Encouraging children to read for pleasure
Why encouraging children to have positive attitudes toward reading is so beneficial.
Aside from the obvious benefits of improving reading skills, by encouraging children to read for pleasure regularly, can improve their imagination, spelling and punctuation accuracy. They improve their punctuation ‘range’ as they constantly absorb the way writers use it for different effects. Reading also improves their concentration, not just at reading itself, but at any kind of study. Aside from speech in the home, vocabulary is built primarily by reading. The habit also makes children more stylish writers, as they absorb idiosyncracies of authors they have enjoyed and adopt these as their own. It is widely accepted that children who read for pleasure are far more academically successful than those that don’t. So it really is a no-brainer: good reading habits beget successful students.
By reading regularly with you and discussing the situation that characters find themselves in, children have an invaluable opportunity to help build empathy skills. For example, if a character in a book is being treated unkindly by a classmate, it gives a ‘safe space’ for relationships and treatment of others to be discussed in a situation where children can be objective and measured, rather than approaching the issue with bias and heightened emotion, as may often be the case when these situations arise in their real lives. Books are also a rich source of ‘dry run’ opportunities, where children can explore issues that they may one day face (eg: the death of a grandparent) and discuss these with you, so they are better prepared for these situations when they occur in real life.
What the research says
Researchers have found a sharp decline in reading enjoyment after the age of eight. Studies show that once they begin senior school, over 50% of children have lost the habit of reading for pleasure. The majority of these are boys. The key is for the habit of reading for pleasure to be so firmly embedded and enjoyed that it doesn’t occur to them to give up. Often, the thing that children enjoy most about reading at primary age is quality time with a parent, so continuing to offer that time, even once they can read independently, can keep up those good reading habits into secondary school and beyond.
Encouraging children to read for pleasure – Top Tips
- Appealing reading slots and spots
Children are far more inclined to read if they have a nice space to read in. Creating a reading ‘den’ or ‘corner’ with lots of comfy cushions, beanbags etc can really help with this. Being allowed to make this even more indulgent by having ‘treats’ like snacks or hot chocolate as they read can enhance this still further.
Finding time to read when the alternative option is less desirable (eg: going to bed a bit later and being allowed the extra time to read, or reading rather than standing on the sideline of a sibling’s sport training session) is far more effective in encouraging positive attitudes to reading than trying to encourage reading as an alternative to screen time, for example.
- Have ‘dip in’ books and magazines around…
Much like us, children don’t always have the mental capacity to cope with following a narrative when they are tired or relaxing, so having ‘easy reads’ around, like magazines, the Guinness Book of Records, annuals etc keeps them reading, without needing to force it when they’re not in the mood.
- Be positive role models- especially Dads!
Children are far more likely to see reading as fun and a natural pastime if they see you doing it. This is particularly true for boys when looking at their Dads. If they never see you read, they will place less value on it as a pastime, and therefore be less inclined to want to do it. Be a good role model by reading newspapers or magazines- it doesn’t have to be books! Though ‘reading’ phones doesn’t count- this is more likely to encourage more desire for screen time- and I’m sure that’s something you definitely don’t need!
- Don’t let reading be a battle…
If your child is having a reading ‘dip’, don’t let it become a battle ground. Choose a different approach. Audiobooks are great for this. Or read something frivolous and easy for a while. Give incentives to keep children focused on their book. Eg: ‘We’ll watch the film of it at the end…’ or ‘we’ll make a model of the main character together at the end’.
- Read with them, Don’t ‘hear reading’
In order to keep reading as a sociable activity that you can do together, as well as one that is useful for the child, don’t merely ‘hear’ them read. This is far less fun for the child. Read to them, read with them, let them read to you and ask lots of questions, have them read alone then tell you about it, listen to an audiobook in the car together and discuss it … keep the format relaxed and flexible, and don’t keep resorting to the failsafe of passively ‘listening’ to them with no interaction while your mind is on something entirely different. Children can spot the disinterest a mile off!
- Be interested in their independent reading
Be interested in what they are reading independently- ask for the next instalment. If you’re interested, they’ll be keen to tell you. Even if it some requires some slightly exaggerated gasps of delight or shock from you, if they think they have triggered that reaction in you, they’ll be keen to keep reading and tell you more.
- Get them into a series that they love; build the momentum
It can be labour intensive work, constantly trying to keep ahead of your children’s reading needs, making sure they always have something good waiting in the wings. Getting them into a series with several books in it can really help to take the pressure of ‘finding the next one’ and can really help to keep reading momentum strong.
- Visit the Library…or buy second hand books from Amazon/eBay
Don’t spend lots of money on new books from high street retailers. Libraries are always happy to order in books for you that they don’t have. Second hand sellers like ‘eBay’ and ‘Amazon’ often sell second had versions of popular titles (or whole second hand sets) for as little as a few pence.
- Don’t ever say ‘you shouldn’t be reading that….’
Try not to ever criticise ‘wrong’ reading or tell children to read something that you think is more worthwhile. If your child is reading something that is below their reading ability, as long as they are enjoying it, let them! Celebrate the fact that they are enjoying reading something! By forcing them to read something ‘harder’, this is counterproductive, as the child is likely to feel resentful and negative about it. Discuss what they like about this easier book, and do some research together on similar books that are a little trickier that they could move onto next.
Read more about our English provision and curriculum here at Hunter Hall