Tips to Get Your Child Reading
Many children are reluctant readers, lacking the confidence or interest to pick up a book and read for themselves. This can be for a variety of reasons, but is often down to reading being perceived as ‘too hard’ (whether children struggle with reading or not) or ‘too boring’. The key here is to change this outlook by making reading fun. Here are Amy's tips to encourage your child to get excited about reading this summer.
- Help your child to find a book they like – take them to the library or bookshop where they can look through books and read a page or two to see if it’s something they are interested in.
Chat to your child about what they look for in a book. If they don’t know, make suggestions, ‘Would you like to read an adventure story? Would you like something funny? Might you like to read about magic/spies/football/war?’
Listen to their reasons for rejecting your suggestions too – if everything is being rejected, it could be a question of lacking confidence in their reading ability. It can be helpful to start them on a book that they find easy and fun – then they may feel better able to take on a more challenging title, as they know they can do it.
Chat to your child about how they are getting on with their book. What do they like about it? What might happen next? Is there anything that they don’t like about it? When they enjoy a book, see if there are similar titles or books by the same author that they might like to try next.
If they don’t like a book, chat about what they didn’t like. Was it too difficult to read alone? If so, maybe a chapter or two could be read to them to get the story going. Being read to is always enjoyable, and sharing a story is a nice way to spend time together.
Accept that sometimes people don’t like certain books, even if they are highly recommended. Don’t give up! Try again, with a different author or type of book.
- Don’t underestimate illustrated novels. For example, the Tom Gates and Wimpy Kid series are popular because they are fun and accessible. If the aim is to help children become readers, allowing them to read at a ‘safe’ or ‘easy’ level is important, as it helps them to gain confidence in their own reading abilities. Don’t be put off because there “aren’t enough words on the page.” Reading should be fun, not a chore!
- Consider non-fiction and heavily illustrated titles too. There are a lot of very interesting and engaging non-fiction books out there for children, on everything from science and nature to coding and history. Try not to dismiss these titles as ‘not reading books’ – often children read and re-read non-fiction titles. Also, illustrations can heighten interest and give a sense of the story, even if your child struggles with the text. Time spent reading these titles will encourage their reading habit, even though they are not reading novels.
- Consider books that have been made into movies and TV shows. Most Harry Potter fans have watched all of the movies too! If a film or television programme sparks your child’s interest, they are likely to read the book. Chatting about the differences between a film and novel can help children see what they enjoyed in the book too.
- Ask friends for recommendations – usually, we recommend our favourite books to families and friends. Children are no different. If your child is struggling to find a book or series they like, encourage them to ask a friend, or ask friends’ parents to find out what books they are enjoying.
- Avoid 'inflicting' reading or using it as a negative, for example, 'Turn off that television/I-pad/tablet/phone and read a book'. Books do not have to be at odds with screens. Let's face it, if they were, most children would choose the screen every time! Try to find the time and space to develop your child's reading habit, without them feeling that by reading they are missing out on something else.
- Encourage siblings and cousins to share and lend books to one another. It’s a great way to get recommendations and kids get to chat about the books afterwards.
- Encourage a regular reading habit – at bedtime perhaps or when a younger sibling is napping and you need the house to be calm and quiet. By reading frequently, your child can see the progress they are making through a title, while keeping the story fresh in their mind and forming a reading habit.
- Model reading for pleasure to your children. Let them see that you also set time aside to read, and that it is enjoyable to do so. Talk about your book too – by briefly mentioning if it’s exciting or predictable, you are showing them that reading, and chatting about books, is fun.
- Above all else, focus on reading that is enjoyable and fun. The summer holidays are an opportunity to read freely and hopefully discover a gem or two!