In a world of iPads, iPhones, Fitbits, and wearable devices, reading an old school book on paper may seem quaint to kids nowadays. But research from psychologist Dr Stuart Richie of the University of Edinburgh suggests that kids who read do better in later years. In fact, the startling discovery was that reading more leads to higher intelligence. The researches postulate that reading teaches the mind to exercise the capacity to think in different ways.
As a parent who may be concerned about the amount of time your child plays video games or watches movies on Netflix, the challenge is finding ways to build reading into a daily routine in a way that kids actually love learning.
One of the best ways to begin is to make reading a habit. In the Power of Habit, Charles Duhig explains how we humans naturally fall into repeatable routines that are very hard to break once established. And while these can be negative when the habit is eating fatty food or choosing to be lazy rather than to exercise, they can equally be very positive when a habit like reading has been established.
In order to make reading a habit for kids, allocate a regular time each day that is dedicated to reading. Rather than you read to your kids, have them read to you. And to build the reading habit, make sure to give them the option of which reading material they want to select.
Ideally, you want them to choose a subject matter about which they are passionate. You might be bored out of your mind listening to a fantastic tale of aliens in new worlds battle across the Universe but if it keeps their attention, that is what counts. After all, they will be learning new vocabulary, sentence structures, and creative ideas along the way.
Another vital component in keeping kids interested in reading is finding the right time to read. Late at night when they are tired might be a good time for you to read to them but it might be a bad time for them to read to you when they are feel lethargic. Instead, consider a time after a school day, and ideally after they have had supper or lunch so they are not feeling hunger pangs.
If you can create a neighborhood reading group, even better. That way, your kids get to socialize with other playmates and it helps to set a goal to read a certain amount each month. For example, you and a few other parents could get together to plan on a weekly get together where you discuss what all the kids learned from reading a few chapters each week. By building in the power of social commitment to the reading process, the likelihood is greater that the kids stay on track with a regular reading schedule.
Above all, try to make the process fun for the kids. If one day your child doesn’t have the energy or enthusiasm to read, so be it. As a rule of thumb, it’s generally better not to force upon them a task that you ultimately want them to practice autonomously later in life without your oversight. By encouraging them to get into a reading habit but not demanding it rigorously, the love of reading can blossom from within and become a lifelong love that builds their intellectual curiosity, depth of knowledge, and, if University of Edinburgh research is to be believed, even their intelligence.