Instilling in children a love of reading is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child and will impact on so many areas of a child’s life. Not just academically but their social and emotional development and imagination.
How can parents encourage children to read when there are so many other things kids enjoy doing, most of which involve a some sort of screen? I believe the key for any age is about finding the ‘right book’.
Every time your child experiences reading something boring, too challenging or too easy they will be put off. I have witnessed children’s attitude to reading simply transformed by the experience of reading one book they really enjoy. They need that feeling of not being able to put a book down and once they have found one, they may get into a whole series or genre and then the habit of reading becomes established. Finding that right book takes time. It may involve going to a specialist bookshop, speaking to the class teacher or your child’s peers, reading online reviews etc.
What are the main factors to think about when choosing books?
1. Is the book appealing and eye-catching, front cover bright, interesting illustrations? The length of words, sentences and vocabulary gives a good guide to the level of difficulty. If you are expecting your child to read the book on their own, it needs to be pitched at the right level.
2. Is the story worth telling? Does it read well aloud?
Entertaining? Challenging? Imaginative? Exciting?
Suspense? Humour? Clear Sequence?
3. Is the language appropriate, natural and meaningful?
Does it encourage prediction and anticipation?
Richness in expression and imaginative use of words?
Rhythm, rhyme & repetition help young children to predict the text.
4. Is the subject appropriate to the child in terms of age and maturity?
Books should be linked to a child’s own interests and experience.
5. The ‘look of a book’ is important – psychological and social factors. If it seems too difficult or too easy, they may not want to try.
6. Are the characters convincing? Can children identify with
them? Dialogue between characters should be clear,
understandable and capture the rhythms of real speech.
7. Is the print clear, well-spaced and appropriately sized?
Can be small as long as words clearly separate. A few
sentences on each page are less daunting. Explore different
styles – comic strip, puzzle-solving, variety of typefaces.
8. Does the story give opportunities for further discussion?
9. Does your child have a favourite author, series or genre of
books? Teach children how to make their own choices. Respect their opinion and taste.
10. Encourage re-reading of familiar books. Children need the
experience of effortlessly breezing through books. Easy and absorbing books treat the child as a reading expert.
Encourage your children as much as possible to make their own choices without disapproval or enforcing your own views. It is also fine for them to dislike a book and be critical, as long as they can explain why. As they get older, they are far more likely to want to read something recommended by their peers than their parents.
They just need to get into the habit of reading something even if it’s simply the back of a cereal packet or instructions to a game.