How to make reading less of a chore for your child

Here are 5 handy tips to help your child engage with, and enjoy, reading again.

As we move away from the comfort of bubbles and bedtime stories, reading in primary school can feel more like a chore than a bonding experience. With the pressure to hear your child read daily, fill out their reading record and remind them to change the same book, that has been in their bag for the last week, reading can quickly become regimented and a tick box activity; something you both do for a smiley face in the comments section from their class teacher. But is this really how we raise a generation of readers?

When reading for pleasure becomes a distant memory, it can feel hard to find time each day to motivate your child and get them to sit down with a book. Like all learning, reading shouldn’t feel forced and when it does, that’s the moment you need to step back, take the pressure off and get back to basics.

Here are 5 handy tips to help your child engage with, and enjoy, reading again.

Remember reading isn’t exclusive to books.

I know this sounds obvious, but the fact that as adults we have to read every day, we take it for granted that words are all around us. Wherever your child’s interests lie, find the reading in it! Encourage them to sound out and read when words mean something to them. Whether it’s road signs, café menus or comic books, if they enjoy it there’s meaning.

Encourage them to read for purpose.

Do this by getting your child involved in normal everyday activities. Whether it’s a recipe or a shopping list, if your child is actively participating in an activity with you, they won’t even notice they are reading. Set them the task of locating the chopped tomatoes on the shelf when you’re in the supermarket – yes there are pictures too, but images with words help children to make sense of what they are reading. This is especially true for early readers when children first make connections that words have meaning.

Reading with children

Don’t discourage reading when you think what they are reading isn’t sophisticated enough.

Often, I am asked, ‘How can I move my child on to chapter books, or away from comics?’ and the simple answer is don’t! Don’t fret about the fact they are on the fifth book in Diary of a Wimpy Kid series – they won’t stay stuck here. However, if you force them to read something new when they aren’t ready to, you could put them off reading altogether. Of course make suggestions and offer a variety of choices, but indulge their pleasures while they last. Children always go through phases. If they are enjoying reading let them be.

Make use of your local library groups.

Let them choose their own reading material and find out what their own personal preferences are. Visiting your library is a great way to do this for free. Most libraries allow you to borrow up to twenty children’s books at a time! With this in mind, it doesn’t matter if some aren’t enjoyed or finished. Giving your child the freedom to find their favourites is empowering as well as enjoyable.

The library is also a great place to take part in the magic of shared reading. Whether you go along to your local Read and Rhyme group or get cosy in the cool children’s section, they will be surrounded by readers. Libraries are so much more enticing than they used to be (mine even has a coffee machine!). Children are also naturally curious of what their peers are into, so don’t underestimate how seeing others enjoying reading will increase the likelihood of your child picking up a book for themselves.

Go digital.

This one might surprise you but with access to huge catalogues of free eBooks and audiobooks at the click of a button this is the easiest way to entice a reluctant reader. It’s also important to recognise that, as parents, we’re not all comfortable reading aloud and ‘doing the silly voices’ that children love to hear. Audiobooks bring the story to life so that you don’t have to and are a great way to get them hooked on a favourite author. Audiobooks are also the best way to make use of ‘dead time’ such as long car journeys which would otherwise be boring. Here, the whole family can get involved and there isn’t a better sound than hearing their giggles from the back seat! Listening to a book read aloud may later give children the confidence they need to open the same book and have a go themselves.

As much as I love the feel of a paper book, I would rather see a child engage with an e-book than not at all. E-books are not only a cost-effective option, but many have embedded resources from the publishers’ electronic platforms to develop learning and comprehension skills beyond the book. The use of apps designed to develop reading skills, such as Reading Eggs, Oxford Owl and ABC Mouse, all have sound buttons to help children with tricky vocabulary and follow up with reading activities, including fun quiz style questions and reading rewards. Let’s not forget that children love the novelty of something a little different!

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