We live in a digital age where kids literally have a slew of entertainment at their fingertips. Streaming services, social media and gaming apps mean some children are reluctant to pick up a book, despite the enjoyment and incredible benefits reading can offer such as improved concentration, a broader imagination and enhanced academic performance.
But don’t lose hope. There are a number of simple ways to kickstart and nurture a love of reading in your child, even if they appear completely resistant.
Jo Neil, a teacher librarian, said one of the best ways for parents to trigger an interest in reading was modelling the behaviour themselves, by reading the paper, a magazine or novel where their child could see them doing so.
“The next step would be making time to read to children, no matter how old they are,” Jo said.
“Often what happens is, once a child reaches about grade 2, 3, 4 and they’re independently reading, parents often think they can read by themselves.”
“But it’s really important to read with children. It’s all about that shared memory, that joy, and the attention and time with each other, that connection. It’s also about vocabulary development and comprehension.”
A graphic novel can be a great first step for kids who are not keen to read. One popular series is Wings of Fire, a group of fantasy novels about dragons that are part of a prophecy.
“For a reluctant reader I might suggest the graphic novel because they can get a lot from the images as well as the words,” Jo said.
“Then maybe they will want to go and read the novel. Or listen to an audiobook. Audiobooks are another way of getting all of that rich vocabulary and those rich story lines without having to do, for some children, the hard work of reading it themselves.”
How to help your child enjoy reading:
- Talk to your baby or young child before they learn to read. This will help them develop important language skills.
- As parents, advertise the joy of reading. Start when your children are young and remember, there’s no app to replace your lap.
- Create a comfortable reading space for your child. A fun activity might be creating a blanket fort under a table or a cozy pillow ‘nest’.
- Try a non-fiction book with lots of pictures. A book like the Guinness Book of World Records may spark conversation and trigger an interest in reading.
- Take your child to the library. It’s free and there’s heaps to do. Take a real interest in the books they choose and try to read some together.
- Try a graphic novel or audiobook.
- Pick a book that’s been turned into a movie (such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Matilda) and read it together, then watch the film.
- Plan activities that require reading such as cooking (using a recipe) or building something together (using instructions).
- Spend time enjoying the magic of reading with your children. The rhythm and melody of listening to someone read can help develop language and listening skills. By reading with your child, you can stretch their imagination and understanding of the world.
You can read about fostering a love of writing here.