Dec 7, 2011

How Tony Reinke is teaching my children to read – 16 gems on making reading a family affair

Tony Reinke’s book Lit! Contains a load of practical advice on how to read widely and read well. The final chapter Raising readers is a superb chapter on encouraging children to read. Some of them are most obviously directed at parents but there’s a lot that grand-parents, God-parents, aunts and uncles can glean.

The headings are taken from the book as is anything in italics.

1. Fill your home with books.

Nothing encourages children to read than readily-accessible books. A home full of books is a home that demonstrates the importance of reading.

To save paper (or money), take them regularly to the library.

2. Read to your kids. Make daily reading with them a priority.

3. Don’t stop reading to your kids.

I found this a thought-provoking suggestion. Reike makes a case for reading out loud with your children from birth through to college!

That may seem a bit much but there are ways and means of making reading a family activity. See some of the points below and what about listening to audio-books together especially in the car on longer journeys ( see 7 below) and then re-reading extracts on return as a highlight.

4. Read your own books in front of your kids.

Seeing that reading books is a high priority in your own life will motivate them.

Neil adds: I would add try to engage your kids with some of the content of what you’re reading. Tell them what you’re reading and why it’s important to you or entertaining to you.

5. Teach your children to read.

Reike writes:

As you train them in the basics of reading, find ways to motivate your children. We have motivated our children by offering to buy them brand new books when they can being to read simple sentences. And we encourage them by offering to take them on ‘dates’ to the local library.

6. Push entertainment into the background

Reinke offers this advice from Thomas Spence’s  How to Raise Boys who read

The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple – keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.

7. Listen to audio books in the car

8. Hunt for the best books

Look for books that will engage your kind of child and ask others for recommendations.

Neil adds – it may even encourage your child to read it if it is borrowed from a good friend who’s also enjoyed it.

9. Anticipate new books

Be on look out for new titles by an author your child has enjoyed and you have appreciated.

10. Celebrate the classics

Find ways to get significant dates from your favourite books, and the birthdays of your favourite authors, into your calendar so you can celebrate.

Neil comments: We’ve enjoyed reading our own copies of books we read as children to our 6 year old son. It’s special if they know that you loved the same book when you were their age.

11. Cultivate your child’s moral imagination

Imaginative literature like myth or fantasy is not only permissible for children, but it provides us with an opportunity to cultivate the moral imagination of our children. Our family has been blessed by the moral lessons in C.S.Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. The rich spiritual and moral lessons in these books make rereading them a priority in our home.

12. Help interpret worldviews as you read to your children

Reading literature together allows parents to read about sin and evil and goodness and beauty – and to pause and help the child interpret those realities in light of Scripture.

13. Read your favourite excerpts to your children

Even young children can enjoy edited extracts from your own reading

14. Invite your children to read to the family

I will buy [my oldest son,9,] as many books as he can read, so long as he agrees to mark his five favourite pages in each book, bring those marked pages to the dinner table, explain the context, and read them to the family. This practice models a love of reading for his younger brother and sister.

15. Challenge your children to improve books

I particularly appreciated this idea! Encourage your children to engage with the books they read by suggesting alternative endings or better story-lines or even to bring the themes of the book in line with a Christian worldview.

16. Most importantly, read the Bible together as a family.


1 Comment

  • Fantastic summary Neil (which I found while looking for a completely unrelated old tweet/link by Reinke that I still can’t find). Loved his book too, BTW. Our 3 kids are all under 5 and we’ve implemented lots of your gems already, but you’ve added a few more to the list. Cheers! Glad I clicked on your ‘About’. Interestingly, my wife also came to Christ an X-70 coach ride away from where you did (Oxford) and around the same time, and just published a memoir about it. All the best!

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