Even in the modern world of computers, reading is a vital skill but many children regard it as a chore. By reading yourself, talking about books and setting aside time to read, you can make reading fun!
Even in the modern world of computers, reading is still a vital skill. It’s essential in education and studies show that a child’s future income is related to how well they can read when they are 7 years old. However, many children regard reading as a chore, so how can we encourage them to read more? We have several tips to make reading a pleasure for children, which will help them no end - at school and in later life.
Reading to children, even very young ones, will help with their literacy. Pre-school children pick up language very easily and reading to them will expose them to more words and so increase their vocabulary. They will also associate books with pleasant family-time which will make them more likely to enjoy reading later on.
There is a vast amount of children’s literature to choose from so you can pick something suitable for your child’s age. Older children may be less enthusiastic to hear you read but that doesn’t mean they’ll never hear a story with you. Why not replace the music CD in your car with an audio book? It’s a great way to bring the family together on long journeys, and it’s educational too!
By the time they start school, most children will be able to read, at least a little. As soon as they can, whether they are 5 or 2, ask them to read aloud to you. When they come across words they struggle with, see if they can figure them out themselves before you jump in with the solution. This helps children to understand phonics – how combinations of letters should sound.
It’s a good idea to ask young children what happened in the story they read, or you read to them – how a character felt, why they behaved as they did, what might have happened next etc. Understanding what they have read is the beginning of reading comprehension which is so important – after all, what’s the point of reading something if you don’t know what it means?
You can also talk to older children about books. Tell them about stories you’ve read which they might like too, or point out similarities between books you’ve both read and events in real-life or in films. All of this helps children to understand literature and makes it more enjoyable for them.
Children, especially younger ones, like to please their parents. So, if you want them to read a lot, then it’s important that you praise their efforts. Many children respond well to charts which keep a visible record of their reading. One idea is to set a goal – read 20 books for example. Mark down on the chart whenever your child completes a book and, once the target has been met, reward them with a small treat – an ice-cream or a trip to the library perhaps.
Older children respond less well to charts but you can still encourage them to read. You could offer them a similar reward if they manage to read a (longer) book in a week. Be sure to keep the reward small – we are trying to get your child to read for pleasure after all!
If children are going to read a lot then they’ll have to enjoy doing it – so, how can we make reading fun? First of all, talk about the stories you read together. Ask questions and listen to what your child has to say.
You can also make up your own ‘activities’. For example, if you read a story set during the Victorian age, then spend some time with your child finding out what life was like at the time.
Most importantly, treat reading as a pleasure – like watching a film or playing a game – rather than as a chore. If you can get your child to enjoy reading books then the battle is already won.
Writing is everywhere – bus timetables, menus, game guides, shopping lists. While these aren’t exactly Shakespeare, they do provide opportunities for children to practise reading. Encourage younger children to read at every opportunity – every little helps.
If you want reading to become second nature to your children then you should surround them with reading materials. If your shelves are crammed full of books then there’s a good chance your child will have read them all before they leave home (or the ones suited to their tastes at least).
For the most-part you should let your child choose what they want to read. You can of course make suggestions but, if your child chooses something else, that’s fine. Comics and magazines may not be high literature, but any reading at all helps to improve literacy. You might want to keep an eye on what they are reading though. See if you can get them to try something which will challenge them, but be on hand to help if they get stuck.
Even if your child loves to read, they won’t do much of it if they have no spare time. Dance class, football practice, piano lessons are all worthy activities but be careful not to over-stretch your child. With school, homework, extracurricular activities and social lives, children may find they have little time for anything else. Try to set aside some time dedicated just to reading.
If your family makes time to read every day then your child will realise that reading is important and they’ll be much more likely to enjoy it. So, turn off the TV, mobile phones and computers and sit down as a family to read. You could do it immediately after school or later in the evening – whatever suits – just as long as it becomes a regular family activity.
Some things go together – bacon and eggs, nuts and bolts and reading and writing. Reading on its own is great but, to master their literacy skills, children will also need to write. For young children, keep plenty of paper and pencils handy and encourage them to write their name, a letter to Father Christmas or to make up a story. The older they get, the more creative you can be.
Older children should get plenty of practise writing at school but it’s also a good idea to encourage them to write to (or email) Gran for example. As with anything, the more often your child writes, the better at it they become – handwriting, spelling, punctuation and grammar all improve with practise.
To children who’ve grown up surrounded by computers, game consoles and mobile phones, books can seem old fashioned. But technology isn’t all bad. E-readers, like Kindle, are a popular alternative to books and may provide a gateway to reading. What’s more, they are versatile and can be adapted to an individual’s ability or needs – the font size can be altered, for example, to help younger children.
Tablets and smartphones have their uses too. There are reading apps you can install, suited for different ages. These let you decide what your child can access and provide material which you know is safe – no more worry about what your child is seeing online!
So, how can you encourage your child to read more at home? Start them young and read to them often. Surround them with reading material and make time to read together as a family. Most importantly, make reading fun so that your children want to read for their own enjoyment – if you can manage that, your child should soon become an avid reader.
For further reading you’ll find answers to your education questions in our Knowledge Bank. It’s a useful tool for any parent – not only do we have a mine of information about education, we also have articles which offer advice to parents on those all important issues, like protecting your children from substance abuse or keeping them safe online. It’s well worth checking out.