Encouraging a lifelong love of reading
Emily Bright shares her tips on how to make reading fun for children
The experience of reading a book has so many benefits beyond simply following a story and learning new words. Children who read for pleasure, particularly into their teenage years, experience important academic, social and emotional benefits. Yet sadly, recent statistics show that one in three British teenagers reads only two books a year or fewer.
A child that reads for 20 minutes a day will read around 1.8 million words in a year, which is a quick and enjoyable way to boost their vocabulary. Through reading they will also develop the language to talk about their own emotions, allowing them to explore how they feel in a healthy way. Being able to express yourself clearly can also be crucial in building confidence and aids academic achievement.
Reading also helps to develop important social and emotional skills. Through books we can experience what it is like to be a different gender, from a different culture or period in time. This can help to develop empathy and compassion, which is great practice for when they meet and react to people in their own lives. Navigating the complexities of social interaction can be so much easier when you’re able to understand other perspectives.
Through books children also strengthen their creativity and imagination, soft skills which are no doubt going to be invaluable in the workplace of the future. When children read or listen to stories, they must use their imaginations to fill in all sorts of gaps and to picture what the author is describing. Through reading widely and discussing books they also learn that there are no rules or right and wrong answers when it comes to thinking creatively.
In this digital age there are so many other distractions fighting for our children’s attention, so how do you go about encouraging the reading habit? We have to work harder than ever to inspire a lifelong love of reading in our children and making books and reading an integral part of family life is the key. Here are 7 simple ways you can do that:
Don’t save books for bedtime
Enjoying a story before bed each evening is a lovely routine but why stop there? Have books easily available throughout the house which children can explore themselves or you can reach for when entertaining them. Why not also pop a few in your bag each time you’re heading out, keep some in the car or download audio books onto your phone?
Make reading a social activity
You’re never too young or old to enjoy having a book read aloud to you. There’s something magical about the shared experience of listening to a story and being able to talk about it together. Asking questions about plot, characters and feelings can be a great way to kick-start discussion too. It also fosters closeness, empathy and listening skills in children and adults alike. You could even consider starting a family book club.
Visit the library
Let your child choose books that follow their interests and you’ll be amazed by the number they want to bring home to enjoy! Many libraries also hold events to get young imaginations fired up and the Summer Reading Challenge is great for older children to take part in.
Allowing children to see you reading to relax, whether that’s a newspaper, kindle or book, can be extremely powerful. Why not also talk to them about what you’re reading, why you chose it and what you’ll read next?
Give books as gifts
Giving your child a book for every birthday or major celebration can become a lovely family tradition. Books also make excellent party favours and by purchasing a copy of a favourite book to give to a friend you’re demonstrating how special and valuable books are.
Connect books with experiences
We get so much more out of a book when we think and talk about it and make connections with our own life and experiences. Planning crafts, cooking activities or day trips that relate to something you’ve read are a great way of sparking discussions about a book. They also help the fun and magic of a good book to live on beyond the final page!
South west London-based Emily Bright and Sarah Campbell run Parrot Street Book Club, an exciting monthly book subscription for primary school-aged kids designed to inspire a love of reading. Each month children receive a brand new chapter book to keep and a fun-filled activity pack inspired by that book, including book club-style questions, puzzles, crafts, a recipe and more. They specialise in hunting out titles that parents and children might not have easily discovered on their own!