Fourteen Ways to Encourage Lifelong Learning

By Laura Lyles Reagan 

Creating and supporting the habits of life-long learners is the best investment you can make in your child’s academic success.

The Parent Institute and the non-profit, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) have ideas for creating a learning rich, home environment. Their ideas have been combined for this simple, home learning list to advance your child’s literacy and mathematic acuity this school year.

1) Want your children to be good readers? Let them see you read. Share their love of books and reading. Parents may say to children, “This was my favourite book when I was your age” or “I can’t wait to start my new book.”

2) Try relaxing your family’s bedtime rules once a week on the weekends. Let your children know that they can stay up as late as they want, as long as they are reading in bed.

3) Cook with your children. Have them use measuring spoons, cups and tools for a hands-on lesson in volume and science vocabulary, like liquids and solids.

4) Try holding D-E-A-R times at your house. “DEAR” stands for “Drop Everything and Read.” During DEAR time, everyone in the family sits down for some uninterrupted reading time.

5) With young children, try reading to them during bath time but be careful with the splashing.

6) Have children make a “book” about themselves, with their own illustrations and wording. “A Book About Me” is a great way to help your child see themselves as “somebody.”

7) Help your child discover their roots by talking with family members. Then ask your child to write that family member a thank you letter and share all they learned that they didn’t know in the letter.

8) Let kids overhear you praising them to others, particularly about how impressed you are with how they are learning. Always praise their reading efforts.

9) Encourage children to read biographies about successful people. As children learn about the traits that made others successful, they are often motivated to adopt those same success patterns in their own lives.

10) Motivate your children in math by challenging them to figure out how much change you should get back from a purchase. If they get the amount right, they get to keep the change.

11) Encourage kids to collect things. Whether they collect rocks, shells, leaves, or bugs is not important. By collecting, children are learning new ways to make sense of their world.

12) Estimating is an important math skill. We estimate how much our groceries will cost. We estimate how much time we’ll need to complete a project at work. You can help your child learn to estimate at home. Here’s one idea: As you’re driving, estimate the distance to your destination. Then estimate how much time it will take to get there. Use the odometer or a map to check your work.

13) Talk about geography in terms children can understand: Go through your house and talk about where things came from. A calculator may have come from Taiwan. A box of cereal may have an address from another province. Talk about where the wheat for your bread came from. Where was the cotton for your blue jeans grown? Tell your children where your ancestors came from. Find the places on a map, together.

14) Show your child that writing is useful. Have them help you write a letter ordering something, asking a question, etc. Then show them the results of your letter.

Reading is Fundamental Suggestions

  • Establish a regular time and place for daily read-aloud sessions, such as before bed or during bath time.
  • Keep on hand a variety of reading materials: picture books, chapter books, atlases, dictionaries, magazines, and newspapers. Get library cards for everyone and use them often. Encourage your child to swap books with friends. Give books as gifts.
  • Have plenty of paper and writing tools.
  • Store books and writing materials in places children can reach.
  • Have frequent conversations with each child, and the family as a whole. Parents should encourage everyone to express their ideas, opinions, and feelings.
  • Reinforce language and literacy skills by doing puzzles and playing games that reinforce literacy, such as Lotto, Candy Land, Old Maid, Concentration, Scrabble, and Trivial Pursuit.

Laura Reagan is a parenting coach and author of How to Raise Respectful Parents. She can be reached for questions and comments through her website,