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Teach children reading habits: Read to kids to help reluctant readers love books

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Habits, both good and bad, are generational. Children absorb, by osmosis, the vices and virtues of their parents. Reluctant readers are raised by people who don't read and weren't read to. Now, I'm a voracious reader who's been writing editorial book reviews here, as were my parents before me. In college and adulthood, I've continued good reading habits. My husband's family were bibliophiles so he learned to love books. Our children are growing up reading and being read to. Are you struggling with reluctant readers, Do you need ideas to teach reading habits in your kids? Here are ways to teach children to love books.

* Read to kids immediately (like in the womb). I began reading to my children in utero. I read to kids as infants. While I nursed my babies, I would read. Early children's literature favorites were "Pat the Bunny" Dr. Seuss and the bright, colorful picture books of Donald Crews.

* End the day with a time to read to kids. Right up there with rocking, bedtime drinks and lullabies, a bedtime story brings closure and a sense of tranquility to a conclude the day. A rhyming, patterned story is a natural relaxant for over-stimulated minds. Our soporific of choice was Margaret Wise Brown's "Goodnight, Moon."

* Try a little bibliotherapy. Our youngest child struggled with night frights. To calm her, we read Ed Emberley's "Go Away, Big Green Monster." When our second son was having friend issues, we read "Hooway for Wodney Wat" by Helen Lester, about a shy little rat who take on the class bully.

* A little trickery is okay to get reluctant readers to love books. As a toddler, our second son was the poster child for reluctant readers. He was always too busy to be bothered to listen to a story. Our other kids were anything but reluctant readers--where had we failed with this kid? One day, desperate to prevent him from growing up illiterate, I grabbed a kids' book and began to read it to myself, exclaiming loudly, gasping and oohing and ahhing. The wiggly one scrambled up on my lap and begged to hear. I said, "oh, no you wouldn't like this story. It's too scary." (it wasn't but he didn't know that.) He cajoled and finally I gave in and read it to him. That book, "Milk and Cookies" (Frank Asch), transformed him. Now he has a house of his own, gobs of books and no TV! Sometimes you have to do what it takes to get em to love books.

* Read funny books and laugh together. Read to kids to get them to love books. Read funny books to bond with them. Our top laugh-alouds are "The Magic Bone" by William Stieg and "The Big Bad Pig and the Three Little Wolves" (Eugene Trivizas). My husband took this one to work and howled over it with his co-workers.

* Get kids hooked on mysteries. Mystery books are incredibly addictive and book addiction is good to teach reading habits! As a kid, I read "The Three Investigators" (Robert Arthur) and shared them with my kids. I can remember one night--all three kids and I crammed in the rocking chair engrossed in a scary part--being startled, collectively, out of our wits by the neighbor at the door.

* Read chapter books. A great way to teach reading habits is to read to kids in installments. Books that end chapters on a cliffhanger leave kids begging for more. My oldest daughter declares she learned to read so early so that she could read ahead and find out what happened. On a trip up north, I read "The Indian in the Cupboard" (Lynne Reid Banks). My family made me read by the light of the glove compartment, so intrigued were they.

* Use books as rewards, presents and prizes to teach reading habits. Starting a week before Christmas, we would countdown to the holiday with a book hunt. We would hide one book per child each night. One year, I gave used copy of "Captains Courageous" (Rudyard Kipling) to a Sunday school teacher. He told me years later that though he'd not been much of a reader, that book inspired him to become a teacher.

Try these tips with your reluctant readers to teach reading habits that last.

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