I’m going to open this blog post by acknowledging that reading for pleasure isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. We don’t all always want to reach for the written word when we need to escape from the craziness of every day life and that is perfectly alright to admit. For me, and thousands of other people, it will always be our chosen pastime and I know that reading has been something which has formed a huge part of my life from childhood right through to the present day.
I think that this is partly why I feel so strongly about instilling in our children a desire to read. Whether they become adults who constantly have their noses stuck in a book or they only read as a means to an end, developing those skills early on will result in them having a skill which will only serve them well as they grow and change.
Whether you personally read for knowledge or leisure, and/or whether you want your children to form the same habits, raising readers is an important part of parenting. But, I figure if you are here looking for tips on how to raise readers then I’m already preaching to the converted!
Both myself and James are big readers so this was always going to influence the way we handled reading around the kids; they have seen us reading books from day dot and you’d think that would mean they also quickly developed a thirst for reading. However that hasn’t been the case.
With both Meg and Eli we introduced a bedtime story from around 3 months old. These books were sometimes age appropriate (think board books, touch-and-feel etc) and sometimes for a slightly older age bracket (i.e. Julia Donaldson’s work) but from a very early age we did the Three B’s: bedtime, bottle (later on becoming simply a drink) and a book.
Perhaps you would automatically assume therefore that both our children would love to read and certainly this was true when they were younger. Brightly coloured board books, rhyming words, and silly stories all formed part of their younger years with both often reaching for a book and coming to curl on our laps as they went into through their toddler and pre-school years.
Then it began to change. Meg has always been more capable of sitting still and engaging in an activity so reading by herself was a natural progression once she went beyond Reception age and she has the same sort of interest in it that I have always had, reading books which are way beyond her age range in her desire to escape into that world.
Eli, on the other hand, quickly began to lose interest in being read to once he started school and it has been a learning curve and a journey for us all, in finding those books which capture his imagination and encourage him to read. I believe it has much to do with his personality, and the fact that once he started school, he was taught to read and ‘told’ to read…unfortunately he is very like me in the regard that once he believes he is being corralled into doing something, he will try to do the very opposite!
So that is where we are coming from when we begin this journey encouraging others in how to raise readers. We have two avid readers for parents, one child who loves the written word and one who has had to find his own path into the wonders of books and stories.
There is the very well known quote from Dr Seuss which says:-
‘The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.’
I think that this captures, in a nutshell, why I think it’s important to encourage our children to read for pleasure. I know that it can get tiresome with school reading books having to be read x number of times a week and that finding time to listen to your child read can feel like yet another thing on the never-ending list but I honestly believe that it will become something you won’t regret. And the first time that you wander into your child’s bedroom and come across them reading on their own, out of choice…or the first time you catch them reading by torchlight under their duvet because they simply had to know what happened next…those will be special moments indeed.
I wanted therefore, to create a series of posts recommending books for all different ages and I will be doing that over subsequent weeks. If you are also trying to #raiseareader then feel free to join me! But for this first post I wanted to gather some quick thoughts on places to begin:-
1. Lead by Example
We all lead busy lives and this one can be particularly tricky if you don’t enjoy reading much yourself but I 100% believe that readers are raised in the laps of their parents. If you still have young children then introduce a bedtime story into your nightly routine. If you have older children then lead them into being inquisitive about reading by introducing it into your own life. You never know, you might rediscover a lost love!
2. Read To Your Children
Another great way to develop a thirst for reading is to pick a book which you can read with your children. For example, at the moment we are reading a chapter book called ‘Jack Fortune and the Search For The Hidden Valley’ by Sue Purkiss and Meg and Eli are loving discovering what adventures Jack gets up to. We don’t read a chapter every night, just as and when we can fit it in but I am always surprised at how much they have remembered from the last time we dipped into it and how well they listen when both James and I read to them. I’d choose a book which is perhaps slightly out of their reading range and make a big deal out of it. It’s a lovely way to spend the final minutes before bedtime as well, especially as your children become older and don’t need your assistance as much.
3. Let Them Choose Their Own Books
Another key one as your children get older and begin to read independently and this was a real pivotal point in us finding what Eli liked to read. Support your local library by going along and letting your children choose some books to read. Not only is this free (yippee!) but you might be surprised at the type of book your children go for. Let them know that it’s okay to choose a book and not enjoy it, and that they can try lots of different types of books to see which ones appeal to them most.
4. Don’t Give Up!
Your child might not automatically want to read, even if you do all of the above, but don’t give up. There are a multitude of things people can read and novels and chapter books just might not suit. Magazines, manga, comics and graphic novels are all great alternatives and shouldn’t be ruled out!
Keep your eyes peeled for my recommendations, coming next Wednesday.