As parents, educators, librarians or family members, we all want the best for young people in our lives. If you are an avid reader yourself, you will most likely believe that ‘the best’ includes copious amounts of reading. But how do you start your little ones on such a complicated journey? We’re here to answer that. 

Whether you’ve been a reader since you were young or you only came to appreciate its many benefits later in life, one thing is certain: a reader will want to raise other readers. With so many materials and resources available to us – bookstores, libraries, school libraries, the internet! – you’d think that this would be a fairly straight-forward process.

Even more so, as kids from a very young age do as we do. You’d be forgiven for assuming that your child, grandchild, or student seeing you read is enough to encourage the same in them. However, as you might already know reading this article, the topic is a bit more complicated than that. 

Sometimes, reading doesn’t come as naturally to a child. Other times, they simply enjoy other activities more. Most often, it’s one of many, many things they’re still in the process of mastering, and a guiding hand could mean all the difference. 

In our quest to understand what strategies work and what strategies don’t work when it comes raising young readers, we have enlisted the help of self-proclaimed bookworms whose children have been given that guiding hand – readers who, in an effort to pass on a love of reading, have gone through the continuous trial-and-error and arrived at a place that they’re happy with. 

Guided by them, you may be able to more easily guide your own little ones towards the greatest hobby of all (we may be biased). So let’s jump in!

Things to do 

Start as early as possible 

Lifelong readers often start out in the womb – you might be surprised, but reading to your baby before they’re born can have numerous benefits. It can help stimulate baby's senses and improve their brain development – moreover, science shows that reading to baby in the womb helps develop early language learning. 

Lisy from @Little_Babel_Library is raising two multilingual children, and she says she started reading to them before they were born – both to pass on a love of reading, and to give them a head-start on their trilingual journey.

“I believe that storytime as early as possible is one of the keys. I read the first story to my babies when I was still carrying them, I read while breastfeeding, and later as bedtime stories. Today my oldest is 8,5 years old, a real bookworm, but she still wants me to read to her every single night.”

So start as early as you can, you won’t regret it!

Make books accessible 

All mums agree – you raise young readers by giving them every opportunity to pick up a book and read.

Katie from @DearKatie_ has an 8-year-old son who is a huge bookworm. She says she’s always happy to share her tips, and when it comes to books, she believes that variety is the spice of life. 

“I encourage my son to read in different formats, like audiobooks for long car rides and eBooks when we can’t get the physical copy quick enough.

“Another big tip is: don’t leave the house without a book! Sometimes he takes 2-3 books with him in case he finishes one, but he always has something to read in every possible situation –  car ride, waiting for dinner, even in the elevator.”

Charley from @Book_Smut believes that the more opportunities you give for your little ones to pick up books, the more likely they are to do so. 

“Have books all over the house, especially at grabbing level for them, as well as lots of books in the car for entertainment.”

Weekly trips to the library 

A common – and free! – way to establish a positive reading practice is by incorporating trips to the library into your everyday schedule. 

Charley says that weekly library visits are a necessity, but they should be presented as an exciting treat. 

“Encourage them to go through the process of picking books and self-checking them out.”

Lisy agrees:

“We visit libraries and bookshops a lot as well, where the kids do their own browsing and learn to make their own book choices.”

Make reading a family affair

Like with anything, modelled behaviour is more likely to be picked up by little ones around us. No matter how many times you tell or ask your children to read – if they don’t see you reading, they might never think of it as a worthwhile way to spend their time. 

Emily from @Exlibris_Emily understands that kids watch and observe. 

“If they see me reading, taking time to quietly read, they are more interested in doing the same.”

Katie agrees: 

“My son sees me constantly reading and that was how his love started: he wanted to read alongside me. My secret is to just share the joy I find in reading. If I tell him how my book is going or how a story made me feel, he understands and wants to share his experiences too.”

Lisy jumps on this idea as well:

“The time we spend reading together is special for all of us. We all look forward to it. We love taking the stories further, creating games, arts and crafts linked to the stories. And we talk about books A LOT!”

Things to avoid


In this day and age, screentime for children is one of those big dividing topics that parents are either strongly for or strongly against. We’re not here to judge, but it’s no secret that screentime is terrible for our attention span – and attention is an essential ingredient for reading. Limiting the time your young ones get to spend around screens can help them in a lot of different ways, and books can be a great alternative. Unlike the ready-made, stimulant-rich experience of screens, books can enhance children’s imagination and even help them developmentally. 

Pro tip: While limiting screentime is conducive to doing other activities like reading, it’s hard to deny that kids simply love screens. According to Emily, this isn’t necessarily such a negative – all you have to do is turn screentime to your advantage!

“I have a tablet for them with the app Reading Eggs – it’s a game type format, but has ebooks and activities that teach reading, writing, and letters. My daughter was able to read simple words by age 4 and now at 5 can confidently write the alphabet and some words/sentences thanks in part to this app.”

Pressure to read

All questioned mums seem to agree on one thing: what you want to avoid is pressure. 

Charley says she never forces her daughter to sit and read a book if she doesn’t want to: 

“I encourage her to pick a different one or do something else – I never associate force or negativity with books.”

Of course, pressure can come from other sources too – which is why Katie’s advice extends to external influences as well:

“I don’t pressure my son to read or rush a book, and I don’t let him use Goodreads to track them. Then he just gets obsessed with recording books and reading a certain number, and I want to take the stress and competitiveness out of it.”

Taking the lead

Remember that your little ones’ reading journey is exactly that: theirs. While you may have preconceived ideas of what their experiences should look like, chances are that real life will be a little bit different. It’s sometimes easy to forget that your children may have different tastes in books or reading practices – and that’s okay. Emily has some great advice:

“I let them choose the book, if they want to read it in the wrong order, fine, if they have 62 questions about every page, no worries. Also, kids will destroy books, rip pages, tear off parts, jump on them. Let it go, if they are engaging with books in any capacity, no worries.”

Share the joy of reading

At the end of the day, what unites these mums is a love of reading, and a desire to introduce their little ones to the joy of reading by sharing this experience. How you do that varies from child to child, of course, but it always comes back down to giving your little ones access to books, reading with them, and letting them explore their own reading journeys. 

Do you have boys that are struggling to get into reading? Read our tips on encouraging boys to read here.