The Best Trick To Play On Your Children — Raise Readers!

Books Education Family GeekMom
Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

My husband and I have this little trick we play on our children. And it helps us to raise readers.

Every night, we try to get our three children in bed as close to 7:00 pm as possible. Our rule is that they need to stay in their rooms quietly and lights must be off. Oh, unless they feel like using this

Are you scratching your head over there?

Yes, it’s a book light. But in our house, it’s not just any book light. You see, I have had this book light on my nightstand since before my children were born. I use it every single night. And my husband has one, too.

One by one, as my children began to show interest in books, we gave them each his or her very own book light. It’s a rite of passage in our home to receive a book light in your favorite color.

So, where’s the trick, you wonder?

Well, you see… they go to bed around seven, but they don’t have to go to sleep. They can use their book lights to read. They can stay up as late as they want, reading. We have tricked them into practicing those vital reading skills.

My children now pride themselves in staying up late, while my husband and I smile each evening knowing that we are raising readers.

And, really, that’s what we all want to do, don’t we? We want to raise children who are not only proficient in reading, but who also enjoy the written word. We know that reading is not only a form of entertainment but a vital life skill. We want our children to want to read.

Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

Do you want to know the best way to raise a reader? Do you want to know the single most important thing for you to do?

Here’s a hint: it’s not a book light, folks. It’s way easier than that!

It doesn’t cost a dime.

It is fun.

It builds relationships and creates lasting family memories.

Give up? All you need to do is to grab a book, newspaper, or magazine and read it aloud. That’s it. 

All you need to do is to read. Read aloud to your children. Read early, read often, read even when they can read independently. Reading aloud is the single best thing you can do to build a love of reading in your children. If you don’t believe me, read this book. I truly believe that if every parent and educator read this book, our educational system would change for the better.

Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

By doing this, you’ll be performing a trick of your own. You’ll trick them into seeing work as play. Reading is fun, once you are proficient.

Here’s the thing: Learning to read is not easy. It’s hard work to break that code and decipher what all those letters mean! It takes a long time to build those reading skills. Like any skill, one must practice in order to become proficient. And, let’s be honest here: practice can be… boring.

It is boring unless you really want to read. Children who are driven by the desire to read are more apt to practice those skills. By reading aloud to your child, you are creating positive memories around books and reading. Without even knowing it, you are making reading an enjoyable, desirable activity. If it’s fun, they’re going to want to do it!

read aloud
Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

There are heaps and heaps of studies that show the benefits of reading aloud. Children who are read to enter school better prepared. Reading aloud:

  • Builds vocabulary
  • Works on listening skills
  • Improves comprehension
  • Increases general knowledge base

It doesn’t need to be overwhelming, it just needs to be fun. Maybe you, for whatever reason, hate reading aloud. Why not just vow to read aloud for ten minutes a day? You can do anything for ten minutes, right? It may not seem like much, but that is 3,650 minutes a year!

Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

Do you need some motivation to get started? Here are some tips:

  1. Read the first chapter of this book and see if you aren’t hooked. It will change the way you think about education and parenting, I promise.
  2. Surf the ‘net to find some excellent read aloud books like these and these.
  3. Visit your library. It costs nothing and it’s right in your neighborhood!
  4. If you need a little push, join a virtual family book club.
  5. And, if you’re feeling super-motivated, start your very own family book club!
  6. If it all feels too overwhelming, grab an audiobook and snuggle up together!

It’s a brand new year, folks. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been reading aloud to your kids to this point. It doesn’t matter if your child is now reading independently. It is never too early, or too late, to read to a child. You can start a read aloud routine today.

Tell me: What is your current read aloud? Share here! This is ours:

current read aloud
Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.”
~ Dr. Seuss

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16 thoughts on “The Best Trick To Play On Your Children — Raise Readers!

  1. My wife and I both read aloud to our daughter, and have since she was a baby. She loves it when we read. However, recently the trend has been my wife and I reading while she plays (she’ll be 5 in May). We’ve felt more like the TV that’s on in the background than the foreground activity we want it to be. As someone who has older kids than ours, is this a natural progression?

    1. Hi, Raymond.

      I think this depends on the child. I have three active children, but one is SUPER active. When he was younger, I would read and he would move. It’s just the way he is. He is now 7.5 and he’s a voracious reader… but he’s the most ACTIVE voracious reader I’ve ever seen. He wiggles, reads upside down, walks and reads- you name it!

      If you are worried about her level of comprehension/attention, try reading aloud when you have a captive audience. Great spots are when she’s in the tub, while driving (audiobook or reading by passenger), and over breakfast or lunch. Or, set up a pop-up tent or pseudo-picnic on the floor and read there. We are homeschooling and one of our favorite things to do is to have a teatime where I read aloud. We learned about this through the Brave Writer curriculum/lifestyle and it really makes reading special. Regardless, you are doing a great thing and it’s WAY better than TV in the background 🙂

      Thanks for reading!

      1. Thanks for the reply, that assuages my fears a bit 🙂 Her comprehension is good, and she’s able to answer questions about the readings afterwards, so there’s SOME part of her brain paying attention!

    2. We had one like that last year. She grew out of thankfully. I think because of competition from her sisters. Who gets to sit with mama who gets to pick the book. Picking the book helps quite a bit but I think they just grow out of it if you don’t give up. Also include them in the story. Pause and ask questions, was that nice? How do you like that? Simple discussions.

  2. We’ve always done the bedtime reading thing too (although not as early as 7) w/o ever indicating that we’re promoting reading. Our rule always was to stay in bed, light on is fine if they “need” to read the next chapter or look through a stack of library books. Then, if a parental face pops in the room later, we agree that it’s hard to put a good book down. Sometimes we’ve said, “just a few more minutes, then lights out” knowing full well they’ll keep reading and feel like they’re getting away with something.

    I also have had a long-standing policy of not interrupting kids who are reading during the day. For example, if I wanted them to set the table for dinner, but they were reading, I set it myself. They figured that one out quickly! Yes, I interrupted for more important chores but in general they knew I’d leave them in peace.

    Great post Cait! Sharing!

    1. I love this, Laura! I hate to interrupt a reader, too. I usually only do it when we need to leave the house- but then it’s only temporary. One of my main rules is “always bring a book” so they read in the car too 🙂

      Thanks for sharing!

  3. I’ve been looking at replacing my book light — I like that the one you’re recommending takes AAA batteries instead of watch batteries. Thanks for this great post Cait!

  4. My daughter would (and has) stay up all night reading. Then we’d have a real grump the next day. All three of my kids love reading and I’m very proud of that fact, be we do have to set a few limits for the sanity of the parents and teachers.

    1. It certainly wouldn’t work for everyone, MamaRabia. We find that 99% of the time, when we head upstairs to bed, they are all sound asleep. We staggered bedtime so it’s earlier and they get that reading time in and then pass out.

  5. My kids love read-alouds! We’ve just finished the Mitchells’ Series with “Friendly Gables” and have started on “Misty of Chintogeaue.”

  6. I want to go back to reading aloud to my ten year old. I quit a few years back when I developed vocal nodules. I still have them, and they still cause me problems; to the degree that it actually hurts to speak out loud for very long sometimes. Any suggestions for a mom who really can’t read aloud?

  7. Just finished “Wesley the Owl” and it was intense! The first chapter was rough for my daughter because there were only a few pictures in the whole book. Soon she was hooked and enjoyed listening and asking questions about all the new words and scientific concepts. There was a lot of meat in the book; we have been discussing it constantly! And it was fun for me to read a book that didn’t rhyme or repeat itself!!!

  8. One of my absolute favorites that we read aloud last year was “A Single Shard.” It was an inspiring and touching story. (My kids made fun of me a little because I was having a hard time at the end reading through tears and being choked up.) Memorable and also a great peek into history.

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