I’ve been having lots of conversations recently about how to get kids reading. Social media and electronic devices appear to be the main culprits keeping our children away from books, according to the parents I have spoken to. Not only are they described as “addictive” but parents feel they are behind what is seen as our children’s ever-shortening attention span. On this, Universal Children’s Day, it seems appropriate to publish my Top 10 tips for getting and keeping your kids reading.
Top Ten tips:
- Do not put yourself or your kids under any pressure to read (done that, failed). Do not bribe them (done that, also failed), coerce them or make it a condition for getting some sort of reward. All that does is turn something that should be pleasurable into a chore.
- Model desired behaviours – read in front of them, put down your own devices. You are their greatest teacher. Let them see your joy.
- Value all types of reading (especially if you are starting from a low base), including non-fiction, newspapers, magazines and comics. Even leaflets! Never judge their reading choices.
- Fight the urge to tidy and leave reading material lying around. My teenage son, having told me a couple of years ago that he “hated” (yes, hated!) books, started reading again when we left the weekend papers on the dining table all week. It started with five or ten minutes at mealtimes. He now orders all sorts of books for himself from Amazon, mostly quite heavy non-fiction, history, politics, philosophy.
- Have lots of books around the house, in every room.
- Buy books for your kids, but take them to the bookshop and let them make their own choices (see 3 above). Yes, it’s probably more expensive than buying online, but the pleasure is immeasurably greater. Bookshops can be very exciting places these days, and you can often lose hours in there on comfy chairs and having a hot chocolate. It’s a very pleasurable way to spend an afternoon. The average children’s book costs £6-£8. That’s less than a cinema ticket, or an hour in a play centre. If cost is an issue for you, there are charity bookshops and libraries (see 7 below).
- Rediscover your local library. Libraries are under threat and if we don’t use them we will lose them. They have fantastic stock and you can usually reserve and order books in from other branches.
8. Talk to your kids about what they are reading. Show an interest in and respect their opinions. If they love a book and recommend that you read it too, then please do it. It will open up all sorts of conversations and they will be chuffed
9. If concentration is a real issue for your child try audiobooks. When my kids were little we had all the Roald Dahl CDs, which we played when travelling. They adored these books and it has provided a powerful memory for them. A good narrator can also help to bring it alive for them. (Simon Callow reading The Twits is our absolute favourite.) There are also audiobook subscription services which they can listen to on mobile devices.
10. Finally, if you’re feeling bold, create some family time for reading. Half an hour on a Sunday afternoon, perhaps. It may be challenging at first, but, like most challenging things, it gets easier if you can build the habit over a period of time.
A book I am particularly fond of is Alison David’s Help Your Child Love Reading which I reviewed on this blog last year. Much of what I have learned on this subject and which I commend to others is distilled from that book.
As Christmas is now fast approaching, look out for my recommendations on reading material for your kids over the next couple of weeks.
What are your top tips for getting kids reading?
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7 thoughts on “Top #10 tips for getting and keeping your kids reading”
Great post! So many good ideas here. I am a teacher and will definitely share your ideas with parents. Thanks for the post!!
You are welcome, and thank you so much for those kind comments.
Number 5 is definitely happening in our house 😂 Love this post, it certainly is a challenge to fight the screens!
Yes, good excuse isn’t it?!
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I love your ideas here. Audio books are great aren’t they?
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Fantastic. We all learn and engage with things differently and it’s great that there is increasing acceptance amongst parents and educators now that not all children are the same. As a bookworm (text, paper, pages!) it has taken a lot for me to come around to the fact that my children may not actually be the same as me! At least not at the moment.
You may be interested in this writing about gaining engagement with children’s literature 🙂 https://wp.me/p928R3-3k
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