• Jenna Furr

7 Simple Tips to Get Kids Reading at Home

Reading has always been something that was easy to fit into our at-home routine. Bedtime stories are gold in our chaotic house. It is a sacred time, and when it’s missed, there are always tears.

We try really hard in our home to treat reading as a gift and not a chore. Because that is exactly what reading is...a gift.

Now that our children aren’t in school, I have felt the pressure to find more pockets in our day for reading. My biggest challenge has been keeping reading a cherished activity and not a “read because I said so” activity. The first weekend we were quarantined to our home, my husband and I excitedly introduced our children to the Nintendo Wii. All it took was one game of Wii bowling and our kindergartner was obsessed. We had a little gamer on our hands and she wanted MORE. With a global pandemic making its way from sea to shining sea, we added a new routine to our household...homeschool. Wii boundaries had to be set. Video games became a weekend activity, and homeschooling became a weekday priority.

I approached this new role as Teacher-Mom differently than many people I admired on social media. With a 2-, 4-, and 6-year-old at home, I didn’t have an elaborate schedule for our day. I settled on the following homeschool checklist…

While I waited for our school district to provide us with a virtual learning plan, I put my Teacher-Mom hat on and made reading our biggest priority.

We started really strong adding new reading routines at home. We chose cozy reading spots. We built our own "To Be Read" book stacks, and then created fancy book bags to house those books. We made reading time one of our first activities of the day. We were off to a great start.

However, as home quarantine time passed, it was becoming harder and harder to get my readers, the readers who BEG for more bedtime stories, reading. They were instead begging for one more show or one more snack. I have a feeling you can relate.

Then one Wednesday afternoon, Molly pleaded for Wii time. My response still makes me cringe.

“How about you trade reading time for Wii time?”

Wow! Three days into this ‘making-sure-my-daughter-reads-at-home-because-she-isn’t- at-school-business’ and I officially turned reading into a chore and video games into a reward.

I needed to do better. We had to get back to our reading roots. I had to make the shift from making my kids read daily to making them want to read daily.

If you or your school families are also struggling to find joyful pockets for reading during the day, read on for my 7 simple tips that any family can use and then download a printable below that your students' families can hang on their refrigerators.

1. Books and Breakfast

Something new we are trying in our home is Books and Breakfast. Before I go to bed, I wipe the kitchen table down for the 47th time and add a small pile of books to enjoy in the morning. When the kids wake up they go right to the table to see what books are waiting for them. Some mornings they find paper so they can make their own books. Now we are reading and writing before 8:00 a.m.--not too shabby!

2. Book Picnic

Don’t let the word picnic confuse you. This has nothing to do with food, although I am sure at some point it will. In our reading picnic, we set a blanket outside with a basket of books. My kids ride their bikes and run around and when they need mom time or a break, they sit with me...on a blanket surrounded by books.

My children are getting some rare one on one time with me while enjoying some of their favorite books. Win-win!

3. Audiobooks

My kids have been obsessed with coloring since Christmas. Lately, while trying to squeeze in more reading time with my children I have relied on audiobooks. I place our Bluetooth speaker on the kitchen table, find a few audiobooks, and press play. We mostly color and listen, but lately, we have added audiobooks to snack time or lunchtime. You can even squeeze in an audiobook next time you are out for a walk.

We love going to author’s websites to find recordings of favorite books. Robert Munsch’s collection is quite entertaining. There are so many ways you can access audiobooks. Audible, Epic!, and YouTube are our other favorite places to listen to stories.

4. Flashlights & Books

While we have been stuck at home, we have tried to keep our bedtime routine consistent. Bath, brush teeth, books, and bed. Now that we don’t have to rush anywhere in the morning, we have allowed our kids to keep reading when the lights go out. They bring books into their beds, turn on their headlamps and they start clocking in more reading minutes. I love this addition to our routine. They might not be sleeping, but I get to unwind from the busy day, knowing they are happily reading and soon they will be sound asleep.

5. Baking and Books

I love to bake with my kids. Before I had kids in school, we would bake all the time. Having this time with everyone at home has given me more time to bake with my kids once again. The best part of baking is always the finished product. Right?

Are you looking for ways to make reading joyful again? Just add cupcakes, homemade banana bread, or cookies. “The cupcakes are done! Grab a few books! It’s Cupcake Reading Time!” It works every time! Baking supplies limited? Not much of a baker? Pop some popcorn and do the same thing. Popcorn reading party! No need to limit yourself...Cheese and Cracker Reading Party! Chips and Salsa Reading Party! Catch my drift?

6. Forts, Tents, & Trampolines

We recently made a really cool fort in our family room. We made it super cozy with pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals. We added flashlights, lanterns, books, and voila...we had a really great place to read. Did I have to beg my people to read? Not a chance. They read for an hour and you can bet they were in and out of that fort for the majority of the day..and they kept reading.

Have a tent? Tents are great for camping...and reading! On nice days, we love to take our little play tent outside with us. Speaking of outside...have a big trampoline in your yard? Have your kids take blankets and books on the trampoline. Tents and trampolines make really great reading retreats.

Check out this cute reading fort, Molly's best buddy, Addy made. Kid-tested, teacher-approved.

7. Let Them See You Reading

From as early as I can remember, my mom had a Dunkin Donuts coffee cup tucked in her arm at all times. I always told myself I would never drink coffee like my mom, but here I am living my adult quarantined life, panicking that I might run out of coffee.

You know that saying, “Children are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate”? Listen, if the ideas I shared aren’t for you, just find some joyful pockets for your own reading. Let your kids witness those moments. Whether you believe it or not, your children want to be just like you, doing what you do.

Last week, I decided I would let the kids take a really long bath. Instead of playing with them, I grabbed a book, a small stool, and quietly read. I would not call it joyful reading, but a week later during bath time, this happened...

Mission accomplished if you ask me.

I hope you found some new inspiration here, if not for you, for your school families. Wishing you many joyful reading moments from our quarantined home to yours. Hang in there and happy reading.

Download the 7 Tips printable to share with your students' families!

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