I’ve raved about Tony Reinke’s Lit! on and off since its release. Below you will find 16 ways to ignite a love for book reading in your children. If you have any other recommendations add them in the comments below.
1. Fill your home with books. Many of history’s most prolific readers, writers, and leaders were raised in homes stuffed with books. C. S. Lewis said that on a rainy day he could pull a random book off his family’s bookshelf and know he had never read it. And C. H. Spurgeon had an open invitation to his grandfather’s library of seventeenth-century Puritan theology books. As early as seven years old, Charles soaked for hours in that library, while the books shaped his mind, informed his soul, and prepared him for the 3,500-plus sermons he would preach in his ministry! Without great books we don’t have great preachers, or great writers, or great leaders. . . .
2. Read to your kids. Perhaps the best way to prioritize book reading is to read to your children. This provides time for parents and children to bond, and it offers the parent an opportunity to help model reading. . . .
3. Don’t stop reading to your kids. Christians appreciate the value of a life-long commitment to reading. Parents should continue to read verbally to their children as they grow older. . . .
4. Read your books in front of your kids. Young children prize what they see their parents prize. Over the months that I have written this book, my small children frequently come sit down next to me at a table with a stack of blank paper. They tell me they intend to write a book, too. . . .
5. Teach young children to read. Learning to walk is natural; learning to read is unnatural. Learning to read is like learning to play a piano—it will not happen without intention, focus, and discipline. Every child will learn to read at a different pace, but try to teach your children to read early. . . .
6. Push entertainment into the background. On average, girls are better readers than boys. Multiple literacy studies, done in countries around the world, have proven this. It’s especially hard to persuade boys of the joys of reading books. This is true for two reasons. First, there is an absence of masculine reading models in a young boy’s life. Dads who don’t read—and there are a lot of them—will rarely raise boys who read. Second, there is a pervasive influence of video games in a boy’s life. . . .
7. Listen to audio books in the car. Over the years we have logged many miles on the road for family vacations. We have grown to anticipate these road trips and the opportunity they present for the entire family to enjoy audio books. Before we leave on a lengthy car trip, we borrow CDs from the library or download audio books online. By the time we pull out of the driveway, we are well stocked. These books inform, entertain, and always help cultivate our children’s imaginations.
8. Hunt for the best books. Book guides to the best in children’s literature are readily available. Take time to plan books by season, by personal interest, and even by school studies. Talk with other parents in your church to find reliable recommendations. And if a book does not seem to be igniting a desire to read in your child, find a different book. Just because the book has a bronze medallion on the front cover doesn’t mean it will make a good read-aloud book, nor does it mean it will capture your child’s attention.
9. Anticipate new books. My wife and I seek to connect our children’s reading interest with specific authors. Once we discover an author that our child really enjoys, we watch local book signings and new book releases. We don’t stand in line at midnight waiting for the book to go on sale, but we do anticipate release dates and look forward to forthcoming books. This is a little practice that builds anticipation in our children for books and helps them appreciate the value of good books and gifted authors.
10. Celebrate the classics. This year we celebrated Hobbit Day (September 22) as a family in honor of the birthdays of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, two characters in J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic epic The Lord of the Rings. The kids dressed in hobbit costumes, we cooked rabbit stew, we walked barefoot, and after dinner (our sixth hobbit-like meal of the day!) we read together the story of the hobbit’s birthday celebration. Find ways to get significant dates from your favorite books, and the birthdays of your favorite authors, into your calendar so you can celebrate.
11. Cultivate your child’s moral imagination. In chapter 6 I sought to persuade you to cultivate your imagination. In the same way, imaginative literature like myth and 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. Currently we are cultivating the moral imagination through a collection of fictional stories based on the lessons taken from selected Proverbs (Peter Leithart’s Wise Words: Family Stories That Bring the Proverbs to Life).
Find books that picture moral lessons in the imagination, and savor those books with your children.
12. Help interpret worldviews as you read to your children. Reading vocally to your kids allows you to engage the book with a Christian worldview. Children’s fictional books especially provide us with something of a “worldview simulator” where we can apply the biblical worldview to the storyline and to the lives of the characters. 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 (see chap. 4). In this way books (even non-Christian fiction) provide parents with a way to train and prepare our children to confront real-life situations, sinful attitudes, and worldly thinking. Ultimately we can use books to show our children where a biblical worldview and real life connect or clash.
13. Read your favorite excerpts to your children. Sometimes we can invite our children to experience what we are reading. I try to read favorite sections of literature with my children. My kids are not ready to read The Odyssey and Beowulf, but there are sections that I bring to the dinner table to read to them. I find that many of the imaginative books that I enjoy are either too long or too deep for my children to grasp. My goal is to locate a particular passage I enjoy and share it with my kids. For my boys this means reading an excerpt of the hero engaged in battle. For my daughter, this means finding the princess in peril. This simple exercise shows my children a love of reading, and it serves them a sweet dessert of prose.
14. Invite your children to read to the family. My oldest son (nine) devours books by the dozen. He is making his own unaided discoveries now, but we encourage him to share with us what he is reading. I will buy him as many books as he can read, so long as he agrees to mark his five favorite 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. It also helps reveal our son’s heart to us, because we get a glimpse into what themes and concepts are most likely to capture his attention.
15. Challenge your children to improve books. When the time is appropriate, encourage your kids to disagree with a book. Ask them questions. What would you change about the book? How would you have written it? Do you have a better ending? Encourage your children to improve the book, to deconstruct the book, and to reconstruct it in a better way. These questions invite children to interact critically with books—a vital skill for all book readers!
16. Most importantly, read the Bible together as a family. Books are a big part of our home, but the Bible is the supreme Book. Parents model the primacy of Scripture by reading the Bible together as a family on a regular basis. Closed Bibles will not convince our children of the value of the Bible. We must open our Bible and read together. Currently we read Scripture together as a family after breakfast each morning.
Reinke, Tony (2011-09-07). Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books (pp. 161-171). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.