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Easy ways to get your children reading more

Updated on March 23, 2014

Getting children to read more

Reading has a powerful impact on children’s education. Research by the Institute of Education has shown that children who read for pleasure are likely to do significantly better at school than their peers and reading for pleasure is more important for children’s cognitive development than their parent’s level of education.

Many parents wish they could get their children to read more but are unsure about what they should do. Issuing vague exhortations that it would be good to read more, frequently buying books that remain unread, or repetitive nagging are all strategies that are unlikely to yield the desired results. But there are plenty of things parents can do to encourage reading in their offspring. As a teacher who has worked with many children and adults who have struggled with reading, as well as a parent and grandparent the following suggestions will help you to get your children reading more.

Model behaviour

Children model the behaviour they see in their parents or carers. So if you want children to read you simply must read yourself. More than that, children really need to see adults ENJOY reading. It’s obvious really however much, as adults, you say reading is good, it will mean nothing if every time you get the chance to relax your to turn on the TV or listen to music. They are simply not going to believe that reading really is brilliant. Make sure children see you enjoying books, magazines, e readers or newspapers, making a conscious decision that sometimes it is better to turn off the TV or radio and pick up something to read.

Great Reads

We are lucky to have great books for all ages
We are lucky to have great books for all ages | Source

Start right - tips for reading with very young children

  • Reading aloud even to very young children it’s fun, encourages communication skills and helps with later reading development.
  • Have books available for them,small board books or fabric books are great toys.
  • With small children talk about the pictures, look at colours and talk about things like the noise a particular animal may make.
  • Try making your own ‘books’ with pictures of things the child knows or places they have been.
  • With first books where there are only a few words on each page talk about what you can see in the picture.
  • Encourage the child to look for something in the picture and point to it – this all helps them to learn about books and reading.
  • Try guessing together what might happen next before you turn the page.
  • Don’t be worried if young children choose the same book or want the same story over and over again, they like the familiarity and it’s quite a normal part of their development.
  • Sharing a story together is a great way to enjoy closeness.
  • Encourage grandparents or other family members to get involved in reading to or with children.

Create incentives

Provide ample reading material

Of course to enjoy reading means you have to have some good material and we are lucky these days that there is a vast array of books of excellent quality to suit every age and ability. When children are becoming independent readers, it is worth spending time in a bookshop or library to familiarise yourself with some of the popular titles. It’s even better to read some of the books and unless your child is a very proficient reader they are likely to be relatively short, you can then give a personal recommendation and discuss the story which will often add to the pleasure of reading. The pleasure we all gain from discussing books is evident in the growth of reading groups and circles for adults. But books aren’t the only thing we can read, there are comics and magazines, facts or information from the net and many internet or console games involve reading scenarios in order to complete them.

Provide incentives

What a lot of parents want is to have their children enjoy reading intrinsically, but if children are already reluctant to read then often it is good to provide some incentives. This can be anything that works for the particular child and will vary depending upon their age and individual personality. Some children, especially younger ones will need very short term rewards, perhaps the chance to play a favourite game after they have spent some time reading others may enjoy a particular outing or activity after they have completed a book. Hopefully after a while they will enjoy the books so much that these can be phased out but with so many other media vying for their attention they may need this sort of encouragement for a while.

Try making a book

Print photographs or cut out pictures that a young child will recognise and laminate them to make a book.
Print photographs or cut out pictures that a young child will recognise and laminate them to make a book. | Source

Reading is vital

Further tips

  • Choose books that you think they will enjoy, with subject matter that is interesting for them.
  • For newly independent readers make sure books aren’t too difficult and remember children will still enjoy being read to even when they can do it themselves.
  • Share reading, if your child struggles encourage them to read, perhaps half a page, then you read three pages so they get the momentum of the story.
  • When you go out encourage children to take a book, magazine or e reading device with them (and you do the same) so if you end up waiting for some reason, then you have something available to read to keep boredom at bay.
  • Buying comics or magazines as treats to encourage reading.
  • For the very reluctant readers, get them to enjoy stories without books, making them up or telling them orally. This can be a good game on a long journey, have each person in the car add something to the story.

Good times

Associate reading with good times

It’s worth thinking for a moment about what makes you enjoy reading, certainly for some it is because we have grown up seeing it as a special time. Stories were often a time of being cuddled or having a parent’s undivided attention and in this way we can learn to like not just the story but the experience of reading. You simply can’t start too early. Make sure with very small children that you regularly enjoy sharing a story, the vast majority of children love it but you have to make sure you have the right material. Choose something age appropriate and if they aren’t interested just try again later and keep on trying. Encourage but don’t force you want to avoid books or reading being a battleground. For families with older children try reading session or a reading evening when you also have some special food or treats and maybe curl up on the sofa together (but with the TV off) and enjoy reading together then talking about your books. Trips to local libraries can also be great fun and many libraries run activities based around books for children in holidays or after school.

If children struggle, then get help

As in other areas of development if you notice your child having problems then do get some help. Firstly discuss it with the school or nursery they attend. Long before children actually learn to read they are learning about the culture of stories and the way words have meanings, and of course they are usual confident speakers before they read or write. If you notice there are any sounds they seem to struggle to hear or say then don’t ignore it. But remember too that learning is a process that takes time and children may mispronounce sounds when they are still learning. Help is available within schools for children who find reading hard and it is vital they access this. As they progress through school, problems with reading may prevent children accessing other areas of the curriculum – every subject usually involves some reading, so children who have problems with reading need help as early as possible. If you don’t feel the help they are receiving in school is sufficient then there are lots of private tutors who can help and one to one sessions can provide them with a real boost to learning.

Reading is soothing

Encourage grandparents or other relatives to read with children
Encourage grandparents or other relatives to read with children | Source

Why do you read to your child?

I read to my child mainly because

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