We all know that reading is fundamental to the development of children. Countless research studies show the links between good reading skills from an early age and future success in life. In fact, reading for pleasure has been linked to greater intellectual progress, in vocabulary, spelling and maths!
There is always lots of discussion about the reduction in children reading and in the current age more than ever it is difficult to get children really excited by books given screens and the many other exciting leisure activities fighting for their attention.
This is why it’s critical for us to provide access to a wide range of reading materials to help young people discover authors they will enjoy and books that inspire them to read more. It’s important that children see themselves in books, for all children to feel connected, to feel inspired by people like them, see names like theirs on the covers of books and see pictures of authors like them on.
And they are out there. There are around 10,000 new children's titles published in the UK every year and the profile of children’s books has never been higher.
Publishers are increasingly catering for kids whose reading habits are a million miles from those of our own childhoods. Thanks to this, there is tons of original, innovative content from fresh voices that speak directly and engages today’s critical, media-savvy young readers.
Inspiring a love of books is one of the best ways to prepare children for a lifetime of learning, encourage enjoyment of books and create readers for life. Here are some tips for parents on how to raise a reader, to inspire their children to love books and to hopefully turn any young reader’s reluctance into enthusiasm.
1. Join your local library.
Now more than ever we need our libraries. There are more than 3,500 of them across the UK; they are much loved and much needed by their users with 226 million visits last year. Libraries cater for, respond to and reflect local needs and are the heart of the community, and give you a free, regular source of wonderful books. A visit to the local library can be a real treat for children – with the reward of borrowing a new batch of books at the end of it. It won’t cost you a penny, and they’ll love the experience of having their very own library card (which you can use to borrow books, CDs, DVDs, ebooks and audiobooks).
2. Surround your child with reading material.
Encourage a love of reading by making it easy for your child to pick up a book. Regular visits to the library as well as having a shelf of age-appropriate books to choose from, all serves to help children to make reading part of their daily lives. You can select your age range here on LoveReading4Kids and be inspired by a wonderful selection of books perfectly pitched for your child.
3. Enjoy the pictures.
Before children learn to read, encourage them to ‘read’ the pictures in books by asking simple questions about what they see in front of them. Focussing on the pictures in the early years helps to develop a love of the wonder of books. Furthermore the pictures contain clues to the words which will be invaluable when they start to learn early reading skills.
4. Read to them.
It’s never too early to start reading to your child – even young babies enjoy being read to. Reading out loud prepares your baby’s brain for language. It teaches them about words, sentence formation, and introduces them to concepts like stories, colours, letters and numbers. Here is a selection of wonderful books we recommend for babies and toddlers on LoveReading4Kids. Even when they are old enough to read independently, it’s great for them to be read to, share a book, read a page each and enjoy a story together.
5. Make story time a part of your daily routine.
Making story time part of your daily routine is a great way to make sure that books and reading are regular, familiar and fun experiences for your child. Get them to choose a book to read with you on the sofa or in bed at the end of each day. Encourage them to tell you why they have selected a book, and what they like and dislike about it. Smaller children enjoy the repetition and familiarity of reading the same book over and over again. Here are some suggestions for children 3-5 and 5-7 years old. Remember, this is perfectly normal, and builds confidence so bear with them! We promise, they will move on to something else eventually…
6. Find the right reading nook.
Read in a place that's comfortable for both you and your child. During and after reading a book talk about the story and discuss the ideas in the book in order to ensure a deeper understanding. After you’ve read or listened to a story together, encourage discussion and ask your child about what happened. Retelling a story is great for developing their speaking, listening and memory skills. How did the characters feel, what might have happened next? It’s not just about the reading, it’s the whole enjoyment of sharing the story and discussing it afterwards.
7. Be a model reader.
Reading should be a shared experience between parents and children in order to ensure a love of books from an early age. Ensure your child sees you reading regularly whether it's a book, a newspaper or a magazine as it will instil a love of reading for pleasure.
8. Praise your young readers.
It’s important to give your child plenty of praise while reading. If they have a favourite book or author let them read the books again and again, let them enjoy the whole series if they are fully engaged. You can also introduce an author or book similar in style if there is appetite for more. Our Like-for-Like feature will help here. Your response on their reading and feedback has a strong effect on their efforts to become good readers. Always remember to give them genuine praise for their efforts.
9. Let them choose the books that appeal to them.
Let your child help you choose the books they’d like to read. If your child doesn't like a book, don't force them to read it. Let them put it down and come back to it after reading something else. It is all too easy as a parent to become overly motivated to thrust your kids into books you think they should be reading rather than what they want to read. LoveReading4Kids has thousands of opening extracts to enable children to try before they buy. Let them browse their own age range of recommended titles, and read a few extracts before they choose their next book to read. You can also select books by subject matter: if you have a reluctant reader who is obsessed with football, search the sporting section of the site to find the perfect book to engage them! If comics are their thing, let them read the comics and they can graduate to graphic novels as they grow!
10. Encourage a wide variety of reading activities.
Make reading an integral part of your child’s life. Encourage them to read anything and everything: road signs, menus, headlines, the rules of games, and other practical everyday information as this is a great way of building interest, rewarding reading and building confidence. All reading is good reading, whether facts or fiction, whether magazine, annual, comic strip, graphic novel, picture book, series or literary fiction, or a menu in a restaurant!
11. Enjoy books in a variety of formats.
We no longer need to rely on a physical copy of a book. The advancement of technology enables us to enjoy all formats – hardbacks, paperbacks, ebooks and audiobooks. Let children choose the format that fits their mood or preference. Smartphones and tablets can be used and ebooks can be adapted to each individual’s specific needs. You may have a child who needs a larger font or less lines per page in order to enhance their reading ability, and ebooks are perfectly suited to this kind of tailoring.
12. Choose diverse books.
All children need to see themselves reflected in the books around them and all children will benefit from encountering books that present the variety of cultural traditions and family structures that exist in our communities today. Exposing children to diversity in books will prepare them for life in our diverse, multi-cultural world and ensure more tolerant future citizens.
13. Travel with a book.
Encourage children to always travel with a book, showing them how easy it is to while away boring travelling time by diving into another world. Letting children have choices in their reading material goes a long way in raising life-long readers.
14. Support through the tween dip.
It is proven that children’s reading dips by the time they get to secondary school, and so during these tween years more than ever, it’s important to maintain an interest in a child’s reading. Do we sometimes assume our job has been done, once they learn to read confidently and independently? Maybe it’s just that by this age range we run out of ideas of what might appeal to them, once the old favourites from the authors of our youth have been consumed!? You can check out a wide range of recommendations for children 9+, 11+ and 13+ on LoveReading4Kids. On our sister site LoveReading4Schools our editorial experts work hard to produce an annual series of comprehensive lists for readers of all year groups. Our overall mission is to promote reading for pleasure with quality texts that are perfectly pitched for the age group and the curriculum. We particularly avoid blockbusters, classic or set texts, known to everyone, so that we can include poetry, stunning information texts and inspirational books in which all children and young people can find themselves reflected.
15. And don't forget the Young Adults (YAs).
Young adult fiction is fiction written for, published for, or marketed to adolescents and young adults, roughly ages 13 to 18. It is a vibrant sector of publishing with the vast majority portraying the adolescent as the protagonist rather than an adult or child. There are YA sections on both LoveReading4Kids and LoveReading as these books tend to bridge the gap between children's fiction and books for adults.
And for all you teachers and school librarians out there.
We also thought it was worth reminding ourselves of the Skeeters, K. et.al. piece of work: The Top Five Reasons We Love Giving Students Choice
- Choice empowers students
- Valuing student choices values the student
- Choice leads to real and meaningful conversations
- Choice helps establish and deepen relationships
- Choice leads to independence
Here at LoveReading4Kids and LoveReading4Schools, our job is one of curation, one of selecting and recommending books we love and we know kids will love too. It’s about helping kids find their next favourite book, author or series. A book for every mood, every age, every interest. Whether you’re 5 or a big kid at 50.
Whether you’re a reader, a parent, a carer, a grandparent, a godparent, a teacher or a librarian let’s all remember that great things happen when we read. Reading is reading is reading.