Family Matters: 10 ways to encourage literacy

Published on Wednesday, 6 September 2017 13:09 - Written by

Sept. 8 is National Literacy Day, and I didn’t want to let the occasion pass without penning a column devoted to one of our family’s favorite pastimes: Reading.

With 12 children, as you might imagine, we have a wide spectrum of personalities and interests. Some of our kids love to read and will devour anything they can get their hands on: books, magazines, junk mail, food labels - even surprise birthday party plans that Mom thoughtlessly leaves open on her computer.

But for some of our children, reading ranks a little lower on their list of preferred activities. There are countless ways they’d rather spend their time than with their nose in a book.

Although I’m a voracious reader now, I fell into that second category as a child, so I can totally relate to kids who have a hard time sitting still long enough to finish a book. Yet I also recognize how vitally important reading is to their success.

So what can a parent do to instill a love of reading in their children? Here are 10 things we’ve found most effective in fostering that love in ours:

1. Set the example. Children whose parents are avid readers are more likely to value reading themselves, so if you want your kids to read a lot, you need to nurture your own inner bookworm.

2. Read aloud. Kids are never too old to be read to. The books your family reads together may change as your children mature, but don’t ditch story time just because they’ve grown too big to sit in your lap.

3. Visit the library. Let your little ones get their own card as soon as the library will allow it, then use it regularly.

4. Play word games. We love Scrabble, Bananagrams, and searching the dictionary for unfamiliar words and guessing at their definitions.

5. Adopt a pen pal. Reading correspondence still counts as reading, but to get letters in the mail, you usually have to write a few first. Encourage your children to send notes or postcards to friends and family far away.

6. See the movie. Movies are rarely as good as the book, but it’s still fun to see a story you’ve read brought to life on the silver screen. Sometimes just knowing that a family movie night is forthcoming provides sufficient motivation to finish the book beforehand.

7. Subscribe to periodicals. Whether you’re ordering magazines geared toward your child’s age or perusing Sunday comics together in your local newspaper, periodicals provide a steady stream of reading material delivered straight to your doorstep.

8. Do a DIY project. Don’t underestimate the power of craft or cooking projects to motivate reluctant readers into deciphering instructions. That’s what motivated me as a child: reading was simply a means to an end.

9. Read on the road. Try listening to books on tape while traveling. Our family matches the stories we hear with the sites we visit: we listened to Johnny Tremain on a trip to Boston and Sing Down the Moon as we drove across Arizona.

10. Give books as gifts. In the words of Garrison Keillor, “A book is a gift you can open again and again.” Don’t know which book to give? Try my husband’s trick: He takes our kids on “bookstore dates” nearly every birthday so they can pick one out themselves.


Jennifer Flanders is a bookworm, through and through. To read more of her ideas for instilling a love of reading in kids, visit