During the holidays, we have lots of excuses; the beach, the pool, things to do and slow, lazy days where it seemed ok if the kids were still in their pyjamas and watching a little TV or playing on the iPad. It was summer after all. You knew they’d read when school started. And wouldn't pressuring them lead to resistance?
But now they’re back at school, and you’re up against a plethora of other obstacles; homework, sports, music lessons, play dates and more.
So how on earth do you squeeze reading into their already packed life? More importantly, how do you help your children see reading as something separate from school - something that is not work?
How do you develop a love of reading for pleasure?
Well...you just have to read - for yourself and with your kids whenever you can. You need to make books a part of your routine, a part of your home and even a part of your conversations. Yes, those screens are definitely tantalising, but with strength, a little cajoling, effective time management and some clever defining what it means to read a book, you can show them the even bigger world that books can offer.
Here are a few ideas borrowed from librarians and education experts:
1. Do your own reading
Ok, this one is way harder than it sounds and if you’re rolling your eyes right now, you’re not alone. I used to be a voracious reader myself, but I tend now to enjoy reading the cereal packets at breakfast rather than a book. However, it’s up to us to create an environment at home that sets the right example. And that means reading yourself and putting away your screen.
At the end of the day, if kids see you reading for fun, they're far more likely to do so themselves.
Also, you get to read a book!
2. Read Aloud
We all love stories. Even adults. When you think about it, what are most of our conversations if not stories? So a child is never too old to be read to. And you are never too busy to listen to a story read by a child.
When you read to children you are informing them, bonding with them, entertaining them and showing them the pleasures of reading.”
And being read too helps increases comprehension and builds vocabulary because if you never heard a word, you’d never say it, you’d never write it and you’d never read it.
Kind of important, right?
3. Visit the library
Librarians area great source of books-for-fun advice, abut even if kids are too shy to ask for help, who knows what great reads they might find just by wandering around? It's hard not to get sucked into a book simply by being in a library and being around other people reading further reinforces the fact that it must be fun!
4. Let them choose books freely
Like games, like clothes and like food, when kids get to choose their reading material, they read more. It's science. And as long as the book is age-appropriate, all reading is good reading.
5. It’s not just about storybooks
As per the above, reading is reading. I mean, a cookbook is a book too. So are comics and reference books like the Guinness Book of World Records (I used to LOVE that book). or Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
Even browsing a magazine, encyclopedia or dictionary can be a fun way of exploring books.
6. Encourage them to re-read books
In our house, Thing 1 has now read the first 5 Harry Potter books 4 times. And he doesn't mind. He knows he's not ready for the rest of the series and he also knows (though experience) that he discovers even more with each read.
For the younger kids too, repetition has the effect of reinforcing works and patterns and recognition.
7. Allow kids to read at their level
In today's competitive world, it's easy foist some of our reading anxieties onto the kids and push them to harder texts before they are truly ready with the idea that this will push them to be better.
However, this is counterproductive - even reading a book at 95% accuracy (missing 5%of the words) is distracting and demoralising. Parents need to encourage kids to pick the right books that they are comfortable with.
8. Open your family’s ears to audiobooks
In our home, car rides are often spent listening to audiobooks. Sometimes, the kids will read along, turning the pages at the bell, other times they will simply close their eyes and picture the world being described to them.
Sure, they're not reading, but they are still learning a love for stories while increasing vocabulary and stretching attention spans.
Reading is such an amazingly important skill. Even in today's tech world, if you can't read, you can't code, so it's not quite obsolete yet. Reading brings knowledge, understanding, laughter, tears, love and so much more to our lives.
And if your kids love to read, they're quiet a lot more. :)