According to BookTrust, children who enjoy reading tend to have better literacy skills, increased vocabulary and enhanced general knowledge. Reluctant readers may need some encouragement to discover their love of reading, however.
Lead by example
Show your child how much you enjoy reading, even if it’s just by flicking through a cookbook or burying your head in a magazine. You could also take family trips to the library, give books as gifts and talk to your children about the books you’re both reading. The BookTrust also recommends that parents and children try reading the same book occasionally. You could take turns reading a chapter aloud or you could both read on your own and then discuss what you like and dislike about the book.
Let them choose
There’s a temptation to guide children towards ‘suitable’ books but try to let your child choose their own. Some may prefer factual books, such as Horrible Histories, over fiction. Others may prefer magazines or short stories that they can dip in and out of.
Libraries, bookstores and other venues often have visits from local authors, who will give a talk, read an extract from their latest book and answer questions. Search for ‘author’ on www.eventbrite.com or sign up to your library’s mailing list. Many towns and cities now host an annual book festival, which often includes talks by children’s authors. Find your nearest one at www.literaryfestivals.co.uk.
Children who find reading too passive an activity might prefer books with interactive elements. Usbourne’s Puzzle Adventure books are a good place to start. They tend to feature two main characters who have an adventure and are faced with a series of puzzles, such as coded letters and cryptic clues, which the reader helps to solve. You could also look for ‘choose your own adventure’ books, where the story unfolds depending on which paths the reader decides to take.
Picture books for older children
Picture books aren’t just the preserve of pre-readers. Series such as ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’, ‘Dork Diaries’, ‘Tom Gates’ and ‘The 13 Story Treehouse’ are illustrated books aimed at children aged around seven to 13. They’re relatively quick reads, which can help to inspire confidence.
Omega oils have long been linked with brain power, and new research has found that a combination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may improve children’s reading abilities. This research was carried out on behalf of supplement brand Equazen. Children on Equazen’s omega supplements showed a 64% greater improvement in reading comprehension than the group not on supplements.
Some publishers have websites for young readers. At www.clubs-kids.scholastic.co.uk, for example, you can read interviews with authors, enter competitions and download activities. At www.penguin.co.uk/puffin, parents can sign up to receive a free downloadable pack of word searches, crafts and other book-inspired activities, and www.penguin.co.uk also has a range of extracts, quizzes and children’s book recommendations.
Visit www.booktrust.org.uk for more advice on inspiring a life-long love of reading.
By Kate Duggan