A love of reading is a wonderful gift for any child, it opens the doors to new worlds, encourages creativity, increases vocabulary and comprehension and builds up a wide array of knowledge about relationships, emotions and the world around them. However, more and more parents tell us at Gabbitas how they struggle to get their children to read. With other fun activities to look forward to or the draw of screen time, reading can sometimes just feel like more work. So how can you encourage your child to read and learn to love spending time engrossed in a book?
Our first top tip? Start early! According to the international PISA results, by the age of 15, parents who read to their children in the first year of primary school scored on average 25 points more than students whose parents read with them infrequently or not at all. This is the equivalent of over half a school year. Younger children love having stories read to them whether at bed time or any time of the day and from this they learn about storytelling, vocabulary, how pictures and words relate together, not to mention all the things they glean about the world around them, relationships and living life. Pop up books are a good way of engaging your toddler such as ‘Bed Bugs’ by David A Carter or ones you can stick your fingers in such as the perennial favourite ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ or stories told with rhymes such as the classic ‘Each Peach Pear Plum’.
As children grow older their reading patterns will change and it is at this stage that you really want to encourage reading for pleasure so that it will then develop into a habit. It is still valuable to have some parental engagement whether helping children to choose books or by talking to them about what they have read which then encourages them to develop valuable critical thinking skills and learn how to express an opinion. For newly independent readers Annie Barrows’ ‘Ivy and Bean’ is a good starting point or Sid Fleichman ‘The Adventures of McBroom’. The ‘Horrid Henry’ books by Francesca Simon lead into a good series of books and, of course, anything by Dick King Smith is always a winner.
One of the biggest challenges parents talk about, is trying to persuade their boys to read. There are plenty of authors out there who write great stories that appeal to boys. The book list from the famous London boys school St Paul’s recommends ‘The Butterfly Lion’ by Michael Morpurgo, ‘The Little Wolf’ series by Ian Whybrow and certainly one of our family favourites was the Anthony Horrowitz ‘Alex Ryder’ series. Not to mention JK Rowling and the ‘Harry Potter’ books!
Another way of keeping children interested in books is to carry on reading to them. This is a great way of extending their reading age and also having a shared parent child activity. Introducing classics from your childhood can forge a special link as you talk about why you enjoyed it and you see the next generation engaging with a familiar tale. Timeless books such as ‘Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Graham, ‘The Secret Garden’ by Francis Burnet or ‘The Silver Sword’ by Ian Serrallier, still engage children today with their humour and storytelling.
For many children choosing more contemporary fiction such as ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’ by Mark Haddon or Michelle Magorian’s very moving ‘Goodnight Mr Tom’ is another way in and with the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature starting this weekend it is the perfect chance to discover new books. Why not take the children to meet real live authors and let them bring your children into their world. Whether it is Tony de Saulles’ ‘Bee Boy’, Ross Montgomery’s ‘Max and the Million’ or even Jeff Kinney author of the ‘Wimpy Kid’ series.
Reading gives your child the opportunity to be fully immersed in another world, to capture their imagination, to be challenged, to learn something new or think about things differently. Being able to read is the key to opening new worlds, broadening horizons, learning, evaluating and communicating. It really is the gift that keeps on giving.
Top ten favourite books to have read by age 15
- Charlotte’s Webb by E B White – a childhood favourite about friendship set on a farm.
- Holes by Louis Sacher – an award winning tale which is both mysterious and funny
- Wonder by J R Palacio – the funny and frank story of Auggie, a normal boy with a birth defect
- Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond – as an alternative to the better known Skellig,
- Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman – set in a fictional dystopia where Africans have made Europeans their slaves
- Stig of the Dump by Clive King – a young boy discovers a teenage caveman in the local rubbish
- The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend – written in diary style focusing on the worries and regrets of a teenager
- The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger – this coming of age story is a must for teenagers
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – a story of family and friendship during turbulent times
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – a book that perfectly captures being a teenager