Family & Education

The biggest favour you can teach your child is to show them the pleasure of reading

There's no better way to learn than picking up a book


One very powerful thing I read always sticks out in my mind. A study back in 2002 covering 31 countries concluded: “Being more enthusiastic about reading and a frequent reader was more of an advantage, on its own, than having well-educated parents in good jobs.”

Parents play a vital role in motivating their child and trying to instil a love of reading.

Reading is the single best way to develop your child’s IQ and support their social and emotional development. However, there are hundreds of other things children would rather be doing these days, usually involving a screen.

So here are some tips on how to establish the habit of reading for pleasure.

Make time for reading:
Don’t overload your children with too many activities.  By the time they have been to after-school clubs, had dinner, bath, music practice, completed their homework, a bit of down time, . they fall into bed exhausted and have very little time to read. Ten minutes a night doesn’t really allow you to get into a book. 

That’s why the long summer holidays are a more productive time for reading. One trick is to say lights out unless you are reading.

Finding the right book
Every time your child experiences reading something boring, too challenging or too easy, they will be put off. I have witnessed children’s attitude to reading simply transformed by the experience of reading one book that they really enjoy. 

They need to discover that feeling of not being able to put a book down. It may take a few tries or involve going to a specialist bookshop, getting recommendations from the teacher or peers, reading online reviews.

Don’t insist on them suffering through an uninspiring book. 

Range of genres
Expose children to a full range of different genres and styles.  Follow their interests, tastes and experiences.

Reading does not always have to involve a book. Reading should be an integral part of everyday life. It may be magazines, comics, magic tricks, instructions to a game, shop and road signs or the back of a cereal packet.

Set an example
Make sure they see you reading regularly — particularly relevant for fathers and sons. Make a “family reading time” at the weekend or on holiday where everyone sits together and reads their own thing. Children need to see that reading is an enjoyable and worthwhile thing to do.

Read aloud to your children 
Even if they are confident independent readers, all ages enjoy being read to. With older children it gives you an opportunity to bring the text to life, discuss what they are reading and ensure that their comprehension is solid.

Take turns reading
This gives children a break and helps them access more difficult texts.  Break up the character parts so you can take turns reading; you read one page and they read one.  Read for a few minutes until you get to a very exciting bit and then ask them to continue and tell you what happens next.

Encourage them to exchange ideas on what they thought about a book, reflect and be critical. Many authors have their own websites or forums.  Respect your child’s opinions and tastes without banning certain books that they will just cling to more fiercely.

Parent’s attitude
Keep cool and be supportive, never show your fears or make a big issue if they are reluctant to read. Reading will not be pleasurable if children feel pressure or anxiety from their parents.
Remember to get into the habit of telling children what they have done right instead of what they have done wrong eg “I liked the way you used expression” or “You worked out that difficult word all by yourself”. This is far more motivating than correcting every mistake. 

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