9 Strategies to Build Good Reading Habits

Want to encourage a love of reading in your child? Discover 9 strategies that can help beginner readers build good reading habits.

Good Reading HabitsIt’s magical, isn’t it? Seeing your child piece letters and words together as she reads from a book.

But as much as she enjoys reading now, how do you make sure she continues to do so in the years ahead? After all, you see bleak stats about kids’ interest in reading on their own dwindle as early as fourth grade.

It’s not about turning your child into the next whiz or pressuring her to be at the top of her class. Instead, it’s about developing a love of reading and learning. One where leisure time includes lounging on the couch with a book or getting excited about new selections from the library.

Take a look at these simple but clever ways to build good reading habits, right from the start:

1. Incorporate reading into daily life

You’ll be surprised how often you can include reading in your everyday life.

At the grocery store, ask your child to read labels or point out aisle numbers and signs. When walking around the block, show her the letters on road signs and those painted on the street. Leave reading materials—from comics to recipes—strewn all around the house.

Reading doesn’t only happen in books, but everywhere around us.

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2. Read 20 minutes a day

Who has 20 minutes a day, much less five, to read book after book? It’s a matter of not doing something else so you have time for these reading sessions. In other words, we make the time.

And one of the easiest ways to incorporate 20 minutes is to build it into your routine.

Snuggle with a few good books after taking a bath and dressing in pajamas. Do this often enough, and your child will not only have the motivation to read every night, but do it automatically—no nagging necessary.

And read for pleasure yourself, in front of your child. This teaches her that everyone in the family reads, not just kids.

3. Alternate reading pages

Encourage your child to read aloud by alternating reading pages with each other.

He can read one page, then you read the next. Stick to books you know he can read well and with inflection. If he reads like a run-on sentence with no pauses or punctuation, then try a book with fewer lines for him to read.

4. Choose appropriate books

Find age-appropriate books for your child—the right book can make a big difference!

One way to gauge a book’s difficulty level is the Five-Finger Rule. Have her practice reading a page in a book, and count every word she struggles with. If, at the end of the page, she stumbled on fewer than five, then the book is age-appropriate. Any more than that, and it’s too difficult.

Along with age-appropriateness, choose books that match her interests. She’ll be more motivated to read when the topics align with topics she’s interested in.

5. Point to the words

As you read a book, run your finger underneath the words you say out loud. Your child can better follow along and learn to identify new words. He’ll also hear your intonation and know when you pause or stop between sentences.

Do the same as he reads books, or encourage him to do the same. That way, he also doesn’t “lose his place” as he stops to think.

6. Read the same books over and over

As adults, we don’t often re-read the same books over and over, except for a few favorites. But for kids, this is an important way to develop good reading habits.

For one thing, they enjoy hearing the same stories, especially those that make them laugh or pique their interest. And sometimes, they might need a few more reads to absorb the meaning and learn new words.

The best ones to read again and again? The books they request over and over.

7. Look up a new word

Once in a while, make it a game to look up a new word. As you read a story, find words you think your child might not know. Write it down in a notebook and, after you read the book, have her:

  • Write the definition (with your help).
  • Find and write a similar word.
  • Write the sentence from the book where you found it.
  • Come up with and write a new sentence of her own using the word.
  • Draw the scene with the word either from the book or from her own sentence.

8. Ask questions about the book

Encourage your child to question the stories she reads through reading prompts, asking one or two for each book. You don’t have to do this with every book you read, but it’s a great exercise to keep her engaged. A few examples are:

  • What do you think this story is about?
  • What do you think will happen next?
  • Why did he do that?
  • How does she feel?
  • Who was the main character?
  • What was the problem in the story?
  • How did the characters figure it out?
  • What did you learn from this book? (Great for non-fiction books.)

9. Have a homework routine

Have a homework routine after school so your child knows what to do. For instance, he can start homework right after he eats a snack.

I also don’t think parents should “help” with homework. After all, it should cover what kids have already learned in the classroom, not a time for you to teach new lessons. In other words, your child should be able to do most of it alone (if he can’t, it’s time to talk to the teacher).

Instead, establish homework time and be there if he needs help, like reviewing vocabulary words or understanding instructions. Simply carving time in your day can help him develop these habits and make them automatic.


Raising a lifelong reader starts with you. Help your child build good reading habits by reading often and everywhere.

When you do, encourage active participation through reader prompts and alternating pages. Find age-appropriate books, especially about her interests. And stay involved in her school work to guide her through what she’s learning.

Raising a lifelong reader starts right now—including the magical way she pieces letters and words together.

Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and get your copy of the Read Aloud Book List below—at no cost to you:

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  1. How can I help my 4 year old read and love writing because he is too hyper?

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      It can definitely be hard to get kids to read and write when they’d rather be up and about. One thing I’ve found to really help is to break it up into small breaks. Even reading for a few minutes at a time that, over the day, add up to a good amount, works just as well as sitting down for one long reading session.

      You can also make it a fun activity, like practicing writing by making a card for someone, or pointing out words you see when you’re out and about. The more he sees it as a positive, fun activity, the more he’ll take to it 🙂 I hope that helps, Franca! Rest assured you’re doing a good job for the very fact that you’re here doing all you can for your little guy.