Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator for success in life, much more than family circumstances, educational background and income, according to research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In addition, research from the University of Sussex demonstrated that reading for just six minutes a day can reduce stress by up to 60%. The same study showed that reading was more effective in reducing stress than going for a walk, having a cup of tea or screen time.
So as parents and carers, what can we do to encourage a love of reading in our children? Here are our 9 ways to encourage children to fall in love with books and become lifelong readers:
1. Start them young
It is never too young to start reading with your children, and it's important to start reading to our little ones from a very early age as even the youngest babies will find comfort in hearing your voice as you read a story.
2. Don’t stop
Just because older children can read to themselves doesn’t mean that we should stop reading to them. Not only is reading to your older children educationally really beneficial, but it's also a great way to spend quality time together.
3. Read daily
Find time each day to read and make it part of your daily routine. By reading daily to your children you will be starting them on their journey of becoming lifelong readers. However, this doesn’t mean just reading at bedtime or when a reading a book is sent home from school. At Little hands Learning our aim is that children see reading as an enjoyable way to spend their time. So why not try a lazy Sunday morning spent reading in bed?
4. Go with what they like
Use their interests when choosing books. If your little one loves trains, dinosaurs or fairies then read stories that feature them. Read high quality books that will enthral your children and expose them to a rich vocabulary.
5. Try something new
If your child does not enjoy story books; try reading magazines, comics and non-fiction books. These types of literature are a wonderful way to draw children in with their illustrations, short-form text and facts.
6. Together explore wordless books with your children
Being a reader is so much more than being able to read words on a page. Children learn to read images and retell stories, long before they are able to read written words. Wordless books are great for children of all ages; they are perfect for older children who need to work on their comprehension and storytelling skills and younger children can focus on the illustrations and retell the story from what they can see. These types of books will boost a child’s confidence as a reader. There are some fantastic wordless picture books out there which are works of art and don’t look too young. For example, Hike by Pete Oswald is a great book to start with.
5. Big up books
Be enthusiastic about reading as this will rub off on your child. If you treasure books and are excited about reading them, then your children will want to read more. I appreciate this isn’t always possible but children copy the adults around them. So, if you can sit down and read a book your children are more likely to copy you.
6. Make books visible and accessible
Your child should be able to choose a book whenever they want. A basket of books which sits next to their toys or lowdown shelving containing books will encourage children to help themselves to a book instead of the iPad throughout the day. If you are worried about younger children ripping the books, buy material or thick board books. And, to be honest, sticky-tape can always fix a ripped page.
7. Bring stories to life
You can do this by using funny voices and changing your tone to suit the story. Furthermore, stories can also be great inspirations for small world play and craft activities. By creating activities linked to the book, the book can come to life and help children deepen their understanding of the story and, therefore, their love of it.
8. You and your children are never too old for picture books
There is a perception that picture books are just for younger children but there are so many picture books that are written with older children in mind. Picture books promote reading for pleasure but also are a wonderful way to deal with sensitive and complex topics like mental health, conflict and self-esteem. This is because sharing a picture book with your child will lead to amazing conversations as you both interpret the text and illustrations together.
9. Read in different in settings
Reading shouldn’t just happen on the sofa or in bed before they go to sleep. Reading in unusual places to suit the setting in the story is another wonderful way to bring stories to life. If you are reading a book about a gnome that lives in a cave, build a cave in the living room and read the story in there. If you are reading a book which is set in the forest, find a shady spot under a tree to enjoy the book with your children.
Reading as a family is a wonderful and easy way to spend time together. Through this simple activity, parents are carers are promoting reading for pleasure which will help their children succeed as they travel through life.
Isabell Fisher is co-founder of Little Hands Learning****, an educational and eco-friendly subscription box for children aged three to six years. Every month your child will receive an exciting gift in the post containing a beautiful picture book and everything needed for four engaging and fun activities. @littlehandslearninguk