In a lot of ways reading is the foundation for everything else your child learns, it’s a crucial skill. But while it’s essential, it should also be enjoyable. You don’t just want your child to be able to read, you want them to hunt down words everywhere they go, you want them to crave books, to discover the favourite books that they’ll still be thinking of warmly into adulthood. This isn’t just something that needs to be done when your child is still learning their ABCs, it’s something that has to be nurtured throughout their childhood.
Here’s some extra stuff you can do to really instil a love of reading in your kids:
Books aren’t the only things you can read
When we think of reading, we naturally imagine sitting down with a book, whether it’s a picture book or a middle-grade novel or their first taste of the classics. But what percentage of the things you read are actual books? Even if you’re the most avid book-o-vore, the novels are probably hopelessly outnumbered by emails, takeaway menus, road signs and blogs like this one. We’re all submerged in words every day, and when your child’s first learning to read you can use that.
Start off with signposts and shop signs while you’re out and about. If you’re in a restaurant or ordering takeout, encourage them to read the menu to choose what they want to eat. As they get older, pay attention to which videogames and board games include a lot of reading, and let them play. If they want to do something and reading will let them do it, they’ll put the effort in.
Be seen to read
Yes, there comes a point in every parent’s life where it must be acknowledged that your clothes are terrible, your favourite things are all boring and the music you like is some sort of stone-aged relic that nobody would be seen dead listening to in the 21st century. But until then (and even during that time, if a little more secretly) your kids actually look up to you. They want to be like you and do things with you.
That’s why it’s important that they see you reading. Don’t wait until they’re in bed – you’ve probably seen Dinotrucks as many times as any human being could want to, so while they watch that for the hundredth time why not use it as a chance to crack on with that John Grisham you’ve been reading?
At the same time, while an avid e-book reader myself, it doesn’t hurt to have a house filled with books. Good books, bad books, classics and latest releases. The more books there are around, the more likely your child is to pick one up out of curiosity.
Get the conversation started
Part of the fun of books is sharing them and talking about them afterwards. Ask them about their favourite books, why they like them, what they didn’t like, what they think the book should have done instead. Do your children like Harry Potter? Why not have a book-ish day out and take a look at the making of Harry Potter movies? A day out like that can spark all kinds of conversations, from who their favourite character is, to which house they think they would go into, to how the movies are different from the books and why that might be.
Meet the authors
The odds are that over the next couple of months there will be a children’s author at a bookshop or library near you. Authors love to get out and meet their readers, partly because it’s a great way to sell books but mainly because if your job involves sitting in an office on your own all day it’s nice to occasionally meet the people you’re doing it for.
It can really open your child’s mind when they realise the books they love are written by flesh and blood humans just like them, and that those authors in turn grew up with favourite books of their own.
Every so often, ban a book
Now I’m sure that 90 percent of the time your children are cherubic angels who wouldn’t dream of doing something that you had explicitly told them not to do, but every so often even the most sweet and obedient of children cherish a moment of rebellion. You have to be careful with this one, you need there to be a certain amount of independent reading going on already for this to work, but occasionally it’s worth pointing out a book that they shouldn’t read. Maybe suggest it’s too violent, or that it has rude words in, or is too scary and they should wait until their older.
We’re not suggesting you use reverse psychology to get your kids reading Chuck Palahniuk, if there’s a book you actually don’t think they’re ready for just don’t draw attention to it, but there will be plenty of books on the borderline that will give them the thrill of reading subversive material. Here’s a few examples to get you started.
How do you encourage your kids to read? What are their favourite books?
Images by Personal Creations and Sam Greenhalgh via Flickr