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Get Your Child To Read For Pleasure

Updated on November 29, 2014

Success! This comes from my own experience and thankfully, in my case at least, ending in success.

So how do you get and keep your children interested in picking up and reading books?

Well, you might be lucky. Your children may very well have a natural affinity to want to read books. We have an older child who fits that bill. A prolific reader. But I still think that was down to us as parents leading by example in the early days.

However, perhaps we were a little more lax with our second son, as he was latterly (entering his teenager years) not as keen to pick up a book for pleasure and become engrossed enough to see a book through to the last page.

The good news. I can now thankfully pass on that we have now turned that around, and our second child is also happier now to also read for pleasure.

So what was different.

Looking back now at what we did with our first child and what we didn't do with our second child, until much later, could answer that question.

Firstly, I remember we were very keen with our first child to introduce books from a very early age. Whether it was simply reading to him or just by letting him play with books as a toddler, simply feeling the textures of books and flipping through the pages. Books were always around the house. Baby books were in abundance. Some were simple card books, some were interactive books that made noises, some were just the traditional books we had as children and were happy to have read to us. Either way, playing and holding different books and having a parent read and being seen to read books was the norm. Our first son grow up encouraged and comfortable to be integrated in a world of books and reading. He didn't know any different. In addition, we as parents were very conscious of the ratio of play time and family time and TV time. It was always paramount to make sure the TV did not dominate our sons activities. Yes, he saw TV and liked TV, but it was not used as a parenting substitute. Just taking time to read to and read with a young child, and making the experience pleasurable and fun, may be enough to ensure reading for pleasure features in their future.

For our second son... well... hands up... we may have been a little lazier. We still made time and took the time and did all the right parenting stuff, but perhaps not to the same extent as the new-parenting of a first child. As a result we soon had a teenager who was capable of reading for pleasure, but was finding it more of a chore. It wasn't second nature for him.

Now plenty of so-called experts will tell us that reading for pleasure is a very important aspect of adult life. It ensures cerebral stimulation and leads to a better vocabulary and awareness. It leads to more neuron connections in the brain and without a doubt makes it easier to study and research materials for school and beyond. They need to be comfortable around such reading material. It's that critical.

Does Your Child Read For Pleasure?

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So... back to basic. We re-invented the wheel.

Knowing what we did about our first son's experience, we looked back at ourselves and started from scratch. Without declaring such a programme, both my husband and myself made an effort to first be seen to be reading books in front of the children. It's what adults do. We then started making our book reading a topic of conversation during family times. We made the topic interesting and exciting to listen to. We left interesting looking books lying around the house. Both reference and paperbacks. We pulled dormant books from bookshelves and made them look as if they were in constant use. Having set the scene of a book loving family, we then set about integrating our second sons current interests into our conversations with a view to doing some research into the subjects. For example: our second son was, like many, happy to sit with a Game Console and play all sorts of mind numbing games. (Don't get me wrong, I do think there is a place for the hand-eye-coordination benefits of some Gaming console time). So we took his like for a James Bond game and started talking about the films of James Bond and the wider context of the genre. We collectively went onto the internet and looked up James Bond information and eventually the James Bond books available from the web. At this point we realised he had seen through our plan. He was losing interest. James Bond books could be a bit thick and textually bland. It was easier to watch the DVD.

So we let it ride for a while and certainly did not flog the horse. Keeping the family book theme going in the background, we dipped back into his interests and would spend some time looking at the internet with him at the amount of material available on these subjects. Slowly but surely we found him dipping back into these web pages on his own. He would come and tell us what he found; and this is the important point; we would stop and listen to what he was saying about it and very much praise him for sharing his findings. Positive feedback and praise was the key. In our case, we then found some spy style books in the James Bond genre that was written and available for younger children (Charlie Higson books were excellent for this). We bought the first book in the series and left it lying around. We continued our family time looking at these interests on the web together and made that a normal activity. It was actually fun for all of us, as we were spending quality time together. Then, to our delight, as it was not an ordered chore, he picked up the book and started reading it. We said nothing. Just smiled and kept the atmosphere pleasant. He would pick it up more often and eventually it was clear that he was keen to get back to finishing the book. After a few days, we asked him at dinner time if he was enjoying 'that book' and would take just a few minutes asking him how it was going. We made no criticism or negativity about how he described it, but just listened. This made him feel as if this was what we did. It was normal. He now had an input into family discussions. He now had something different to talk about. We listened and encouraged him to talk, And so it went on. We got him the second book in the series and then the third.

We actively tried this process again with a different favourite subject of his. Cycling.... not only was he looking at cycling webs sites to begin with, but when he 'mysteriously' came across a hardcopy of the highway code with a section on bike maintenance on the table, he picked it up and was seen flicking through it. He was hooked. It didn't matter if it was a cycling magazine or even a comic book, he was picking up and reading for pleasure (and unwittingly expanding his knowledge every time).

And so on... Repeating this method over other interest subjects also proved to work and hold interest. It was the norm.

We ultimately found that by doing nothing, nothing was going to change. You have to be 'a parent' and take the initiative to change for the better.

Take time to sit together without distractions.

What Should Parents Do Now?

So, as parents:

We set the scene. (the message was - "we read books in this family - it is normal")

We encouraged interaction with subjects of interest.

We made material available without it being obvious. Including the use of the internet.

We took time to sit together without distractions. (Even just a few minutes to start with was all it took sometimes)

We took time to talk together without distractions, criticism or dominating the conversation. Listen!

We found interesting related paperbacks and made them available without making it obvious. We left paperbacks in the car.

We encouraged feedback and open discussion. (It's not that important to criticise at all).

We never made reading a chore.

Of course, we were fortunate to have access to the web and to many bookstores and libraries. But even a short trip to your local book store or library could end up being the start of introducing the 'book atmosphere'. Don't make it a chore though. And keep your manner happy and encouraging.

So through a little bit of quality family effort, we were able to ignite an encouraging atmosphere to make books an interesting asset. Our second son is still not as a prolific reader as our first son, but it's all going in the right direction. We are all engaged in discussions, we can all share the books for a pool of opinions.

In addition, we have noticed his speed of reading is increasing, his use of varied vocabulary is increasing, his written sentence structure is improving, his ability to research and study using the web is quicker and becoming well practiced. (He knows looking at a hardback reference book is sometime quicker than the web trawl - simple proper use of an index was a great leveller).

Stick to some simple basic family values. Take time for your children and 'be a parent'

In our case, this has been a success.

A great start. Books by Charlie Higson:

Inspired?

Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.

Eastern proverb

I'm sure we will all find your comments helpful.

Please let me know your comments

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    • Nithya Venkat profile image

      Nithya Venkat aka Vellur 3 years ago from Dubai

      Great lens, getting children to read is very important.

    • Carashops profile image
      Author

      Cara 3 years ago

      @Heidi Vincent: You're welcome.

    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      Very useful tips for getting children to read! Thanks for sharing.

    • PaigSr profile image

      PaigSr 3 years ago from State of Confussion

      For me its nice when going to the library and our youngest ask for books not just videos.

    • Digory LM profile image

      Digory LM 3 years ago

      Thanks for the ideas in this lens. I have written a similar lens. It's tough keeping teen boys in the reading fold.

    • Carashops profile image
      Author

      Cara 3 years ago

      @tazzytamar: I agree with you.

    • tazzytamar profile image

      Anna 3 years ago from chichester

      I read to my baby boy - he's just turned 4 months old but he adores the pictures and the sound of my voice comforts him. It's the best way to help them learn to love reading, plus you get quality time together!

    • profile image

      ParentingAdviceGuru 3 years ago

      My daughter brings some children's books to me and sometimes flash cards and wants me to read them to her word by word. Then she would use a mega sketcher (the thing she writes on with mechanical eraser) to have me write a word for her to read. She's a fast learner.

      http://readingmastered.com

    • Carashops profile image
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      Cara 3 years ago

      @GiftsByDiana: Thank you.

    • GiftsByDiana profile image

      Diana Burrell-Shipton 3 years ago from Hubbard, Ohio, USA

      Love it ! Great job on this lens ! I read to mine even before they were born :) I think it helps if you make the book come alive by reading each character in a different voice and with feeling. This makes it a fun experience for all and it a great bonding time as well :)

    • profile image

      CalobrenaOmai 3 years ago

      I got a kick out the book recommendation list especially with the Tiffany's Table Manners book. My nephew just completed an assignment in school a couple weeks back on the same subject; he had to dress the part too. Right now I'm helping out at a local school and discovered that majority of the kids in the classroom love to read; to the point of fighting over who was going to read to me next or jumping the timer gun to read to the teacher. Love this lens. Got to share it. Thanks for sharing this info with us. (^_^)b

    • profile image

      educationalfun 3 years ago

      "

      Reading

      should never be seen as a chore especially by children. Thats why it is

      important to encourage them even at an early age to read and develop their

      reading skills without pressure or rigid methods. Parents and teachers can use

      different strategies that will be fun for children. For appropriate tools that

      are both educational and engaging, visit educationalfun.info

      "

    • Carashops profile image
      Author

      Cara 3 years ago

      @DaniRren: Totally agree. Thank you for your helpful comment. It is much appreciated.

    • profile image

      DaniRren 3 years ago

      Always important, that parents to take the lead in teaching their children how to read. It comes down to developing a reading culture in them in their early days. Making reading fun goes a long way in engaging children in reading. http//educationalplay.info

      Regards

      Dani Rren

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 3 years ago

      They started with comic books (Calvin & Hobbes) and now my oldest (nine years old) reads books with chapters, and even asked for new books for Christmas.

    • JosephsJewelry LM profile image

      JosephsJewelry LM 3 years ago

      I find it very nice to find something about the importance of reading. The television dominates so much of people's time nowadays and it's a shame. Advice on how to get my children to read is always appreciated as I find it to be so important for them. Thank you so much for the valuable information.

    • Dusty2 LM profile image

      Dusty2 LM 3 years ago

      Awesome lens CaraShops! I'm all for anything that will help children read and enjoy a good book. I really appreciate you writing this lens. Thank You, Thank You!

    • tfsherman lm profile image

      tfsherman lm 4 years ago

      Ooooh, "quality family effort", I love that phrase. Sounds like you all did everything so very right.

    • profile image

      GabrielaFargasch 4 years ago

      I have been trying for over 17 years to get my daughter to read to no avail.... I have always been a bookworm so I thought she would follow in my footsteps...:(

      it is very frustrating...she only reads in class just because the teacher makes them read...sigh...

    • Carashops profile image
      Author

      Cara 4 years ago

      @HelpKidsToRead: Thank you for your comments. Good days indeed.

    • profile image

      HelpKidsToRead 4 years ago

      Your lens is very well made. We read to our kids constantly when they were little. I always loved having them climb up in my lap for a good story. I miss those days. Dear old dad can't seem to get a 10 year old boy or 15 year old girl to do that any more... ha! They still love to read which I'm very happy about.

      Thanks for the great info! Derrek (HelpToRead.net)

    • Carashops profile image
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      Cara 4 years ago

      @AdvancingChildrenEducation: Thank you for visiting my Lens 'Getting Your Child To Read For Pleasure'. It is much appreciated.

    • mommyplus3kids profile image

      mommyplus3kids 4 years ago

      I have only one word for this lens AMAZING!

    • profile image

      AdvancingChildrenEducation 4 years ago

      Great lens, making reading fun for kids is the key to teaching a lifetime of learning in my opinion.

      -Nancy

      KidsLearnToRead.net

    • Carashops profile image
      Author

      Cara 4 years ago

      @mommyplus3kids: Thank you for your very kind words. Much appreciated.

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      StrongMay 4 years ago

      I don't have kids yet, but I myself was always an avid reader. My mother always made sure there were lots of books around the house, from day one. It was not hard to get the three of us children interested. As a pre-teen all I did was read - "I have five seconds before we go? Ok, page number 93...". We all read, but I did more than my siblings (what do you know, I'm the oldest!). What really cinched it was when my mom opened a second-hand book store. I knew exactly what book would fit what customer, because I read every book we had on the shelf.

      I remember the easiest way to get us to read between the ages 7 and 11 was to make us put away the books that seemed to fall off the shelves by themselves. We would find ourselves saying, "this looks like an interesting book; I don't remember it. What if I forget about it again? I should take a closer look." And it would take us a few hours to put away the eleven or so books.

    • Carashops profile image
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      Cara 4 years ago

      @mel-kav: I know what you mean, I think my youngest son would prefer drawing to reading!

    • mel-kav profile image

      mel-kav 4 years ago

      Wonderful lens. I love to read - and I started reading to my daughter when she was just an infant. But I just never could get her interested in reading a book on her own. She is now 17 years old - and still hates to read.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 4 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Sounds like you did all the right things. I'm glad your strategy worked. We always had books available that our children were interested in and we also read as family books that were above our children's reading level but not their interest level. We always book our children to the children's bookstore on their birthdays and let them pick our a book of their choice. (Of course they also got other gifts. ) They looked forward to that trip. They also got surprise books from us for Christmas among their gifts. They always saw us reading.

    • Corrinna-Johnson profile image

      Corrinna Johnson 4 years ago from BC, Canada

      Great tips for reluctant readers! Our home is filled with books and we have been cable free for almost 15 years, so my kids have always taken to reading!

    • Carashops profile image
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      Cara 4 years ago

      @anonymous: I agree, I am so happy that my youngest enjoys reading now!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I really think that this generation of kids are losing out on learning how to read for pleasure. Thank you for the informative lens.

    • Carashops profile image
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      Cara 4 years ago

      @goldenrulecomics: I agree. Thankfully neither of my boys are television cruisers, it's only if a particular program is being watch the television is on.

    • goldenrulecomics profile image

      goldenrulecomics 4 years ago

      We are all readers in our house. Both my wife and I love to read, so the kids had role models from the beginning. And when they were young we actually kept the TV cabinet shut and locked, and I only watched TV after they were asleep. We then spent 5 years in London and refused to pay the TV tax, so there were no TVs in our house! By the time we started letting them watch TV back in the States the youngest was 8 and they had better things to do. One other thing we did that encouraged reading: I always carried books and comics in a bag when we traveled and when the kids were especially good -- or when we were stuck waiting for something -- I'd slip them something to read. Important topic. Thanks for sharing.

    • AGreeneGirl profile image

      AGreeneGirl 4 years ago

      Two of our three children have trouble reading but they love books. We have been reading to them since birth and they us reading all the time. To encourage them to overcome their difficulities we take turns reading one book. If one child starts reading they all want to get in on the act. We have been known to use low sugar organic animal cookies as an incentive to read as well. But I love your approach with your younger son. My parents and older sister used to read Ann Landers and Dear Abby and my dad would use it as a jumping block to see what we thought about various topics. After being left out one too many times I started reading it too. It is still part of my day. Thanks for a great lense.

    • Carashops profile image
      Author

      Cara 4 years ago

      @jayavi: Thank you!

    • denetraharris profile image

      denetraharris 4 years ago

      Congrats on getting your second son to read more.

      My daughter loved to read until her teen years then it was music, music, music.

      This lens will be helpful to parents with young children.

      Now she's reading again - websites.

    • jayavi profile image

      jayavi 4 years ago

      Very helpful lens. This is very important to everyone's life, specially for kids.

    • dwindhaus lm profile image

      dwindhaus lm 4 years ago

      Great lens, positive feedback and praise is a big key.

    • SandraWilson LM profile image

      SandraWilson LM 4 years ago

      We make sure the grandkids get gift cards to the book store. Then a trip to select books is in order and we make a big deal out of it. Of course, our house is filled with books. More books than anything else. Love your strategy.

    • Glen Kowalski profile image

      Glen Kowalski 4 years ago

      I have a 4 (almost 5-two and half weeks) year old and I'm getting her interested in reading now. Reading and comprehension is probably the single most important skill you need to develop. With good skills you can learn anything you want, without those skills you are likely going to end up acting like the Jersey Shore's crew without all the money. Definitely important to learn to read and keep reading for life.

    • TheLittleCardShop profile image

      Malu Couttolenc 4 years ago

      Beautiful page! I encouraged my kids to read since they first started reading. We love taking trips to bookstore and let them go around and look at all the books. Now my sons says that going to a bookstore is like going to an amusement park :)

    • Carashops profile image
      Author

      Cara 4 years ago

      @Keith J Winter: I agree totally.

    • Keith J Winter profile image

      Keith Winter 4 years ago from Spain

      It is very important to encourage children to read. I read a lot of books and my 12 year old daughter seems to be following in my footsteps. One of my old school teachers once told me, "If you learn to read you can learn anything you like". This has stuck in my mind ever since.

    • Carashops profile image
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      Cara 4 years ago

      @Adventuretravels: Very true.

    • Adventuretravels profile image

      Giovanna Sanguinetti 4 years ago from Perth UK

      It is very important for parents to realize that you have to work at it if you want your children to read. It won't necessarily happen on its own. Also you have to be consistent and try different approaches and different books. It is worth it though because as a teacher I can always tell the difference between a student who reads and one who doesn't.

    • MifuneGoon profile image

      MifuneGoon 4 years ago

      It's vital to get kids interest from the get-go. It doesn't hurt when they see their parents engrossed in a good book, too.

    • bluefire1020 profile image

      bluefire1020 5 years ago

      We have a 10 month old baby and we're teaching her to read, we've found Doman method and it is really great to start early as what you said. Even if she's crawling around when she see's I'll open a book and read she would hurriedly crawl towards me so she can hold the book too! Of course she can't read yet but to have her interested in books is a great start. Thank you for sharing! =)

    • Carashops profile image
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      Cara 5 years ago

      @crstnblue: Thank you. I do feel it's so important. And the results are amazing. It can also be fun to learn together. We can't leave something this important all to others. We are responsible for our children.

    • profile image

      crstnblue 5 years ago

      Glad to find your lens approaching an important nowadays issue for children basic education thru knowledge!