially for younger readers who are also learning things like language, letters, and sounds.” ― Gordon
“Think outside the book. Magazines, recipes, podcasts and audiobooks are all additional ways to enjoy reading without it feeling like homework. My family especially loves listening to audiobooks and podcasts while quietly playing or creating art.” ― D’Urso
“When they show interest in a book or story or subject, I like to find YouTube videos that fan that flame in different mediums. It can go both ways. A lot of authors and illustrators have content online, usually they’ll have interviews or things you can find. Seek out book events. My kids are always very attached or proud when they’ve met the author.” ― The Reading Ninja
“When selecting books for your children, try to mix in both picture books and chapter books and don’t shy away from wordless stories. While they may initially seem intimidating, wordless books are a wonderful way to build children’s confidence when they ‘read’ the pictures. It helps develop oral language skills, critical thinking and reading comprehension.” ― D’Urso
Fan The Flames Elsewhere
“Purchase or check out books that feature topics your kiddo is drawn to. When there’s already an interest in the topic, then there is a better chance your kiddo will sit in your lap and read with you. If you know your kiddo’s interests but need help selecting titles, I highly recommend reaching out to librarians and bookstagrammers, such as @averyandaugustine, @hereweeread, @secretsocietyofbooks and @the.book.report. If you have a kiddo who is 3 or above, have them look through book recommendations on these accounts and let them select the little flag to ‘save’ the post.” ― Raby
“Keep writing materials out and available to kids ― paper, pencils, clipboards, pens, staplers, etc. Make writing just as accessible as reading, and honor whatever kind of writing they’re doing (encouraging them to make their mark way before they can actually write any words goes a really long way in building their confidence and enjoyment).” ―Costello
″If you can swing it, invest in personalized children’s books that include the children’s name. For instance, “I See Me” allows you to customize the name, gender, hair and skin tone.” ― Gordon
“If you do birthday parties for your kids, and if you do birthday party favors, consider having a basket of books for kids to choose from instead of toys. You can find books cheap via Scholastic, sale shelves at bookstores, or good-condition used books at used bookstores ... And we will also use this as an opportunity to clean off our shelves and get rid of some of the hardly read books we have.”― Costello
“Take a trip to the bookstore and give your child how much they can spend in cash to pick out and pay for their own book themselves. It’s a sure fire way to illicit excitement and ownership over their new reading material.” ― The Reading Ninja
“We like to give our toddler gift cards to our local independent bookstore from time to time. She loves to place her gift card in her purse and to feel like a little adult. She also loves the autonomy that comes from getting to select her very own book to buy.” ― Raby
Quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.