How to Grow Young Readers — For Life!

Raising Kids |

Dorothy Hawes (B.A., M.A.) is a Victoria-based writer, editor and schoolteacher with nearly 30 years’ experience educating children and teens.

I recently saw this cartoon (ironically, I believe it was somewhere on social media) which prompted me to think of the modern reality of reading. Do we read? Yes, of course we all do. We read our text messages, emails, newspaper headlines, magazines, etc. But do we really read for the love of words, the love of literature? Given the pace of our lives and those of our children, we often are too busy to celebrate the joy of reading and too often it’s because we are so distracted by social media.

I’m not an advocate for banning all social media or tossing away the cell phone, as they are realities of the 21st century world. But I do think that we need to fiercely hone and develop not just our children’s , but also our own, love of reading. While it requires some discipline, the rewards are undoubtedly worth it.

How to turn your children into readers:

  • Most importantly, model reading yourself, whether it’s reading the daily paper, a magazine, or a book.
  • Start reading to your children when they are infants. They will respond not only to the pictures in these books, but also to the sound of your voice. This in itself will foster a positive relationship with books, as you take time to sit with your children and read.
  • Create a comfortable space for reading. Choose a cozy couch or chair for reading, so that relaxing with books is a mindful and peaceful activity. Once your children are able to read on their own, consider creating a reading corner in their bedroom or create an appealing space somewhere else in your home which everyone will consider as set apart for reading.
  • Be sure that iPads, computer games, and cell phones are not in sight to distract your readers.
  • Ideally, hard copies of books are preferable to ebooks, but certainly use them if you are on vacation and access to real books is an issue.
  • Make reading fun! Designate time every evening for family reading, either by reading a book together (kids of all ages love to be read to) or setting time aside for individual reading. Let your kids help decide which book to read as a group (Eg: Harry Potter, Treasure Island, Anne of Green Gables,  The Chronicles of Narnia, etc. are all great family books to read out loud). Follow this time up with a quick discussion about what they’ve read or, if reading a book together, talk about what happened and how they think the story will unfold. This is probably a good time for a bedtime snack as well!
  • Take advantage of reading incentives offered by both school and public libraries. Many public libraries offer fantastic summer reading programs that are engaging and usually offer a reward of some sort when kids complete the program.
  • Create a family challenge! Post a challenge chart on the fridge listing everyone’s name and provide a sticker for each book read. An excellent reward for achieving a certain number of stickers could be a visit to a bookstore to get a book. If buying new books is too expensive, check out the many used bookstores that offer reasonable prices on books.
  • Talk about reading over the dinner table. Ask your children why they picked a certain book. Which character is their favourite? How do they think the book might end? Is there a lesson to be learned from the story? Reading should foster discussion and this skill will help them in their educational journey where they are often asked to consider character development, thematic ideas, the importance of point of view, etc.


Recommended books for your child’s library


For toddlers and pre-schoolers:

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown 

I Love You Forever By Robert Munsch 

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Eric Carle 

Guess How much I love you?  by Sam McBratney

Peepo! Janet & Allan Ahlberg 

Corduroy by Don Freeman 

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss 

Dream Animals (A bedtime Journey) by Emily Winfield Martin 

For Pre-teens:

A Boy Called Bat by Elana  K. Arnold 

Kat Wolfe Investigates by Lauren St. John (series) 

Diary of a Wimpy kid by Jeff Kinney 

Ivy and Bean  by Annie Barrows (series)

Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (series) 

Guests of War Trilogy by Kit Pearson

Awake and Dreaming by Kit Pearson 

Spy School by Stuart Gibbs (series) 

Firewing, Sunwing & Darkwing all by Kenneth Oppel 

The Harry Potter series by K.J. Rowling (the latter books are more suitable for older readers) 

Y.A. (Teen novels):

The Fault in our Stars by John Green 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

Alex Rider by Anthony Horowitz (series) 

The Recruit by Robert Muchamore (definitely for older teens and especially boys) (CHERUB series) 

Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens (girls mystery at a boarding school) (series)

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (series)


Lord of the Flies by William Golding 

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson 

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (series) 

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe 

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett 

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The Giver by Lois Lowry