Learning to read is one of the cornerstones of any child’s education. Reading helps children make sense of the world, develop language and listening skills, and understand many concepts.
It plays a big part in children’s learning both in school and out. In fact, the UK-based National Literacy Trust shared data showing that young people who enjoy reading at home are five times more likely to read above the level expected for their age compared to their peers who don’t.
Despite this, children often disengage with basic reading books, throw guiding pencils down in frustration, and clam up at the mere suggestion of practising reading outside school. And after two years of uncertainty and periods of homeschooling, this disinterest has only increased for some. Going home and practising the phonics sounds they patiently repeated with their teachers or re-reading the books they may have happily chanted at school now feels extra off-putting.
Still, it is important to encourage children to read and to do it out of pleasure because of its numerous benefits. The Reading Agency, another UK-based reading charity, released a report in 2015 stating: “Reading for pleasure has many non-literacy benefits and can increase empathy, improve relationships with others, reduce the symptoms of depression, and improve wellbeing throughout life.”
Reading isn’t just about parroting the words that parade in front of your eyes. It’s also inference, prediction, comprehension, imagination, and storytelling. It is about building a bigger picture beyond the line of text in front of you. By encouraging reading at home, in play, and outside of school, you are helping to foster a love of reading in your child that will empower them throughout their lives. So, if you’re inspired to unleash your child’s inner bookworm but are unsure how to start, these tips might help.
1- Make Reading Part of Everyday Life
Reading is a fundamental life skill involved in many children’s indoor and outdoor activities. This makes incorporating reading into various fun activities easier and encourages children to work on their reading skills without following an educational script. You can start by getting your child to read and follow recipes or instructions for a new game. You can also encourage them to read the information board at a local attraction. Not only do these activities foster a love of reading, but they can also help to generally improve your child’s confidence.
2- Create a Cosy Corner
Setting up an appealing place to read means that children are more likely to want to pick up a book and snuggle in to read.
3- Embrace Technology
With an ever-increasing use of technology both in school and out, using tablets and e-readers can be a useful tool to keep them engaged. For younger children, apps like Reading Eggs can help build their reading skills and capture their interest. You can also find thousands of electronic kid-friendly titles on apps such as Kindle and Epic. Both apps allow you to filter through what is available according to your child’s age and interests.
4- Acknowledge Audiobooks
Your child’s comprehension of the books they read also contributes significantly to their reading skills. Sometimes a child’s reading level will be below their comprehension level, which means they will switch off and be bored of reading. Allowing them to instead listen to engaging audiobooks will help improve their skills and keep their imagination fired.
5- Don’t Forget the Library
Qatar National Library (QNL) houses over 100,000 English and Arabic books in its children’s section. With such a vast selection to choose from, there is sure to be something to ignite every child’s interest. QNL also hosts reading challenges and regular storytime sessions, and those events can also be a way to make reading more appealing.
6- Keep it Interesting
Let’s face it—not every child will love the basic Magic Key (Biff, Chip and Kipper) books. Some children love fiction fantasy stories, others factual books. An interest in the subject matter is key to unlocking their love of reading. So, don’t be afraid to let your child choose titles their peers might not prefer, as long as they are age-appropriate.
7- Watch the Film
While many follow the “no film until the book has been read” rule, it can often work to your advantage to do it the other way around. This can hook your child’s interest in the story and lead them to ask to read the book. Knowing what happens and having it play out on the screen in front of them can make the task of going through pages of words to find out what’s next feel less daunting. And it’s always a bonus if the film happens to be from a series of books—once you’re into one, you often want to read the rest!
8- Unlock the Power of Picture Books
Using pictures and objects to deepen children’s understanding of inference is a technique many teachers use that you can easily replicate at home. Inference in reading, according to the online education site Twinkl, refers to the ability to make logical conclusions about a situation based on the evidence that the authors provide.
Emily Weston, a teacher and blogger, wrote about a technique where she uses imagery to teach inference and calls it “the shoe lesson”. The concept behind it is simple: start with a pair of shoes and imagine who would wear them. Then, follow this by looking at a picture of someone in those shoes, comparing your inferences to what you now see in front of you. This technique lays the ground for the fundamentals of learning inference when reading text.
Books that are predominantly picture-based build on similar skills, which is why they also work well for teaching inference. A great example is the discussions that the “Where’s Wally?” books can bring. All of these teach children to use their imaginations to build narratives.
9- Welcome Variety
It doesn’t matter what your child reads as long as they are reading. Comics, magazines, Pokemon cards, gaming guides—all of these count towards your child’s skills!
Teaching children to find pleasure in reading means helping them learn how to absorb the stories and narratives in books in ways they understand and enjoy. But this can only happen once they disconnect the activity from the pressure they might feel with in-class reading tasks. Hopefully, these tips will help them see that reading can be an enriching experience they can enjoy in many ways outside the classroom.