Reading is crucial to the development of a child’s language and pronunciation skills, their ability to think critically and to feel empathy, to their understanding of different cultures and ways of thinking, among so many other things (check out our blog post on why it’s important to read with your kids). But sometimes, it can be a struggle to get them to engage with books.
As a kid, I never had any problem with reading; I looked forward to reading with my mum every night, and as I grew old enough to read on my own I continued to enjoy reading. At some point, I lost my way (probably when I started drowning in homework at high school, and now assignments at university) and have only recently rediscovered my passion for reading. Now, there are few things I’d rather be doing than reading a good book.
My brother, on the other hand, was never one for reading. He never inherited my mother’s love of books, and never really read for fun. Outside of the Goosebumps and Captain Underpants phases that all boys at my primary school went through, I daresay he never read a book unless he absolutely had to, and even then, it was a struggle to get him to do it. If books were video games, however, you wouldn’t be able to get him to put the controller down!
Whether you’ve got kids who are like I was, who love to read, or you’ve got kids who are more like my brother, it’s important to encourage those kids to read. Here are some tips on how you might do that:
- Make sure reading is fun, and not seen as a chore
Throughout their school years, your child is going to be given set texts to read. They’re going to come to associate books and reading with school and homework, and it is important to ensure one doesn’t become strictly associated with the other. Make sure there are a variety of books available to them, so they are able to choose for themselves what they’re going to read rather than being told what they have to read. Make sure these books are of an appropriate level for your child’s reading ability, however; cater to their capabilities, and don’t force something upon them they aren’t ready for.
- Allocate a time specifically for reading
For me, 7pm was reading time. After dinner, after bath time, just before bedtime. It was a way to relax and do something fun. It was the only time of day my brother would read, before he got old enough to argue about it. Sometimes, if you leave it up to your child to decide when to read, then they may never do it, especially if they have no desire to read. So it’s important to set a specific time of day to read with them, or for them to read…at least until they’re old enough to argue about it.
- Make it an achievement
- Reading is not a competition, but sometimes setting goals can be all the extra motivation your child needs to read that next book. For example, setting a goal of 5 books to read each week will give your child a sense of pride and accomplishment once they reach that goal
- Read together
If reading is a family activity or a group activity, it can be more enjoyable than if the child is asked to read on his or her own, even if they are a proficient reader. They have their whole lives to read on their own; the early years should be spent reading with a parent or mentor.
- Provide reading material they are genuinely interested in
- If your child likes cars, why not buy him some books about cars? If your child likes princess and horses, stock their bookshelves with books on princesses and horses. Knowing what your child’s interests are is important; they’re never going to want to read something they aren’t interested in.
For more ways to encourage your child to read, check out these 7 tips from Reading Rockets.