With many thousands of new children’s books being published each year there is an impressive range of books on the market. With popular authors like Philip Pullman, Celia Rees and Jacqueline Wilson producing yet more titles there is something out there for everyone. So you’d think children would be out there devouring a book a month, maybe even more than that for more confident readers, but according to the figures they are not this enthusiastic about reading, and neither are a large number of adults. In many cases reading has lost its attraction.
34% of adults questioned in one survey said that they did not read books at all (Book Marketing Ltd 2004), and one third of children were never read a bedtime story (Bounty Family Marketing 2006). One-in-five 11 year olds now leaves primary school unable to read properly. Somewhere along the line some thing has gone very wrong.
Research also shows that it is parents who have most influence over their children’s desire to read. Parents who read and show a keen interest in books, magazines and newspapers produce children who also enjoy reading. So clearly adults need to read and lead by example. However getting children to pick up a book and read is not always that straight forward.
Reading has to compete with television, video games, computer games, the internet, and other forms of play. It is hardly surprising that sitting down with a book is not always seen as the most attractive option. Many older children view reading as dull, boring, too hard, a chore and not relevant to their lives. So how can we encourage children to read, and why encourage it at all?
So why encourage reading?
Many of the benefits of reading are obvious we would struggle in our daily lives if we couldn’t read, and we certainly would not be able to write or spell. The rise of the internet age has opened up a whole new way of learning and communicating; without adequate reading skills many of us would get left behind. Academic study of any kind would be impossible.
For younger children consider also the benefits of spending quality time with them looking through a book, reading aloud, discussing the words, the colours, the storyline. It is excellent for language development, improving learning and expanding the imagination. Reading with your child is a great way of prompting them to talk about things that are on their mind, events that happened to them during their day, even their current likes and dislikes. In our home the Charlie and Lola book I will not ever never eat a tomato’ (Lauren Child) proved a great book for learning about different foods and the ones my daughter said she was prepared to try, and those she wouldn’t, like tomatoes!
In addition to the educational benefits of reading, books can provide a fabulous form of escapism. It is hardly surprising that the magical world of Harry Potter quickly became so attractive. For children, and many adults also, it was an exciting, thrilling and at times terrifying world to inhabit, but always fascinating. While adults can escape into the grips of a psychological thriller, a historical romance or a murder mystery when every day life becomes too mundane and dull, for older children there is the world of Tracy Beaker, Clarice Bean and Alex Rider, for example. Younger children too can escape to the deep, dark wood and meet The Gruffalo, or Hairy MacClary (from Donaldson’s Dairy), or enter the world of Thomas the Tank Engine to name but a few. What a shame it would be for children not to have the opportunities to venture this far and discover this excitement.
Research has found that a parent’s involvement in their child’s reading and learning is the single most important activity than can help them fulfill their potential. And the results last a lifetime. If a number of the better recommendations are followed then encouraging a child to read and learn is something that can easily be achieved with ease by every family.
Ways of encouraging children to read
Let children see you reading and enjoying literature, be a good role model
Join a public library and visit regularly, check out their book lists,reading circles and recommended books
Read aloud to young children every day
If your child can read then let them read to you
Set aside a specific time each day to read, aim for 30 minutes
Make this reading time quality time’ that can be spent together
Listen to talking books, especially on long journeys
Obtain reading material on any hobbies or interests your child has
Find computer programmes and websites that contain reading material and stories
Discuss the books you child is reading in school or nursery
Encourage ownership by writing your child’s name in their book
Buy or borrow good books, look out for recommended books and those that win awards
Display the books in your home, set aside a specific shelf or bookcase for your child’s books
Talk to your child whenever you can to promote language and understanding
Get excited about books!
Not all children will love reading, and not all of them will find the learning process as easy as others, but with patience and perseverance they can all gain in confidence and gain a skill vital to their future. So curl up on the sofa with your child this winter, shut the door, turn up the heating, relax, and indulge in the magical world of books.