11 October 2013

How to encourage your child to read more books

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As a child, Enid Blyton's The Magic Faraway Tree enthralled me... for life. Beyond the branches of the Faraway Tree, a magical, enchanting world shimmered into life. Captivated I was by quirky characters, hidden houses carved into the tree and dreamy adventures offering escape into unknown worlds.

Aside from the fact that it inspired an everlasting love for books, it fuelled my imagination. And from that time, words fascinated me. Characters intrigued me, and later when I discovered autobiographies, I enjoyed tagging along on someone's journey. Wonderful...

Of course, in those days there was no internet to distract me, or console games to play. Today's world is different to the one I grew up in - a feeling which you as a parent might share. There's little doubt that our children invest less time in books, if any.

In fact, one of the most often asked questions in all my years of teaching was 'How do I get my child to read?' Here are a few ideas for you...

Set aside a special time

To encourage a lifelong love of reading, start early. Children love talking about pictures, and discovering new words. That's why it's wonderful to sit and read with your child as the toddler stage.

Maybe at bed time or just after bath time when they are feeling relaxed? Make reading a magical time...

Talk talk talk

Another handy tip is to connect what happens in books with their real life - to give the book more value and meaning. Questions such as 'Rememer when...' or 'This might remind you of the time...' Making connections like this is a lovely way to share stories with your child.

Get boys reading

Primary:

Young children often want to revisit old favourites such as 'Winnie the Pooh' or Roald Dahl classics. We're still huge fans... 

Boys, especially seven year olds, love anything that makes them laugh, or features superheroes. If yours is a reluctant reader and hasn't read Dav Pilkey's 'The Adventures of Captain Underpants' yet, I urge you to get a copy. It'll have you in stitches, let alone your child!

David Walliams is ace too... Who could resist 'Gangsta Granny', or 'Billionaire Boy.'  Girls too would love 'Ratburger.' Once hooked, boys are likely to explore more in a particular genre. Once they have the reading habit, you can then introduce new titles to them from different genres. Harry Potter, Horrid Henry are two suggestions.

Secondary

As they get to secondary school, you could suggest the 'Alex Rider' series by Anthony Horowitz, or the 'Young Bond' series by Charlie Higson. Then move onto titles such as 'Wild Boy' by Rob Lloyd Jones. Teens, too, would love incredible books such as 'The Wall' by William Sutcliffe. 

What about this?

  • If children occasionally want to go back to the familiarity of a childhood favourite, celebrate rather than castigate. So long as children widen their reading repertiore by trying more challenging books, there's no harm in revisiting a book from the past
  • Get into the habit of going to a bookshop or library with your child to spend time exploring. Books are not cheap, so the library might be a great bet
  • Though we are true book lovers here , your child is part of the digital generation. Downloading Kindle books is so popular now. And you don't even need a Kindle. Free apps are available for laptops. Plus Kindle downloads are so much cheaper.
  • Boys especially seem to run out of puff when it comes to reading outloud. Why not try audio books occasionally? It's still reading - just in a different way. You can, of course, squeeze another chapter on the way to school, or just before bed time. A useful way to help calm a child down too. 
  • We're big fans of Love Reading 4 Kidshttp://www.lovereading4kids.co.uk/ Apart from age-suitable recommendations, there are Books for Boys and Reluctant Readers sections. Plus you can sign up for free and then download extracts (usually opening chapter) to trial run a title. Great way to trial a book out on a reluctant boy reader!

Share

A bunch of parents in your local area could even run a reading scheme where you pool together lots of reading books to lend to each others' children. A great way to make friends, share tips and support each other too.

Read yourself

I know, I know... where do you find the time? Perhaps everyone could read for half an hour after tea. Start at the weekend. Or you might establish a reading time every night with the kids where you read together.

The truth is, if your child sees you reading, they will be more encouraged to.

Praise like mad

Remember: if a child isn't enjoying a book, that's fine. Encourage them to choose something else. Praising your child for what he or she does do - not what they don't - can work wonders. Boys especially like approval. 

Even reading one more page than last time is worth celebrating... 

Tell us what works for you? Can you recommend a 'can't put down' book title? We'd love to hear it! 

Last modified on 20 February 2017
Nikki de Villiers

Nikki de Villiers - Lemon Tree senior tutor, owner and English/SEN specialist. For the best private tuition in Surrey and West Sussex...

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