Reading takes us on adventures we may never normally have and teaches us about the world beyond what we can see, but some people may not be that interested. Much of our connection with reading is developed as children, so how can we encourage a life-long reading passion in our kids?
Rachael Rogan, the founder of BookTastic (booktastic.org.uk), the book festival which focuses on children and families from disadvantaged backgrounds, says that “a love of reading is one of the most powerful gifts you can give to a child”.
“As well as the obvious benefits – stories are fun, magical devices that don’t require charging or Wi-Fi and can transport you to another dimension in seconds – reading is a proven and hugely effective route out of poverty.”
Do you want your kids to fall in love with reading?
They will, if you:
• read a lot
• value education
• make reading fun
• celebrate kid's reading
• support but don't force
• expose kids to diverse books
• create a reading-friendly environment
— Kris Ograbek 🚢 (@KrisOgrabek) February 27, 2023
So, what can parents do to inspire a love of reading in their children?
1. Relax into it
“Dial down any stress involved in ‘learning to read’,” says child development expert and Readly (gb.readly.com) spokesperson Dr Jacqueline Harding.
“Offer material that has something to ‘say’ to children. There needs to be a sense of fun for readers to be relaxed and fully engaged, this is key to the experience of beginning to decipher those squiggles on the page.”
“Children tend to like characters who are similar to them, ones they can relate to, and who are aspirational and inspirational.”
2. Short on time? Not a problem
Focus on the quality of time spent reading, not quantity.
“Family life is often hectic. It’s good to know that it’s all about the quality of time spent together and, sometimes those short bursts of reading are more valuable anyway. We want children to end a ‘reading session’, whatever form that might take, feeling confident and satisfied – not bored,” Harding explains.“Then, next time you suggest sharing a book or magazine, they are more likely to jump at the opportunity.”
3. Share the joy of a book
Make reading a family affair.
“Dive into the reading space with your children. Laugh and enjoy the experience together – this communicates that reading is a fun and fantastic activity. Share favourite books, magazines and platforms with friends – and talk about the characters and which plots or narratives captivate you,” Harding says.
4. Get inspired with pictures
“Illustrations are so important and not to be underestimated, as they help to deepen the narrative and reveal important social and cultural cues. Chatting together about the ‘story’ that the pictures tell in a book or magazine is an activity that is helpful for language development,” Harding explains.
5. Offer multi-format platforms
If kids are digitally inclined, link the online world with the reading one.
“The digital space is here to stay, children were born into this world, they learn with it in school, and they see it used every day. If they’re interested in a topic, then this appears to be great motivation to read a book or magazine about it or watch a movie or related series,” she explains.
6. Nurture a passion through books
Hinge a passion for reading by way of an existing hobby.
“Whether it’s superheroes, nature, animals or fantasy, there are books and magazines for every interest. Children and adults relish that deep immersion in the literature that has something to ‘say to them’ so it’s important to nurture and fan the flame of that interest through reading,” says Harding.
7. Encourage ‘looking like a reader’
“Fascinatingly, young children who enjoy ‘behaving like a reader’, perhaps chatting away to themselves reading the book or magazine upside down or making up a story of their own by looking at the pictures, are building the very confidence they need to engage in reading when they are cognitively ready,” says Harding.