3 Top Tips to Raise a Reader / Book Lover

March 25, 2013

Tips on raising a reader and book lover like our young girl in London bookstore

Are you raising a reader and book lover? "Wow, I wish my kid loved to read like yours does". As a  world schooling, travel family , we hear this CONSTANTLY from parents, as our 12 year old daughter,  Mozart, loves to read and always has a book in her hands to devour ( often in 3 different languages).

This is not an accident. Readers are not born, they are raised. Literacy is one of the best predictors of a child's future and being mostly unplugged is one of the big keys. Mozart gets more excited by libraries and book stores than candy shops as we travel the world.

“Learning is not to be found on a printout, it’s not on call at the touch of the finger. Learning is acquired mainly from books, and most readily from great books.” -  David McCullough  ( Pulitzer Prize winner)

Our little bookworm reading Harry Potter in England at Cambridge

"Two thirds of eighth graders do not read at grade level" - NAEP Reading_2009

"The NAEP 2005 scores of 12th-graders were generally lower than their counterparts in 1992" -Scholastic

"Just over a fifth of 17-year-olds said they read almost every day for fun in 2004, down from nearly a third in 1984." - Department of Education

Recently, I read where 80% of high school graduates in New York City can't read, so I posted it on Facebook as it reminded me of the bright ( but poor) young adults I had volunteered to tutor there long ago with this problem.

"Students who read widely and frequently are higher achievers than students who read
rarely and narrowly." - Scholastic

"Children with low-education families can do as well as children with high-education families if they have access to books at home." Scholastic

Fun with books around the world - we bought ton of Lindgreen in Sweden - Mozart's clay creation of admiration

That great discussion got me to finally start this series on raising a reader that I have been planning to do for a while. Books are the key to our homeschooling or roadschool travel education methods of being a RTW digital nomad family on the move.

Mozart taught herself to read at two, was tested at a third grade level at barely three and was reading Harry Potter at 4, but you don't have to be a gifted learner to be a book lover and MUCH of it has to do with how the parents support reading and learning.

Baby reading books in English, Spanish and Mandarin



It is shocking to find out that only 45% of toddlers are read to on a daily basis and in the poorest neighborhoods of the U.S., there is only one book available for every 300 children.

We started reading to Mozart in two languages every day when she was in the womb ( and friends read to her in Mandarin and other languages) and we continued reading passionately to her TONS daily from birth on. We each read a book ( Dad's in Spanish) before bed to my pregnant belly, so there was a familiar continuity when she arrived and we continued that pattern and those books.

I have video of her first favorite book at just 4 days old that she absolutely adored ( a black and white board book and the butterfly photo particularly mesmerized her for months). She could turn regular book pages at 3 months and loved doing the little door openings on "Donde Esta Spot" with her Dad at the same age.

Yes, babies love books! The love of books is contagious passed from parent to child. I am a book lover, a daughter of book loving parents, sister to book loving siblings and mother to a book loving kid. Each of my siblings learned to read before Kindergarten and we are still avid readers today.


Our house was filled with quality books and we went to the library and book stores several times a week starting from birth. Even as a travel family, we've managed to have a ton of books and still spend lots of time in libraries and book stores every week.

Books in the bathroom, books in the kitchen, books in every room to grab and peruse. Books in the camper van, books on a bus, books in a purse always, books in knapsack, books for plane rides. Books are like gold, you always want one around to temp you.Great books are good for the brain!

"The fact is, writing is one heck of an informational medium — the best ever invented. Neurological studies show that, as we learn to read, our brains undergo extensive cellular changes that allow us to decipher the meaning of words with breathtaking speed and enormous flexibility. By comparison, gathering information through audio and video media is a slow and cumbersome process." Nicholas Carr

Kids follow parents examples, so read books, not just online, just for the joy of reading. We love to read aloud together and one of our greatest pleasures these days,  is cuddling up together,  each with a good book.

Dad reading in Spanish to 6 month old baby ( Mozart)


Screen time has a negative effect on literacy. Yes, we see babies every where playing on iphones and ipods by themselves as their parents work on theirs texting away,  both lost in their digital worlds oblivious to the surroundings and each other, but it is much wiser to hold your baby and bring a real book and read to them. They have plenty of time to learn digital fluency when they are older and the tech will be completely different.

Many of the parents admiring our young reader of big books, have kids that are addicted to TV,  tech and video games. They get spoiled by and addicted to the bells and whistles of tech and screens, so never get a chance to fall in love with books and the joy of reading quality literature.

" A screen-based lifestyle provides a gratifying, easy-sensation ‘yuk and wow’ environment, which doesn’t require a young mind to work….We cannot park our children in front of a screen and expect them to develop a long attention span."  Professor Susan Greenfield ( eminent neuroscientist)

"Research published in the world’s most reputable medical and scientific journals shows that the sheer amount of time children spend watching TV, DVDs, computers and the internet is linked with significant measurable biological changes in their bodies and brains that may have significant medical
consequences." -  Dr. Aric Sigman

"He is part of a generation which, more and more, is reading less and less. This is having a negative impact on writing skills, depth of expression and, in this case, employment prospects, at least while her employers belong to Generation X."- Chris Harrison

Our girl reading in our campervan as we travel around Europe

We almost never watch TV, never bought cable, purposely do not have an iphone, (rarely even use our old cheap cell phone), bought a Kindle very late and use only as necessary and prefer to read real books as much as possible. I did let her play on StarFall for ten minutes, when she was learning to read at two, and a little Spanish Sesame Street videos, but we read real books for hours every day and spent time outside in nature exploring the real world when not reading. Even today, we do the same, making sure that we only use tech for limited time and educational purposes and educate her about it's addictive problems. We make sure she learns to use the tool, instead of the tools ( and endless marketing and consumerism) using her.

Pew Research Center survey found 87 percent of 2,000 middle and high school teachers said the Internet and digital technology have caused an "easily distracted generation with short attention spans."

Mozart is an extremely capable digital native at 12, but thanks to lifelong severe limits that prevent time-wasting and brain-draining, mindless screen time, she has the luxury of time to read a ton of classic, great  books which she thoroughly enjoys ( and studies show will give her sky-high SAT scores too ....effortlessly.) She also avoids some EMF dangers.

  3 month old baby reading - little bookworm - even an extremely active child who crawled at 4 months and walked at 6 months can love books

Oh, sooo much more to write on this topic, but I see I am running out of time and space, so will have to continue in other posts. What information and tips do you want to know about raising a reader and passionate bookworm?

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Theresa Lode

This is really great stuff, Jeanne. When young moms ask me for curriculum recommendations for their preschoolers and beyond, I always say, "READ." (After my internal cringing has settled down!) Read, read, read. Take a laundry basket to the library every week and fill 'er up. Lather, rinse and repeat. :)

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Oh, we are so much on the same page again Theresa! Raising a reader really is quite easy and has so many benefits.

I cringe when I see families with young kids, starting their day with screens...mainly to keep them quiet.

Even a VERY busy and extremely active baby and preschooler like mine was, can learn the joy of quiet fun if they are encouraged towards books and reading.

"Grab a book" was one of those things I said over and over and over as she got a little older...soon it became her own idea as a way to comfort. ;)

BTW, I like that laundry basket idea for weekly library visits! We use to get bags full...but sometimes they broke before reaching home.

Gary Coles

I am just in the beginning stages of a trip from Wyoming, USA to the tip of South America and am driving my Jeep. I am staying in Tijuana, MX for a short time to improve my Spanish and I thought this post was one of the best that I have seen. I just wish more people would pay attention to the advice you have given.

I brought a few books to read and give away or trade during this trip - as I look around the hotel room I see about 50 in various piles. This coming week I will write about a local bookstore and about

One thing that I find in talking with other travelers and even expats living here and in other cities is their lack of knowledge about local bookstores and libraries. I guess for me you could almost say that I travel from bonk store to book store or library.


Thanks for the reminder! I always have a book to read but lately we've been so busy I have putting off starting our next children's chapter book. I love to read but I need to get on the ball if I want my girls to love it as much as I do.

We've got a Belize trip planned next week and there's always time to relax and share a good book when we're beach bummin it.

Again thanks for the reminder!

jeanne @soultravelers3

Oh I hear you often gets so busy with kids, so it's good to make it such a habit no matter what.

A little morning and night reading is one way we slipped it in, or reading in the car, or the doctors office or while waiting for dinner when we went out etc etc etc. ;)

Now Mozart does this automatically, she will take her book out while we wait for the bus and then on the bus as well. ;)

Wait time means read time. ;)

The few times we have slipped in the screens department like at Grandmas...she always slows down in we learned some the hard way. Less media means more book reading, so we don't allow any during the week and just a little on weekend evenings...that makes it a nice treat.

Like learning languages or instruments, raising a reader means lots of vigilance for many years....but worth the effort. ;)

You have it a bit easier though since you love books too! ;)


This is a very inspiring blog.
I absolutely agree on what you say about books and reading.
As a child, my parents often read stories from different books and I loved listening to those. In primary school I loved reading, and I always borrowed the maximum number of books that primary school children were allowed to borrow (2 per week, this isn't a lot).
I got access to a lot of books as a child, even if my parents are not too fond of reading books themselves. To this very day, I am still the only one in my family that really loves reading.
At the age of 10 I was sure that my dream job was to be an author and write books myself. Today, 15 years later, I am not an author, but a translator :) So my work still has to do with books and texts.
When it comes to foreign languages (my mother tongue is German), I had to rely on the offers of school (which wasn't alot back then, English lessons started in Grade 5 at the age of 10, French lessons startet at Grade 7 at the age of 12).
I fell in love with languages and that is the reason why I decided to study translating and interpreting for English and French. In recent years, I've been learning Spanish and Chinese and just started with Korean this year. Thanks to the Internet and the availability of helpful and good books through that, one can improve a lot.

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