Do your kids enjoy reading, or would they rather sit in front of the TV or catch up on the latest episode of MI High on their iPad? We all need to relax, but getting your children to enjoy reading is important.
Evidence suggests that children who read for enjoyment every day not only perform better in reading tests than those who don’t, but also develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures. Watching TV, using a computer or playing video games all create stress for our brains due to noise, movement and flashing lights. Reading, and in particular in silence, is much less stressful for both brain and eyes, due to the black print on a white page.
If you or someone else in your family has had problems reading, there is a greater likelihood that your children will experience these difficulties too. Speak to a reading teacher if you have reason to suspect a learning problem. Early testing administered at your child’s school can identify a learning disability and alert the school to your child’s need for special teaching.
The UK government encourages pupils to read for pleasure. There is good evidence to suggest that young people who read for pleasure daily perform better in reading skills tests than those who never do. However, a recent survey carried out by the National Literacy Trust has indicated a decline in the amount of time children and young people spend reading for pleasure.
What Won’t Work
- Nagging. Avoid lecturing about the value of reading and hounding a child who is not reading. Your child will only resent it.
- Bribing. While there’s nothing wrong with rewarding your child’s reading efforts, you don’t want your youngster to expect a prize after finishing every book. Whenever possible, offer another book or magazine (your child’s choice) along with words of praise. You can give other meaningful rewards on occasion, but offer them less and less frequently. In time, your child will experience reading as its own reward.
- Judging your child’s performance. Separate school performance from reading for pleasure. Helping your child enjoy reading is a worthwhile goal in itself.
- Criticizing your child’s choices. Reading something is better than reading nothing. Although you may feel your child is choosing books that are too easy or that treat subjects too lightly, hide your disappointment. Reading at any level is valuable practice, and successful reading helps build confidence as well as reading skills. If your differences are simply a matter of personal taste, respect your child’s right to his or her own preferences.
- Setting unrealistic goals. Look for small signs of progress rather than dramatic changes in your child’s reading habits. Don’t expect a reluctant reader to finish a book overnight. Maybe over the next week, with your gentle encouragement.
- Making a big deal about reading. Don’t turn reading into a campaign. Under pressure, children may read only to please their parents rather than themselves, or they may turn around and refuse to read altogether.
10 Ways to Encourage Reading
- Scout for things your children might like to read. Use their interests and hobbies as starting points. Notice what attracts your children’s attention, even if they only look at the pictures. Then build on that interest; read a short selection aloud, or simply bring home more information on the same subject.
- Let your children see you reading for pleasure in your spare time.
- Take your children to the library regularly. Explore the children’s section together. Ask a librarian to suggest books and magazines your children might enjoy.
- Encourage older children to read to their younger brothers and sisters. Older children enjoy showing off their skills to an admiring audience.
- Play games that are reading-related. Check your closet for spelling games played with letter tiles or dice, or board games that require players to read spaces, cards, and directions.
- Set aside a regular time for reading in your family, independent of school work—the 20 minutes before lights out, just after dinner, or whatever fits into your household schedule. As little as 10 minutes of free reading a day can help improve your child’s skills and habits.
- Read aloud to your child, especially a child who is discouraged by his or her own poor reading skills. The pleasure of listening to you read, rather than struggling alone, may restore your child’s initial enthusiasm for books and reading.
- On gift-giving occasions, give books and magazines based on your child’s current interests.
- Introduce the bookmark. Remind your youngster that you don’t have to finish a book in one sitting; you can stop after a few pages, or a chapter, and pick up where you left off at another time. Don’t try to persuade your child to finish a book he or she doesn’t like. Recommend putting the book aside and trying another.
- Treat your children to an evening of laughter and entertainment featuring books! Many children (parents, too) regard reading as a serious activity. A joke book, a story told in riddles, or a funny passage read aloud can reveal another side of reading.