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We know that books have the power to transform lives. We know that reading and storytelling helps with development and we know that those who read regularly display greater empathy and better emotional intelligence. It’s a crucial skill for us to pass on to those we raise – but finding the time to do it and helping them find the inclination to read can be tricky. When we do it though, we’re giving them a gift for life. So how do we raise readers? This National Share a Story Month, we’ve pulled together eight of our top tips to help you help your kids love reading.
If you’ve slipped out of the habit of reading on the regular, reacquainting yourself can be a good place to start. Passion is infectious and if you’re excited to read with your children, they’ll start to feel excited about it too. Authors of How to Raise A Reader Pamela Paul and Maria Russo put it really simply – “to raise a reader, be a reader”. Children take their cues from adults and this is true when it comes to reading too. If your kids grow up surrounded by books and stories, they’re likely to be more interested in books and stories.
We aren’t from the school of thought that audiobooks don’t count as reading. Hearing someone read a book confidently and fluently can really help kids understand what reading is all about and get them interested in how to read as confidently and fluently as the narrator. Audible is a great resource for audiobooks, but your local library (we love libraries!) will likely have some available to borrow too.
While reading purists may be afraid of watching films of their favourites, reading a book then watching the movie is a brilliant way to help increase comprehension and pique interest. Pick a classic – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Bridge to Terabithia, The BFG, The Chronicles of Narnia, 101 Dalmatians, Coraline, Harry Potter (honestly, there are so many to choose from) – then host a family movie night when you’ve finished the book. Making the movie night a real event is a great way to motivate reluctant readers to keep going when their interest might be waning.
Curiosity may have killed the cat but it really makes an interested reader. Asking questions about what you’re reading together not only helps to increase their understanding of what’s going on, it makes things more interesting for them. Find out who their favourite character is, ask what they’d do in the same situation, ask them what they think will happen next. Don’t spend so much time fixated on the letters and the sounds that you (both) forget to enjoy the story.
Teaching your children that books can be a tool to turn to whatever they’re facing teaches them that they are more than just a chore or part of their homework. They can be a friend, a teacher and a guide for whatever life throws at your kids. They can help with anxiety, teach about diversity, explain about death and grief and prepare them for getting a pet. There are books for every scenario and embracing that is crucial for helping kids enjoy what they read.
You are raising a tiny human with a strong mind, strong opinions and probably pretty strong tastes. That’s unlikely to stop when it comes to books. You might want to read them The Once and Future King but if it’s Spiderman that has got their attention, you’ve gotta roll with it. Encourage your children to express their tastes when it comes to books and encourage them to explore what they like but encourage expansion too. Maybe one day they’ll fancy a bit of TH White but you can’t force it.
One of the reasons we love National Share a Story Month is because it’s about sharing a story and that’s one of the key ways to raise a reader. It should be a mutually enjoyable time for everyone. Let your child turn the pages if that’s what they want (great for motor skills too) and don’t do the ogre voice if they don’t love it. If they chip in to ask questions, let them ask questions rather than rushing to the end of the page. It’s about sharing the story together, rather than just getting from A to B.
While libraries might not be as widely accessible as they used to be, there are still loads of schemes to help make reading exciting for kids. Make a trip to your local library an exciting event – ask your kids what books they might like to try and check out or get them thinking about the sort of stories they might like to read then check out your local library to see what’s on. Your local librarian might even have tips to help your kids love reading.
We know inspiring a love of reading in kids with SEN’s is a whole different ballgame. Children with SEN’s are often really visual learners, so while the above tips might be relevant, you might need to take a slightly different approach too. We found these posts on Tips For Engaging Primary SEN Pupils With Literacy and How to inspire your child with SEN’s love of reading helpful.
However you help your kids love reading, know that even 10 minutes of sharing a story together is a step in the right direction and even wanting to raise readers will help you do just that.