How to Promote Reading in Your Home

Create a Reading Environment to Help Kids Learn to Read

Dr. Linda explains why a reading environment at home is important and how to promote reading with your children.

Dear Dr. Linda,

Madison’s teacher is telling parents to encourage reading at home. She says she’s not just talking about helping Madison with reading her school book or helping with homework.
Man reading to himself models reading for children.

We do both of these things already. And we read stories to Madison when she was younger.

The teacher recommended creating a reading environment at home. I have no idea what she means. She didn’t explain how to promote reading.

Can you tell us if you think a “reading environment” is a good thing and how to promote reading? Wondering about reading

Dear Wondering about Reading,

I’m assuming the teacher means making sure people in the family read and talk about reading. She’s just didn’t tell you how to promote reading for your kids. She’s probably suggesting that the family have books and magazines around and a bookcase filled with books rather than trinkets and family pictures.

And yes, I agree that creating a reading environment at home is an excellent idea.

Keep in mind that children learn by imitating their parents and imitating what goes on in their home. Most young children want to do what their parents do. Think of a toddler wanting to help make cookies or mow the grass.

So if you’re reading and have books in the house for yourself, Madison sees that you not only think reading is important for her but that you read also. She concludes that reading must be important and something she wants to do too.

A home reading environment is nothing more than modeling reading to kids.

For example, a friend of mine taught herself to read when she was three years old. She wasn’t a particularly great student. Didn’t have a genius IQ. But she went to kindergarten already knowing how to read.

I asked how this happened. She said, “Oh, everyone in my family reads all the time, even my grandparents. I wanted to do what Gradmother reading herself shows grandchildren that reading is importantthe grownups did so I learned to read.”

Turns out her grandfather only read the newspaper want ads for buying a dog. But at three, she didn’t know what he was reading, only that he was reading.

Of course, it’s different today. People do read less than when my friend was a little girl.

TV took over. Then computers evolved from a reading media to a visual media. All things digital and electronic captured our imaginations. Newspaper and magazine subscriptions declined.

Yet even though many of us don’t read much, we still believe reading is an essential skill that children must master and we hope enjoy.

How to Promote Reading in Your Home:

Use the word “read. For example, “I read that you get a day off of school next week. What would you like to do? Maybe you could invite Clare over to play”

Ask questions about what your kids are reading. “What did you like best about that dog book you just finished?”

Read yourself. Buy a magazine at the grocery store. Get a book about a favorite hobby. Talk about reading. If you love to save photos, you could say, “Oh, I just read the coolest article in my magazine about collecting family pictures.” Leave magazines and books out so your kids see them.

Model reading. If you don’t enjoy reading, you don’t have to read the classics, or the latest New York Times bestseller to model reading. Books about your hobbies, cookbooks, crafting books, car manuals and caring for pets, plus magazines all count as reading.

Insist on reading directions and recipes. “Before we start baking cookies, we need to read the recipe.” Or “Since we’re going to build a new bookcase for your room, we need to read the directions first.

Read stories to your kids. Not just to preschoolers but even 4th and 5th graders if they enjoy it. (Some older kids won’t and that’s fine.) Read something to them every night before bed. Research has shown that reading aloud to children helps them read. A study by the U.S. Dept. of Education shows that children who are read to are almost twice as likely to score in the top 25 percent in standardized reading tests.

Get books for your kids that are tied to their interests. A neighbor’s grandson, a 4th grader at the time, hated to read. He loves football. My neighbor found a football book at his grade level. He enjoyed it so much that he read it twice.

Little girl enjoying reading at the libraryTake the kids to the library or the bookstore for fun. Buy a book for yourself. Or check one out at the library. Let your children see that you like books. Show them that you enjoy going to library and the bookstore.

Assume your children can read and ask them to do it. Let them know that reading is an everyday activity. Ask them to read the directions for putting up the new shelf in the garage. Ask them to read aloud what’s listed in the TV schedule for 7:00 pm so you can pick a favorite show.

Better yet, turn off the TV. And while you’re at it, put the video games out of reach. Just read! It’s more incentive for your kids to see you reading than nagging them to read.

You’ll find that even if your kids have a reading disability, these tips show you how to promote reading. Kids can learn to read if they have dyslexia, but it’s easier and faster if they have an incentive other than getting better grades.

Happy reading,
Dr. Linda Silbert

Many of these blog posts featuring Q&A with Dr. Linda Silbert come from her syndicated newspaper column. If you’d like to read her columns in your local newspaper, ask your local newspaper editor to read more at and contact her office at (845) 628-7910

Phonics Centered — Consistent with Orton-Gillingham — Multisensory