Reading is the one exercise that cuts through every school subject. A child who loves to read will devour information; a child who sees it as a chore will push it away. So how to encourage your child to happily get their nose in a book?
We spoke to Louise Short, learning support teacher at Dover Court International School, for tried-and-true tips on transforming reading from punishment to pleasure activity.
- Allow children to choose their own books most of the time. Occasionally, you may need to steer some children so they don’t get stuck in one genre.
- Interrupt a mundane task to read a book. This associates reading with fun and relaxation and moves children past the ideas that reading is “boring”.
- Read stories aloud to children, including older children. This can spike new interests as kids may choose books they wouldn’t normally choose to read themselves. It also helps them to see the relationship between print and speech and the entertainment value of books. What child doesn’t enjoy funny, animated voices when listening to a story?
- Use positive reinforcement. Compliment children when they are reading books and acknowledge it is a difficult skill to master. Don’t overdo it though; this can turn kids off.
- Don’t ask them to explain every book they read or write book reports. This can make reading feel like homework, rather than a fun activity.
- Take your child to book fairs and libraries. The enthusiasm at these places can be infectious.
- Don’t insist that children read “classic books”. Expose them to a variety of texts. Adopt the adage: “Bait the hook to suit the fish!” Allow your child to read cookery books, comics, short stories, magazine articles, poetry, contemporary fiction, traditional fiction, reference books and, yes, even online materials. The trick to building reading stamina is variety.
- Encourage children to write their own stories from a very young age. Let them write the text, design a cover and write a short synopsis on the back page. If writing is a challenge, help them out. Again, this should be a pleasurable activity – not a punishment.
- Be a reading role model. We can’t expect children to read books, if we don’t do it ourselves.
- Find a school that makes reading fun. Dover Court’s highest priority is to ensure children enjoy reading. The school teaches children the joy that can be found when they put away theirs iPads and pick up a book.
More than a Book
The next time your child says “reading is boring”, explain that it:
- improves writing skills;
- enhances vocabulary, articulation and visualisation;
- increases knowledge;
- improves ability to empathise with others;
- stimulates creativity;
- connects ideas in their minds; and
- exercises their brains, just like they exercise their bodies.
Finally, recite this statement by British author Neil Gaiman: “A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.” Explain that books carry you away into an imaginary world and allow you to reach your ultimate goals.
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