Reading is truly a gift. Just ask someone who doesn't know how to read. Most parents want their children to be good readers and it seems that in today's electronic obsessed world it is getting harder and harder to get our children to focus on this important skill. Personally I have raised a voracious reader and one that needs a little more creative prodding on my part. I've learned a few things along the way and look forward to sharing them with you so read on.
My first piece of advice is to start early, and I mean really early! I read my first books to my children while they were still in the womb. Now this may sound a little crazy, but research has shown that the unborn can become familiar with and recognize sounds they hear while they are in the safe environment of the womb. Reading to your unborn child will familiarize them with the comforting rythm of your voice so when they hear it post-utero it will be a sound they've already learned to associate with something good. What a gift to give them.
Now the next step is not rocket science. Read, read and read again. Those precious first few years are fertile soil to teach language skills and reading all sorts of books to your children will be key. Now is the time to dust off your old library card (or get one) and stock up with fresh books each week. Children are naturally curious and keeping a rotating supply will stimulate them to the wonderful world and variety of reading out there. As your children get older, you'll want to make them part of the experience and allow them to choose whatever they wish to read from the library. It's one place you don't have to say "no" -- you've got to love that!
As children get older, the distractions multiply. This is where creativity will be key. Audio books, which are also available at many libraries are great at bedtime and can encourage a reluctant reader. Another great idea is to provide variety. As long as they are reading it doesn't matter if it's comics or even a magazine on a subject they find interesting. If they seem disinterested in choosing something themselves then tempt them with some cleverly chosen options "accidentally" left around the home. I guarantee you they won't be able to resist.
Finally, probably the best piece of advice I can give is to set the example. If books aren't a part of our lives how can we expect them to be a part of theirs? If your children see you reading and enjoying what you are reading they are more likely to follow suit. Read something funny or inspiring? Share it with them! You'll be connecting with them in a very important way and conveying the message that reading is wonderful without even preaching a word.
So don't lose hope if your book worm turns his/her nose up at the printed word now and then. Just be assured that if you've started early and set the example, you will have layed the best foundation. Reading will not be a chore, but a pleasure and skill they'll have for life.