It is absolutely magical when your child learns to read.
But just because they CAN read doesn’t always mean they’re anxious to read on their own.
If you have a child who is old enough to start adding independent reading to their routine, here are some ways to help them make the transition from reading only with an adult to reading on their own!
11 tips to encourage independent reading
- Schedule family reading time. This has been one of our family’s BEST secrets for helping kids practice independent reading. I have a whole post here about our family reading time and it’s something everyone looks forward to (plus, it’s the perfect way to help children develop positive associations with independent reading).
- Let them stay up late reading. When I asked on Instagram for suggestions to encourage independent reading, this was by far the most popular response! If the options are quietly lying in the dark or staying up late to read in bed, many kids are going to choose the reading option!
- Model reading. You want your child to see reading as something they do for fun and by choice and one of the best ways to encourage this is by letting them see YOU choosing to read for fun.
- Have a LOT of options available. When you go to the library, get a big stack of fun options for them – different genres, lengths, and storylines – so they can flip through and find something that appeals to them!
- Read the first couple of chapters together. This is one of my favorite tricks for encouraging independent reading. For most of us – even big readers – the first couple of chapters are the hardest because you have to orient to a new setting, new characters, and new plot. If you can help them through those first couple of chapters, they’re much more likely to be able to continue on themselves!
- Read the first book of a series together. Similarly, read the first book in a series together and then let them loose on the rest of the series!
- Offer them books they’ve already read with you. There is something so special about re-reading a book – it’s comfortable and familiar and so delightful. Hand them a book you read aloud to them before or that they’ve listened to an audio version of.
- Have them read aloud to younger siblings or a pet. My children LOVE feeling old and nothing makes them feel more adult than reading aloud to someone else. Fortunately, they have a bunch of younger siblings who are happy to have their favorite books read aloud to them.
- Have them listen to the audiobook while they follow along with a paper book. This is a great transitional strategy to help a reader become independent. Grab a CD copy at the library or use Audible or Scribd or another audiobook platform to download the audio version and then let them follow along with a paper copy!
- Don’t be down on the books they choose. Reading is so personal and if you’re trying to encourage independent reading, one of the worst things you can do is be judge-y about the books they want to read. You might have zero interest in a book of World Records or feel like graphic novels aren’t “real” reading, but every child needs to find their own reading life and it might look very different from yours. And that’s okay! Be interested in what they’re reading and encourage them to find books THEY love.
- Keep reading aloud to them! And, of course, just because they’re moving into more independent reading, doesn’t mean they don’t need you to read aloud to the anymore! Whether it’s a stack of picture books or a novel at bedtime, keep up the habit of reading together!
Any other tips for encouraging independent reading? I’d love to hear – please leave your best ideas in the comments!
If you liked this post about independent reading, you might like these posts too!
- Tips for a great read aloud experience
- How to read to a wiggly baby or toddler
- How to build your home library on a budget
Photos by Heather Mildenstein