It’s no secret that your child’s ability to read is one of the most important milestones in their education and their lives. Learning to read isn’t just about recognizing text – it’s also about speaking, listening and understanding. Stories and text expand your child’s imagination, improve their communication skills and help develop a plethora of brain functions. Whether your child is at the beginning of their reading journey or you’d like to see your child reach for books more often, here are four strategies you can try to make reading a positive activity for your child.

Be Explicit in Your Enthusiasm

Taking the time to include explicit modelling will pay off in big ways. Literacy experts like those at the University of Rochester tell us that “children who value books are more motivated to read on their own and will likely continue to hold that value for the rest of their lives.” Model a love of reading to your child by explicitly sharing your enthusiasm. Watch your body language when you remind your child it’s time to read – does it sound like a chore when you say it? Your child will pick up on your energy. Introduce reading time as an invigorating activity by telling them what you’re most excited about. Alternatively, show your child the peaceful side of reading by telling them how nice it feels to sit quietly and let your imagination roam.

Explore the Experience with Games

Reading is an experience. Introduce your child to your favorite memories of reading something new – the smell of a new book or the mystery behind an unread story. Use the library or bookstore to turn book-selecting into a game. Play a color-palette game: what does the cover’s color palette say about the mood of the story inside? Will bright colors yield a fun story, will dark tones lead to something ominous? Use your guessing games at home, too, by predicting what the story will be about by what the cover tells you.

Create a Personal Reading Ritual

Family memories are created in the unique experiences we encountered at home that no one else had. The trick is to find the ways you can make reading at home special. Find a spot in the home that you call your reading nook, a favorite blanket or stuffed animal your child can cuddle up, or a snack you can both enjoy every time you pick up a certain book or series. (Green eggs and ham with Dr. Seuss, maybe?) Be creative! No memory is too small to be cherished.

Ask for Lots of Feedback

When you ask your child to tell you what they loved or hated about a book, you’re doing so many things at once. You’re encouraging them to reflect, to organize their thoughts and emotions and you’re creating a lasting bond that they’ll associate with reading and family. This simple tip is one of the most powerful. Just remember that when it’s time to ask your child about their opinion, put your phone or work away to show them you’re listening.

Whether your child is 3 or 13, a few things are certain. First, they continue to develop their own preferences, ideas and opinions. Talking about reading with your child will validate them as they develop their identity. Second, we tend to forget – or at least underestimate – how much we, as parents, download onto our kids by simply being who we are. With these tips above, the enjoyment you discover for reading with your child will mirror a happy reader in them, too.