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How do you encourage children to read?

Another month and another Authors’ Round Robin! And this month the topic is…

round robin, helena fairfax, romance editor

How do you encourage children to read?

When I was a child I read voraciously. To be honest, I probably read a bit too much. You may think that’s not possible, but there is a whole big world for children to explore and discover, and I often had my nose pressed to a book.

helena fairfax, freelance editor
 A world to explore outside books

When my own children were young, I didn’t worry too much about encouraging them to read. As it turned out, they all loved reading as children, too, and our house was full of shelves and shelves of books as they grew up. This leads me to my first tip…

Tip One for encouraging children to read:

Love reading yourself

There is a saying that it doesn’t matter how often you tell children what they should do, they’ll only copy what you do yourself. If children notice you spend a lot of your free time reading, they will want to know what’s so good about books. If you talk with them as they’re growing up about the books and characters you love, they’ll see reading as not just something for nerds, but something grown-ups get enthusiastic about and swept away by.

A study by the National Literacy Trust found: ‘Parents and the home environment are essential to the early teaching of reading and the fostering of a love of reading.’

If you’re a parent and you don’t love reading yourself it’s more difficult to make your children enthusiastic about it. Many adults say they just don’t have time to read, but there is always time. You can put down your phone and read a book on the bus, waiting at the doctor’s or waiting at the school gates, or while eating your dinner. (Oops – not that last one. That’s one my children shouldn’t have copied :) ) Reading is a habit, and to get hooked, you absolutely don’t have to read anything fancy. Pick up a bestselling book – something page-turning like The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, or Lace, by Shirley Conran, or the first Harry Potter book, or The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins. I’ve read all these books – these authors know how to tell a damn good story and keep a reader glued to the page. If your children see you engrossed, they’ll think reading is something special – and it is!

Tip Two: encourage babies and toddlers to love books

When my children were babies I was amazed how much enjoyment they could get from a helena fairfax, freelance editorbook at a very young age indeed. Tiny babies recognise the colours black and white best, and there is a lovely article here by the Scottish Books Trust on why black and white books are perfect for them.  I’ve seen babies lying fascinated, head turned, gazing for ages at the images in a black and white book.

Babies as young as six months can follow a book with colourful pictures and it’s surprising how quickly they learn that the page needs turning, and they’ll attempt to do it themselves.

Have patience

Toddlers love to hear the same story over and over again, which is great for them, but hard work for parents. I used to have every single word and picture of Where the Wild Things Are engraved on my eye-balls, and, let’s be honest, sometimes when I read it for the twentieth time in a day, it wasn’t easy to make reading fun. But parents…stay strong! Imagine the scene in a few years’ time when your child can read by himself and is sitting quietly occupied while you read your own book! Brilliant! All those years of Max and his interminable wolf suit will have paid off.

Seriously, though, one reason toddlers love to have you read to them is because sitting on your knee with a book is a special time for them when they have your undivided attention, and they also get to rest, take time out from the stresses of being a toddler and be entertained. Books rule again.

Tip Three: mix reading books with their own interests

When children get to primary school, reading can sometimes seem like a chore – just another lesson to be learned before the school day is over, when at last they can have fun doing something more interesting. Smaller schoolchildren still like to be read a bedtime story, though – helena fairfax, freelance editormine used to make it an excuse to stay up a bit longer. Even if you’re worn out and still have the washing-up to do and next day’s uniform to iron, it’s worth taking half an hour to sit with them and read. There will always be washing-up, but believe me, those evenings of bedtime reading won’t last. Make the most of them, for both your sakes.

Older primary school children might start thinking bedtime stories are for wusses. If they’ve gone off the idea of reading altogether, getting books that match their interests can help – books of their favourite TV programme, for example (the Horrible History series is brilliant), or football annuals, or even plain old comics. Picking their own comic can be a treat, and at this age, all reading is good reading. There’s no point forcing classics on a child who isn’t interested. Reading has to be fun! This leads to…

Tip four: let children decide for themselves what they want to read

Once children become teenagers, they almost certainly won’t want to read what you think is a

helena fairfax, freelance editor
Bryan Talbot’s excellent Grandville series of graphic novels

good book. They’ll want to make their own choices. That doesn’t matter, as long as they choose to read something. I’ll admit, buying books regularly for your children at this age can be expensive, but this is the time when libraries come into their own. There are some amazing YA books; nowadays most libraries have a dedicated section for teenagers and young adults with a brilliant array of choice. I’ve read some wonderful graphic novels, too, with fabulous illustrations and thought-provoking themes. If you can afford the occasional book token, let your children browse round a bookshop and choose whatever they like. With so many stunning books for teenagers nowadays, hopefully it will feel like a special treat.

But don’t agonise too much about it. In Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, Henry Tilney says, ‘The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.’

Henry Tilney was a bit of a know-it-all, and I don’t think what he says is true. Don’t worry too much about getting your children to read. Nobody wants to read a book under pressure, and children can have plenty of other interests. I know lots of adults who don’t read a lot, but none of them are ‘intolerably stupid’. They have other interests – playing and listening to music, painting and art, playing sport, sewing and needlework, gardening, cooking, astronomy, rock-climbing.

I can’t think of anyone I know, though, who, even if they don’t read much, hasn’t read at least one book that they loved. If your children grow up to understand that books can open up amazing worlds, even if they don’t read much, they’ll always know that those worlds are out there for them.

* * *

Did you love reading as a child? Did you feel pressured to read? If you have children of your own, do/did they read a lot, and if so, how did you encourage them?

If you have any comments at all on this subject, I’d love to hear them!

And since this is a Round Robin, you can read the other authors’ blog posts on this subject by clicking on the links below. Hope you can drop in and check them out!

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea

Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1ly

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Anne de Gruchy https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/

A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/

Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com

Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog

Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/

Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

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32 thoughts on “How do you encourage children to read?

  1. I was an early bookworm and loved reading from an early age and still do! My daughter didn’t read at all as a child-it was a struggle to get her to pick up a book but now she reads as much or even more than me!! Her daughter hates reading! Really struggles with it at age of 7 and doesn’t read well or for pleasure but having seen her mum’s journey to loving books I’m not as worried as I would have been. One day hopefully!!! There have always been books in our house and I buy her books all the time but it’s just not her thing at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My husband didn’t read much at all when he was a child, Jo. His mum likes reading, but he’d always sooner be out on the park with his friends playing football.He loved comics but he barely picked up a book when he was at school. Now he reads a lot and has a bookcase full of books he loves. You’re right not to worry about your granddaughter. Reading should be fun, and even if she doesn’t enjoy it at the moment, she sees that you and your daughter love books. One day she’ll discover for herself the joy of reading!

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  3. As a teacher of many years I know that getting boys to read can be an issue. I always started them off on comics because that taught them that stories on a page can become a story in your head. Then I moved them on to novels with VERY short chapters and few words. They seemed to like those ones where you have to make a decision before moving on. Once they’d got the ‘hang’ of reading they found their own way forward. I also had to acknowledge that some boys will NEVER read fiction and allowed them to read technical books during SILENT READING instead. Girls are a WHOLE different topic …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d forgotten about those books where you can make a decision, Lizzie. My son used to like those books – but then, he also read lots of others. As I said in my post, I read a LOT when I was a child, but my brother – who was almost my age – only ever read comics and to this day has only ever read Stig of the Dump and a biography of Alex Ferguson :) It was great that you took the time to enthuse your reluctant readers. That must have really made a lifelong difference to them.
      Thanks so much for dropping in, and for your great comment x

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So agree that parents who read and enjoy it are a huge influence. And there really is NO excuse for not enough time. Turn the TV off. Put the cell phone away, and get back to reading. Also agree that letting them chose the books is also important – otherwise it’s like schoolwork that is forced on them by someone who thinks they know what they enjoy more than they do. It might not be your first choice, but let them have theirs and they’re far more likely to enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You can always find time to do the things you want to do, Skye. And these days of ereaders, you can take your book anywhere! I enjoyed the topic this month. Thanks so much for visiting, and for your comment!

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  6. I agree you teach by example. I read a lot when I was a kid. I was one of those sneak the book under the covers with the flashlight, so I could read late. Nowadays kids can do that much easier using their phone or e reader. Enjoyed all your points, but I agree, there’s no reason to make a child read “for fun.” That will really turn them off reading.
    JQ Rose

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ‘They’ll want to make their own choices. That doesn’t matter, as long as they choose to read something.’ So, so true. And to be honest, there are so many good YA titles out there that I sometimes read them along with all my other genres.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read a lot of Ya novels too, Vicky. There are some great books out there. Our local bookshop has a tremendous display for teenagers. They have their own section in the shop. So much more attractive to teenage readers than when I was a teenager myself.
      Thanks for dropping in!

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  8. What a great post, Helena, and such wise tips. I almost lived at the library when growing up and always had a book on the go, as well as reading to my two children at night. They both continued their love of books and wee granddaughter has a room full. When she’s at my house she often remarks that I love books since I have so many in my study and we played libraries when I was rearranging them!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love the idea of playing libraries! My grandson loves going to the library, too, and there are particular books he loves to get out again and again. It’s so expensive to keep buying books. Where would we be without our libraries? Thanks for your lovely comment, Rosemary, and for dropping in!

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  9. When our first grandson was born, we brought over gifts for him, including new books. But we also brought along his daddy’s favorites, like “Go, Dog, Go,” and a cloth book of nursery rhymes that had his name on it, from my mom. He’d drawn all over them, torn out bits of the pages, etc. But now they belong to his son, and that’s a great thing! Someday, we’ll tell him that those were his daddy’s books when he was his age. Turn the page, and poof! He’ll be having his own kids too. Hopefully they’ll all be readers, as my son and his wife are teaching him to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s something special to pass the books on in that way. We have books in our house that have a special meaning, too, beyond the actual story inside. This is why I love print books more than ebooks. It’s good to know that you are turning the same pages a loved one turned, and reading the exact same words. The book takes on an extra and irreplaceable meaning.
      I’m sure they will all be readers in your family. They are off to a great start. Thanks so much for dropping in, and for your great comment!

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  10. I’m coming to the party late, and want to say this was an excellent post and should be published somewhere where LOTS of people can read it. Your suggestions are great. As a kid, I always picked my own books. Read some racy stuff in high school (a lot of which went right over my head). Still love to read as do my husband (he’s a great reader) and my kids, too. Book clubs are great, as are libraries. Loved your post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember reading some racy stuff as a teenager, too, Judy! I love the variety of books aimed at teenagers these days, and the fact that they have their own dedicated section in bookshops. When I was a teenager you went straight from the children’s to the adults’ books in the library – there was nothing in between.
      Thanks so much for your kind words about my post. I really enjoyed this month’s Round Robin. It brought back memories of my own children learning to love books, and now of my grandchildren. Thanks for dropping in!

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  11. Great tips. I read a ton as a kid, always had my nose in a book too, and I was gratified to see that my kids took to reading the same way! I agree that modeling reading and letting them pick out what THEY want to read are so important!

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    1. It’s funny what does grab a child’s imagination, Kathleen. We were given a second-hand set of books about various fruit with names – Lawrence Lemon, Margot Mandarin, etc. The stories were so boring, and the pictures weren’t up to much. I’d never have chosen it myself, but my son absolutely loved them and I had to read them time and time again! It just shows having a wide selection – and letting your child choose – really does pay off.

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  12. Books were always a staple through my childhood, bookshelves full and my mum always had a book on the go. The library played a huge part for me and I was always allowed to choose. Oh that feeling :D I still get it today! My boys loved reading too but through secondary/Uni they had no interest. Pleased to say that they’ve re-discovered the joys in reading for pleasure :)

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    1. I still get that feeling today, too, Shaz! The joy of walking into a library or bookshop and picking a favourite author or discovering something new…!
      Later on at secondary school and at uni I stopped reading for pleasure so much, too, but it wasn’t because I lost interest. I just didn’t have the time, and I felt guilty for reading for pleasure when I should have been reading round my studies. I studied Emma for A level, and although Jane Austen is one of my favourite authors and I’ve read all her other books several times, it’s literally only in the past year that I’ve re-read Emma. Having to study it put me off it altogether!
      So glad your boys have re-found reading. Thanks so much for dropping in, and for your great comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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