7 Steps to Create a Reading Culture in Your Family

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Do you have big goals for reading aloud, and never seem to reach them?

Do any of these resonate with you?

  • placing baskets of books all over our house and filling several bookshelves

  • constantly researching book lists of great literature and award-winning children’s books, all while making elaborate plans in your head of how to incorporate them into your homeschool.

  • checking out books from the library and buying copies of the ones you deem valuable to own?

The above all describe my life, and maybe yours, too.

No matter how well planned or prepared I seemed to be, the reading aloud part was just not happening.  Even as someone who loved and valued literature and wanted so badly for my children to love reading, taking the time to enjoy these great books kept getting bumped further down the priority list.  

7 Steps to Help Create a Culture of Reading in Your Family

Books have been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. 

I have always loved to read and assumed that I would pass this love onto my children.  My boys have always loved to be read to and when they were babies and toddlers, we read stacks of books every day and every night.  Once they reached “school age” I made sure our days were filled with writing, grammar, reading instruction, science experiments, engaging history lessons, challenging math practice, and enriching music and art class subscriptions. 

Gradually over time, we were unintentionally reading together less and less.

At this time my older two boys were great readers, but they were hardly ever picking up books for their own enjoyment.  (Can you relate?) We had just started our new school year and I had the realization I was going to need to put some serious effort into helping my children find their love for reading.

The more I looked around at all these wonderful books gathering dust, I realized that my boys were probably not going to magically pick them up on their own.  They were going to need a little encouragement and some deliberate nudging from me. 

I am not an expert in reading, but I have discovered some very simple strategies that have created such an amazing culture of reading in our home.  Not only that, but my boys are happily exploring books and are reading just for the fun of it.

7 Steps to Help Create a Reading Culture

Start A List

Last September I started keeping a list of the books that I read aloud to my boys.  I simply thought that it would make an interesting addition to their homeschool file and that it would be fun to look back on all the books that we had read together over the school year.  I had no idea that keeping this list would be such an effective way to hold me accountable for my commitment to read aloud more often. 

As crazy as it sounds, a plastic clipboard with a handwritten list on plain printer paper grabbed my attention if too many days slipped by, and I had not added any new books.  

Around the same time, I also started snapping a quick photo of the books that we would read each day and post them in my Stories on Facebook and Instagram.  For some reason, just that simple documentation motivated me to read more consistently, and I received many messages from other moms telling me that my posts gave them a friendly reminder to read to their own children. 

Sharing the books that we are reading on a public platform has initiated awesome dialogue from other parents sharing with me what their kids thought about the books we have read and in addition, we have found some new favorites when they share others that they have enjoyed.

Once my boys started reading books on their own, I began to keep a running list of the books that they had completed.  They were so proud to watch their lists grow and would ask me every day for their most recent count.  I will warn you that my goal is not to have reading become a race to see who can read the most books.  I ultimately want them to treasure each book that they read and focus on quality over quantity, but in the beginning, it was a big motivator for my boys.

Now a year later, they rarely ask me how many books they are up to on their lists, but they consistently leave me little stacks of their finished books beside the clipboard so that I can record them. 

7 Steps to Building a Reading Culture in Your Family

Find A Series They Love

Around this same time, I wanted to come up with a way to have my boys read more often but not because they were being forced. 

Some things in our house are non-negotiables like cleaning their rooms, taking out the trash, emptying the dishwasher, completing school assignments, etc.  I did not want to make reading outside of school feel like another chore or assignment.

When my boys first started to learn how to read, one of their favorite things was snuggling in a chair with my husband or me, proudly showing off their new skills.  I decided to capitalize on this love of theirs and every day at the end of their language arts lesson, I required that they snuggle on the sofa and read one or two chapters of a book to me.  I had absolutely no idea how one simple change could have impacted my oldest son’s reading life so much.  

That day I gave him Magic Tree House: Dinosaurs Before Dark and asked him to read the first chapter to me.  He read it so quickly, I told him to go ahead and read the second chapter too.  After he was finished, I handed him a bookmark and told him that we would pick up the next chapter on the following day.  I will never ever forget when he said, “Um, mommy?  Do you mind if I keep reading?  I really want to find out what happens!”  He sat down with that book and read the whole thing in one day and immediately started book two, Magic Tree House:  The Knight at Dawn. 

Over the next few months, he did not stop until he had read every single book in the Magic Tree House series.  At this point, his independent reading had taken off and he dove right into all the Kingdom of Wrenly series, The Bad Guys, the Dog Man books, the Spiderwick Chronicles, the Dragon Keeper series, all of the Zoey and Sassafras books, the Dragon Masters books, and the entire Imagination Station series.  He has read 394 books since last September when I asked him to read one chapter to me.  The Magic Tree House series might not be the one that piques your child’s interest but there are so many other good options to try.  

7 Steps to Create a Reading Culture in Your Family

Another great way to see if a certain series might appeal to your children is to read the first one as a read-aloud.  We read The Mouse and the Motorcycle as a read-aloud and my oldest son loved it so much that he read Runaway Ralph and Ralph S. Mouse in his free time.  He had similar reactions to The Cricket in Times Square, Pippy Longstocking, and Begin from the Growly series.  To be completely honest, I did not even know that there were six other books about Chester Cricket and two more about Pippi!  Right now, we are nearing the end of Adventures with Waffles and he is already asking me to get the sequel so that he can read it. 

When kids become invested in strong characters and interesting storylines, they will want to find out what other adventures await them.

As my boys began reading more on their own, whenever we went to the library, I checked out a variety of books that I thought they might like.  Of course, they picked out their own books as well, but I wanted to give them some new options other than their usual choices like Captain Underpants, Pokémon, Lego Ninjago and Star Wars easy readers, and Piggy and Elephant

Almost every selection I made was the first book in a series.  Some of the books they just loved right away and asked for more and others they read one or two and then that was as far as they went.  They read a few from Galaxy Zack, Encyclopedia Brown, The Littles, Cam Jansen, the Boxcar Children, My Weird School, and the Mighty Robots series and enjoyed them.   Others they loved so much they devoured the entire series from beginning to end like the Virginia Mysteries, the Last Firehawk, Secret of the Hidden Scrolls, and Time Warp Trio

Finding a series that your child loves could be just the springboard that they need to help them discover a love of reading.

Magic Tree House Boxed Set, Books 1-28Magic Tree House Boxed Set, Books 1-28The Kingdom of Wrenly Collection (Includes four magical adventures and a map!): The Lost Stone; The Scarlet Dragon; Sea Monster!; The Witch's CurseThe Kingdom of Wrenly Collection (Includes four magical adventures and a map!): The Lost Stone; The Scarlet Dragon; Sea Monster!; The Witch’s CurseBad Guys Book Series 1-10Bad Guys Book Series 1-10Dog Man Books Series Set 1-10Dog Man Books Series Set 1-10The Spiderwick Chronicles (Boxed Set): The Field Guide; The Seeing Stone; Lucinda's Secret; The Ironwood Tree; The Wrath of Mulgrath by Holly Black (2004-10-01)The Spiderwick Chronicles (Boxed Set): The Field Guide; The Seeing Stone; Lucinda’s Secret; The Ironwood Tree; The Wrath of Mulgrath by Holly Black (2004-10-01)Dragon Keepers #1: The Dragon in the Sock DrawerDragon Keepers #1: The Dragon in the Sock DrawerZoey and Sassafras Boxed Set: Books 1-6: The Zoey and Sassafras SeriesZoey and Sassafras Boxed Set: Books 1-6: The Zoey and Sassafras SeriesDragon Masters Series Set ( Books 1 - 8 )Dragon Masters Series Set ( Books 1 – 8 )Imagination Station Series - Adventures in Odyssey - Set of 15 - Volumes #1-15 Including Surprise at Yorktown, Captured on the High Seas, the Redcoats Are Coming, Danger on a Silent Night,and moreImagination Station Series – Adventures in Odyssey – Set of 15 – Volumes #1-15 Including Surprise at Yorktown, Captured on the High Seas, the Redcoats Are Coming, Danger on a Silent Night,and moreThe Ralph Mouse Collection (The Mouse and the Motorcycle / Runaway Ralph / Ralph S. Mouse)The Ralph Mouse Collection (The Mouse and the Motorcycle / Runaway Ralph / Ralph S. Mouse)Cricket in Times Square (08) by Selden, George [Paperback (2008)]Cricket in Times Square (08) by Selden, George [Paperback (2008)]The Pippi Longstocking 4-Book Set: Pippi Longstocking, Pippi Goes on Board, Pippi in the South Seas, and Pippi on the RunThe Pippi Longstocking 4-Book Set: Pippi Longstocking, Pippi Goes on Board, Pippi in the South Seas, and Pippi on the RunBegin: The Growly Trilogy, Book 1Begin: The Growly Trilogy, Book 1Adventures with WafflesAdventures with WafflesThe Galaxy Zack Collection: A Stellar Four-Book Boxed Set: Hello, Nebulon!; Journey to Juno; The Prehistoric Planet; Monsters in Space!The Galaxy Zack Collection: A Stellar Four-Book Boxed Set: Hello, Nebulon!; Journey to Juno; The Prehistoric Planet; Monsters in Space!Encyclopedia Brown Series: Volume 1 - 12 (12 Book Set)Encyclopedia Brown Series: Volume 1 – 12 (12 Book Set)The LittlesThe LittlesThe Last Firehawk 9-Book Set (Books 1 - 9)The Last Firehawk 9-Book Set (Books 1 – 9)Cam Jansen 12 Book Set (Cam Jansen, Vols. 1-12)Cam Jansen 12 Book Set (Cam Jansen, Vols. 1-12)Boxcar Children Books: Volume 1 - 12 ( 12 Book Set )Boxcar Children Books: Volume 1 – 12 ( 12 Book Set )My Weird School Daze 12-Book Box Set: Books 1-12My Weird School Daze 12-Book Box Set: Books 1-12Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot Books 1 - 9Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot Books 1 – 9Virginia Mysteries Series Set - Book 1-8Virginia Mysteries Series Set – Book 1-8The Last Firehawk 9-Book Set (Books 1 - 9)The Last Firehawk 9-Book Set (Books 1 – 9)The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Complete SeriesThe Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Complete SeriesTime Warp Trio 12 Book Set (Time Warp Trio, Volumes 1-12)Time Warp Trio 12 Book Set (Time Warp Trio, Volumes 1-12)

Go Beyond the Text

It does not matter if you have reluctant or enthusiastic readers, everyone appreciates taking a step further to go beyond the text. 

Taking a field trip to a location that relates to a book that we are reading is fabulous, but we can also make great connections without having to leave home.  Our phones, computers, and tablets give us access to videos and images from pretty much anywhere in the world and we should take advantage of this to enhance the books that we are reading together. 

When we were reading The Cricket in Times Square, the author was describing the crowds, colored lights, and sounds.  To make it come alive I was able to easily pull up a video of Times Square in action so that they could see exactly what he was describing.  I pulled up another video from inside a busy New York City subway station when the author was describing the sights and sounds of the subway.

Taking the time to gather some of the suggested readings from the curriculum you use always turns out to be so worth it.  Just last week we read the picture book, Snake Charmer, as an extension of a Story of the World lesson that we had just finished on India.  My boys were really engaged during this book, and it had wonderful, real-life photos, but we took it a step further and found videos of actual snake charmers in action. 

When I am planning for upcoming lessons, I pull up our library’s website and put any suggested readings that they have on hold.  All my boys from my six-year-old up to my ten-year-old really enjoy reading books that tie into what they are already learning about in math, history, science, and music.

Another Story of the World lesson suggested Aliki’s Mummies Made in Egypt as an extra resource.  I stumbled upon a Reading Rainbow episode that not only features this book but also takes you behind the scenes at a museum to explore the mummy exhibit and see how the scientists study what is beneath the wrappings.  Reading Rainbow is an excellent resource for digging deeper into children’s books and going beyond the text.  I was beyond ecstatic when I discovered there are many episodes available on Netflix and on YouTube.

I have also found great resources by following our favorite children’s authors on social media.  My oldest son’s favorite series currently is the Virginia Mysteries by Steven K. Smith.  I started following his page on Facebook and discovered he was teaching a writing class over Zoom and having a book signing at Swannanoa, a 1912 mansion where part of his book, Midnight at the Mansion, took place.  It was a wonderful experience for our whole family to listen to him give a talk about being an author, meet him, and take a tour of the mansion.  Mr. Smith has several upcoming events that we will be sure to attend.

Patricia Polacco’s Facebook page is a treasure trove of videos of her talking about the books that she has written.  After reading Fionna’s Lace we found a video of her showing the actual Irish lace that inspired the story and explaining that the events really did happen, and the characters were her real family members.  When we read Meteor, we watched a video of her talking about her grandmother who was one of the characters from the story.  These personal accounts from the authors themselves are so valuable and give such insight into their stories.

7 Steps to Create a Culture of Reading in Your Family

One on One Reading Time

Having one on one reading time with each child for a few minutes every day has been such a great experience for many reasons.  Sometimes I let them choose the book that they read to me, and it is a good way for me to get a glimpse into their current interests and what they enjoy reading. 

Often though, I use this time to put quality literature in their hands that they typically would not choose on their own. They are usually happily surprised at how much they enjoy the books that I choose.  It is a great bonding experience to have a book just between the two of you to discuss and enjoy together. My oldest son and I have enjoyed Sarah, Plain and Tall, The Canada Geese Quilt, Sam the Minuteman, and a biography about Jesse Owens.  The Jesse Owens book took us down so many rabbit trails of learning together. We BOTH learned so much about the athlete himself, the racism that he faced, and the 1936 Olympics.  

Limit Screen Time

Limiting screen time may seem like an obvious thing to do for the general well-being of our children, but I believe that it absolutely needs to be acknowledged as something that has a big impact on my children’s reading lives

My boys love TV, video games, and their Chromebooks as much as any other kids but if they had unlimited access to these devices, I could almost guarantee that they would never voluntarily pick up a book.  I know that it is rare, but we do not have any gaming systems and while they do have Chromebooks for school-related activities, their screen time is limited to special occasions and long trips.  When they have free time I encourage outside play, puzzles, crafting, and building with Legos and Magna-Tiles.  I purposely keep us well stocked in art supplies, handicraft projects, and science kits.  It may seem unrelated to reading but in my experience, these kinds of activities promote stronger focus and stamina. 

Reading takes focus and patience and can feel like real work when compared to flashing screens, clicking, swiping and the instant gratification that screens easily give.

Fill Your Home With a Variety of Books

Your public library is a great resource. Use it often!

We have established a routine of making a trip to the library on the same afternoon that we have piano lessons.  It’s a good time because we are already out and about and it’s helpful for all of us to have a day set aside that we can count on to be able to pick up any books that we have put on hold, stock up on any books that we will need soon, make returns, and they can choose new books to bring home. 

I try to check out books that I think each of my boys would like but might not choose for themselves, books that pertain to whatever topics we are currently learning about, and I also choose a few books on CD that they can listen to during our homeschool day.  All of us have library cards and there have been many times when I have been very grateful that our librarians have allowed us to go way over our limit!

Even though we regularly use our library, I still buy a lot of books and books can be expensive.  I have found almost all the books that I have searched for, even hard to find ones, on used book sites like and for very affordable prices.  

I still have baskets of books scattered around our house and organized by topic around the subjects that we are studying. Right now, we have a basket of science books about animals, plants, and cells, along with some magnifying glasses and compasses. 

My youngest son is learning kindergarten and first grade math concepts, so we have a basket of books about patterns, shapes, directional words, etc. We have two history baskets, one with books related to Colonial America for a book study we recently finished and another with the recommended readings from our Story of the World Middle Ages curriculum. 

Anytime Miss Mary makes a book suggestion during our SQUILT lessons, we track it down.  There have been so many good ones, but my boys have especially loved the composer series with the listening CDs and the Welcome to the Symphony musical book.  We keep these in a basket with a CD player and other books on CD.  It’s very convenient and makes these much more user-friendly when they are out and easily accessible. 

7 Ways to Create a Reading Culture in Your Family

Think Outside the Box

The reading culture in our homes will grow by leaps and bounds when we think outside the box and let go of what we think it’s supposed to look like. 

I used to think of read-aloud time as a pre-bedtime activity.  While we do read before bed almost every night, I have also learned to work in read-alouds throughout our day.  I have found reading aloud or listening to an audiobook while we are eating lunch is a great way to sneak in some reading and keep the chaos and mess to a minimum.   This year we spent more time than usual waiting in the car for dentist, doctor, orthodontist, and hair appointments. 

We took advantage of this captive time and listened to so many great audiobooks like Ramona Quimby Age 8, The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo, Freckle Juice, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and The Green Ember.  Even my husband was able to get in on most of The Tale of Despereaux while we were on a family road trip.

When trying to help our kids find the joy in reading, we must remember to make it joyful. 

7 Steps to Create a Reading Culture in Your Home

Do not get hung up on what reading level they are on or comparing what they are reading to the kids in public school or the kids down the street.  When I started focusing on building relationships with my children through books, the love of reading just naturally came.  My oldest son was a breeze.  He found that love right away and ran with it. 

My middle son is still a work in progress.  He likes to read, he laughs the loudest when I am reading books that he finds hilarious, and he loves to find new books to bring home from the library.  He happily snuggles with me and reads a chapter or two of his current book.  His independent reading time has increased, and he has found a favorite author or two.  Sometimes I wish that he was less interested in the comic book style, silly stories but for now I will continue to put higher quality literature in his hands for us to enjoy together and maybe one day his tastes might grow. 

The most important thing is to not give up and keep exposing them to great books in as many engaging ways as possible!

Do you feel like you are creating a reading culture in your family?

Share how you’re doing it in the comments below!

7 Steps to Create a Reading Culture in Your Family

This post is from our contributing writer, Kristen.

She is a former teacher with a passion for books, history, and her boys!


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