“You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.” (Dr Seuss)
With the advancement in technology, children are much less likely to see adults reading books than in previous decades. Instead, children are becoming accustomed to seeing their role models looking at computer screens, mobile phone displays and kindle tablets, however this is not what we want for our younger generations, is it? Growing up without experiencing the power and enlightenment of stories designed to conjure up individual visions and emotions for every reader?
That is why it is so important to allow your children to see you reading traditional books, so that they may see it as a normal, everyday task (subsequently turning this into a more exciting activity will also be discussed below). So, go on, set an example and get reading!
When was the last time you sank your eyes into a fine literary work?
Allowing your children to see books around the house will get them used to the idea of reading. Photo via Visual hunt
To make picking up a book feel more instinctive, you might like to fill a bookcase in the home with some of your favourite novels, take a pile of books away with you on holiday or keep your favourite story proudly on display beside your bed – either of these options will ensure that your children get used to seeing books in their environment and perceive them as being a part of life in general.
Children need to see others around them reading to believe that it is something that they will even like, let alone something that could benefit them in the long run. Taking your child to the library from an early age can help to get them more excited about books, as they will have the opportunity to look through different categories and find ones that best suit their interests.
Why not introduce your young reader to the wonder of poetry?
It doesn’t matter if they pick a book simply because of the illustrations, that is exactly the point of children’s books. If they are inspired by the pictures, they will also take an interest in the words on the page.
Ask your local library whether they hold any events for babies or toddlers, as many now offer free classes and initiatives like Rhyme Time (where nursery rhymes are sung with participation from your little ones) and Story Time (where children’s stories are read aloud, adapted to specific age groups). Making an occasion of reading can change the way children see the task. Moreover, seeing their peers take enjoyment from a story can encourage their own sense of excitement towards the reading process.
Library sessions, or libraries alone, can get children get excited about books. Photo credit: jblyberg via Visualhunt
Thankfully, the tradition of buying little ones physical books to read and touch is sill going strong, with many children’s rooms or nurseries containing storage for books and with many publishing houses embracing the sensory benefits that these can bring. Take, for example, the collection of ‘That’s not my…’ books published by Usborne.
While putting books in their room is a good start, you should ideally aim to read a story a night as part of your child’s bedtime routine. Whether it is Mummy, Daddy or a grandparent reading the book, you should let your child be involved in the process of choosing the story.
A good bedtime story can help reduce stress as well as forge bonds between you!
Regardless of whether they pick the same book every night or if they like a variety of stories, the results will still be the same – research has shown that reading from a young age will encourage reading through to adulthood.
It’s important not to force your conceptions of what they should be reading or what they should like to hear about onto your child as, even at a very young age, they are already developing their personality and interests.
Remember also that kids’ books don’t have to be focused on fairytales or make-belief lands, you can read your son or daughter books about otherwise mundane activities like brushing their teeth or taking a bath to make them seem more fun than they actually are!
Don’t be afraid to look silly when reading to your child. The more animated they see you being, the more they will want to recreate that emotion in their own reading aloud. It will also be a great example to them that reading can be fun and entertaining, and might even provide lasting memories from their childhood.
While you need to keep a relatively open mind about what you read to your children, understanding what they are interested in is important in encouraging them to read more.
For instance, if your child is mad about tractors, there is a strong chance that you will be able get them excited about reading a story involving a farmer or one related to agriculture as opposed to reading them a story about, let’s say, a hippopotamus taking a swim.
The story doesn’t end when you close the book, especially not in your child’s eyes.
Be sure to keep your child’s interest levels ups by asking them questions about the book you/they just read and by talking over different aspects of the text. For example, if you just read a book about a little girl jumping in muddy puddles, you could ask your child questions like: “Do you remember what colour her boots were?”, “Was it raining?” and “What did her Mummy say?”. This will encourage them to visualise and recall information.
Finally, if you haven’t already started one, you might like to consider setting up a chart to log your child’s reading achievements. Awarding your little reader with stickers for each milestone achieved can motivate them to want to read more and more!
You will soon see your child realise the benefits of reading!
Even more so at this stage than previously, it is vital to understand what your child enjoys to read and at what level of comprehension they are working with. By giving a child a book to read that is too advanced for their age or level, you risk putting them off reading tasks in future as they may see the activity as too much of a challenge or begin to feel ashamed of their reading ability.
Keeping reading fun with books containing lots of images will ensure that they continue to be inspired by literature and that their creativity and imagination is continually stimulated by reading tasks. Don’t just rely on books that are being read at school, encourage your children to read additional material in their spare time and to develop a passion for a specific topic.
Book series are great for encouraging reading, as the stories usually involve many of the same characters and follow on from one another, ensuring that your son or daughter remains curious about the unraveling events across two or more books.
You can work with your child’s teacher to help your child read better!
Furthermore, using interactive resources can be a good way of getting young children to become more involved in reading activities. Materials that offer images to colour in, activities to play or puzzles to solve can help the child to better engage with the content presented and begin to develop the skills required to interpret more advanced pieces of writing.
Meanwhile, introducing ‘quiet time’, a period of half an hour to an hour whereby your children can do an activity of their choice (so long as it is quiet), can maintain their eagerness to read. They could either read a book or play on a video game, both of which can provide opportunities to practice reading in one way or another.
While you are probably keen to get your children outside and being physically active, there are educational advantages to sitting indoors if this time is limited, and it also provides an opportunity for them to relax and recover from a busy day at school.
The chances are, if you have a teenager, that they find reading boring and perhaps even see it as something to be embarrassed about (let’s face it, in today’s society, it probably makes them seem more fun to be around if they tell their friends that they skateboard in their own time as opposed to saying they like to read sci-fi novellas!).
Many teens are into sci-fi, fantasy or supernatural themes. Photo credit: COD Newsroom via Visualhunt
Regardless of whether reading is their ‘thing’ or not, you should never cease to encourage them to keep up with their reading as this will benefit them greatly when it comes to their education, not to mention further education when reading lists become longer.
Bike magazines, guides on fishing and books about horses are just some examples of the types of literature you could present to a child uninspired by reading to get them more excited about the activity. It all depends on what their likes and dislikes are, so do what you feel might work for them.
Nevertheless, some children might have embraced the fulfilment that they get from reading a piece of writing and might be keen to expand their reading.
Help them learn to read faster, with better comprehension!
While fiction and non-fiction books written by adults are equally beneficial, teenagers might prefer the idea of reading stories written by authors not much older themselves. Not only might they find it easier to relate to the topics and themes, they might also be inspired to express themselves in writing and tell their own stories.
Lucy Saxon, for example, an ex-student of the esteemed Bishop’s Stortford College who fell ill with ME as a teenager, won a book deal and has since published a collection of fantasy novels aimed at teens. Although now in her early twenties, Saxon started writing at the age of fourteen and is a fantastic role model for young readers and writers alike, proving that you can be a successful writer even when faced with life-changing symptoms.