As a mother and a writer, I love it when I see kids absorbed in books. When my children were in their early school years, I used to provide reading help in the classroom. It was an amazing experience, seeing the light dawning in kids’ eyes when it all suddenly seemed to click! For those of you with young children, here are some tips to help you encourage them to learn to read. They work for older, reluctant kids too …
1. Read to them regularly
Ideally, you’ve been reading to your children long before they start school. By sharing stories, often while cuddling up at bed time, you’re showing them that books are something to be valued and enjoyed. They also get used to hearing the rhythm and flow of well-written sentences, which will help them become better writers one day, too.
2. Be surrounded by books
Kids are more likely to pick up a book if there are plenty of them around. Have appealing books in the house within easy reach. Young children are drawn to colourful illustrations. Older children are drawn to topics that interest them; try to have a selection of fiction and non-fiction books on those topics accessible. If possible, make trips to the library with your kids. Local libraries usually have story reading and activity days, especially during school holidays. It’s also a chance for you to have a bit of a break and leaf through some books while the kids are safely occupied.
3. Set an example
I’ve come across many parents who bemoan that their children never read. If I ask them what they are currently reading, they get all shifty. They don’t have time, they say, sighing gustily, but they’d really like to … I don’t get it. For me, that would be like saying I don’t have time to breathe! All right, maybe not everyone’s such a raging readaholic, but keep in mind that kids copy what they see. If they see you reading for enjoyment, they’re more likely to follow suit.
4. Listen to them read
It can be hard to listen to your child’s stumbling attempts when they first try to read. Try not to be impatient or critical. Focus on them picking up the gist, rather than picking out trivial errors. Enjoy a laugh with your child if some of the mistakes they make are funny or silly. And don’t forget to keep reading to them – this shouldn’t stop just because they’re learning to do it for themselves. They’ll let you know when they’ve outgrown story time – don’t rush them!
5. Don’t impose your taste
Trying to force your kids to read what you consider ‘worthy’ is a recipe for disaster. It’s okay to suggest and encourage, but ultimately let them decide for themselves. This is particularly important as they enter their teens. You might want to keep a parental eye out for books that may be inappropriate for their age, but other than that, give them leeway. They’re more likely to become life-long readers if they select books that resonate with them. And you might learn something new! I’ve discovered many great books and authors through my children’s reading, some of which have now become my favourites, too.