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Establishing a reading routine

Updated: Sep 25, 2021

Once your child starts being able to read in your language, it is important to help them practise, because … “Practice makes perfect”, doesn’t it?!

At least at the beginning, it is all on YOU, the adult, to create the environment for your child to read frequently. So you need to make sure it is easy for YOU to get the practice going!

Establishing a #routine is the best way to keep your multi-literate journey going.

Why are routines so efficient?

A routine makes sure that the practice doesn’t get forgotten, and the allocated time makes sure that it happens. #Consistency – this magical concept – is the key that makes everything possible, and routines are what makes consistency possible!!

In this post, I will talk about

Let’s see how you can get as much effective practice as possible, with the least amount of effort. Because the easier it is, the more chances there are for your child to practise.


Establishing a routine, knowing what it will be and when it will happen is the first step. If you want your routine to actually take place consistently, it needs to have to have an allocated time, a time that is made exclusively for that, so that when the time comes, it becomes natural to follow the routine set. It also needs a trigger that can be either time-bound or linked to another activity.


- BEDTIME STORIES Is there a better way for your child to fall asleep than by being read (for the 1000th time!) this magical story? (As a working parent, this has always been a bonding time, a privileged moment each day I could spend with my sons every day!)

- WEEKEND MORNINGS IN BED: Your child(ren) probably love waking up early on the weekend, when you would love to have a lie in. By keeping a few of your child’s favourite books next to your bed, you can manage to stay in bed with your child for an extra 30 min! (And the best thing is that once they start being able to read more confidently, they will read you the story^^)

You can start these routines anytime. Your child doesn’t even need to understand what you are saying or be able to read at all!

When my sons were babies I would often lie down next to them, holding a book above our heads to read various books.

The colourful pictures and the way I was changing my voice to impersonate different characters and make sound effects were enough to entertain them. They were a way to spend quality time together.

Associating positive feelings to time spent reading will not only strengthen your parent-child bond, but it is also going to help your child develop a positive relationship with stories and books.


A routine can also be bound to a specific activity/event. The aim is to link the routine you want to establish to another recurring activity so that one does not go without the other.

- With my sons, for example, if we are out when it starts raining heavily, we hurry home and very often, we drink hot chocolate and get in bed to read together different books.

- If one of your children has an extra-curriculum activity, and your other child(ren) need to wait, having books to read could be an excellent way to wait. (Our sons preferring to explore their environment, this has never become a habit of ours!)

Once different reading routines are established, your child is likely to start exploring and reading books on their own.


Create an environment where your child will want to read.

This can take different shapes and sizes, but the “must-haves” are:

  • A cozy area with cushions and blankets.

  • A shelf to display some books your child can choose from. You do not need a big shelf. Rather than having ALL the books your child has in this one place, the aim is more to keep the choice limited so your child has the opportunity to (re-)discover books.

  • Books they love. Let them choose the books they want and do not hesitate to add some yourself.

For those of you living in a small space like us, don't worry. You do not need a separate space, or to "sacrifice" part of a room. Both our sons have a shelf behind their bed where they keep their favourite books. They choose them but we might also leave a few in our home languages, if we see that there are too many books in the school language 😉 This gives them the opportunity to pick a book they might have not thought about!


In the point above, we have seen how you can create more opportunities for your child to read. However, when you are teaching your child to read, you also need to #teach them in a way that is a little more explicit. You might need to focus on certain combinations of letters (graphemes), grammar rules etc. Unfortunately, our little ones don’t pick up reading and writing skills just by being exposed to them! Depending on their age, their personality, and your own “teaching / parenting style” this could take a more studious or playful form, and everything in between. But one thing is certain: TEACHING is part of the equation.

In our family we teach through play. The advantages of this way of teaching are that:

  • If the ratio effort vs pleasure is properly balanced, children do not realise they are making effort (because the aim is to have fun). In an ideal world, this way of learning would happen frictionless. In reality, it takes some practice to balance properly effort and pleasure (This concept will be explored very soon in another post titled How to Balance Effort and Pleasure)

  • Children enjoy playing and wait for these play(-study) time. Therefore, when we would be tempted by a day off, our children are here to remind us!! (Feel free to check The Parents’ Guide to Raising Multi-literate Children for ideas of activities to teach reading and writing in a playful way.)

  • As mentioned in previous posts, although we know why WE want our children to be able to read and write, THEY need a more immediate reward to keep going.

  • The learning happens as a consequence of the games they play and the fun they have.


  1. #Routines are extremely powerful, and an “easy” way to get big results with the minimum amount of effort. Unfortunately, they are not always easy to implement.

  2. To establish a reading routine successfully, make it doable for you too! As a parent, you are the one who will need to be consistent. For that, make it a moment you, as well as your child, are looking forward to, such as bedtime story after a long day at work.

  3. Create a space for your child where they will want to read.

  4. And when it comes to teaching them how to read, try to make it a moment THEY are looking forward to, so that whenever you do not feel like it, they remind you about it!

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