If you’re reading this in Australia, your kids have just begun the new school year. In fact, wherever you are, school aged kids are getting back into the swing of study after seasonal holidays – and picking up a book for pleasure might not be high on their list of priorities. Here are some suggestions to get kids reading more books this year!
Reading for fun and profit
I’m a bookworm, so reading, for me, is pleasurable. But I know some kids don’t see it that way. Even in my own home, where books are valued highly, my kids would mostly rather be playing XBox than reading.
But confident reading is a crucial life skill that we can’t afford to neglect in our kids’ skill sets. You don’t have to love epic literary novels, but a wide vocabulary and solid reading skills are key aspects of successful adulthood. Consider how many times a day you’re asked to sign a form, read ‘terms and conditions’ or understand a news headline?
Most of our kids will be lucky enough to experience formal education of one kind or another, but there are also lots of ways you can make reading more appealing at home. Even if you have an XBox!
Top tips for creating junior bookworms
Here are just a few ways you can encourage your kids towards read more books in 2017.
Make books available
Your child is not going to read a book if they can’t find a book. Humans like convenience. If all your books were tidied up and packed away in boxes, how likely would you be to go browsing for something to read on a quiet afternoon? Make books part of your decor. Create a library corner, or a shared shelf, where books become part of everyday life. If the pile hasn’t been touched for awhile, rotate some new titles to the front. Next time your child says ‘I’m bored’, all you need to do is point!
Make books fun
Your kids will be given books at school, but ‘school’ doesn’t always equal ‘fun’ (who knew?). Don’t even get me started on some of those school readers. Man, I’ve seen some things! At home, try to make books FUN! Let your kids read what they want to read, explore their personal interests and find stories they want to share with you.
Guidance is awesome, but expecting them to read the ‘classics’ you loved as a child can be more off putting than it is encouraging. It broke my heart the day my daughter said The Famous Five was boring and old fashioned, but what can you do? The world she’s growing up in is very different from mine as a child. Sometimes you have to sit back and listen to them explain every detail of Diary of a Minecraft Zombie, then close your eyes and think of Julian, Dick and Anne in private.
Make books valuable
Like all aspects of parenting, role modelling is one of the best ways teach your kids what you consider valuable. Do your kids see you read? Try to make time to read with your kids, to your kids and by yourself. This doesn’t need to be a deep literary novel. It could be a magazine, the local paper, a recipe or even the paperwork sent home from school. Show your kids why reading is valuable as a leisure pursuit as well as a life necessity.
Make books a hobby
Kids love collecting. I’m really not sure why, but it’s true. If they have a toy, they’ll want the set. If they have the DVD, they’ll want the t-shirt. Why not tap into this when it comes to books? If you find a series they enjoy, encourage them to buy or borrow the first 3 … then the next 3 … Some series even include charms, swap cards, Lego figures or code words to collect as you read along. Like it or not, our kids are rabid consumers. Sometimes getting them to embrace a new fad is all about marketing!
Make books more than books
With the technology available to us these days, the definition of a book goes way beyond paper pages. Pique your kids’ interest in books and stories by showing them a few options beyond the library shelf. Ebooks may appeal to their love of all things tech; same goes for neat apps or sites like Storybox Library where kids can watch actors, authors and comedians read lively renditions of favourite stories. For little ones, try a book with a CD attached. Shout out here to Anh Do and Laura Wood who had us singing about poo all the way to school this morning!
Help your kids to understand books as part of an industry by taking them along to a book launch or author talk to meet the creators of their favourite stories. Ask your school or local library about author visits coming up soon, and watch out for stage show versions of books. Recent faves include Matilda or The 13-Storey Treehouse. Who knows, your kid might even decide to become a writer!
Like any hobby, trying to get kids reading more books doesn’t have to cost a fortune (support your local library!), although it CAN be a great way to spend pocket money or birthday gift cards. Visit this link to read more about ways to help your kids’ literacy development – and spot problems if your child is struggling. Happy reading!