Back to School: Literacy researcher offers tips on encouraging kids to read more

With kids heading back to school in the coming weeks, parents and other caregivers are getting back into their routines with homework and other activities.

Florida State University Assistant Professor Lakeisha Johnson, a faculty affiliate for The Florida Center for Reading Research, has assembled a tip sheet for parents who are using this time to encourage their child to read more.

“The start of the school year is the perfect time to re-engage young readers,” said Johnson, who also authors the diverse children’s literature website Maya’s Book Nook. “Sometimes, finding the right book or format can light a spark that will stay with them forever.”

Here are some tips:

  1. Let your child lead.
    Allow your child to choose books based on their interests. Whether they like picture books or graphic novels, fiction or biographies, poetry or sci-fi, children are more motivated to read when they are interested in the topic.
  2. Make reading a family activity.
    Choose a time of day when all members of the family drop everything and read. Children often follow the models shown by adults and will value reading when they see their grown-ups doing it for pleasure.
  3. Keep reading aloud.
    Read books together, even when your child is old enough to read on their own. When grown-ups read aloud, the mental space needed to decode is freed up and the child can focus solely on understanding the story and actively participating in conversations beyond the text.
  4. Introduce a fun series.
    No one likes a cliff-hanger, so captivating series are a great way to keep children engaged and wanting to read the next story.
  5. Go beyond storybooks.
    Reading doesn’t always have to be a traditional book. Read through a recipe book to find a new meal or dessert idea. Find a children’s magazine to spark interest in a new topic. Try listening to audiobooks for a fun switch in your normal reading routine.