Encouraging Children To Read
Reading trends with children are always changing. Favourite authors jostle for position and new titles power up the listings. Frequently I’m asked what books are popular and which would get boys reading… never girls though. It seems to be a barely covered topic, as I have discovered while trying to do research. While girls are still generally accepted as being better and more frequent readers than boys, they are by no means all readers.
There is a lot of research out there that would try and give you reasons why children [mainly boys] don’t read as much. I’d be hard pushed to say I agree whole-heartedly with any one article about reluctant readers. Having spoken with teachers and parents over the years many different pictures evolve, from these experiences I’d say the following things.
- Let them have the choice. Many times I’ve had parents come to me with their children and ask me to recommend books “because he/she doesn’t like the ones I pick”. Get them involved in picking the books, make it participation rather than instruction. As a one on one activity girls will benefit from the more personal interaction and boys will benefit because they’ll be able to be more open about what they want to read.
- Get them reading books that keep them engaged. Even as an adult I have trouble sitting down reading a book that is about something I don’t enjoy [most of my TBR shelf is made up of these]. So what can we do? Every reader needs something they can get caught up in, be it a mystery, some gossip or an adventure. Ask them what they want to read about, girls often engage more with real-life topics and boys often enjoy something with adventure. This isn’t to say those are your only options.
- Is the text too much for them to grasp? A page of writing can be quite intimidating to someone who isn’t a confident reader. There are several fiction series that have been adapted into graphic novels, if they read the GN and enjoy it then it might encourage them to want to try the full novel. The pages feel a lot easier to read as there are less words but the content is still there, the reader is able to fill in the missing gaps with their own ideas and it helps them to interact with the story more. If they look like they’re unsure about moving on remember to tell them there’s more of the story in the full novel. It does tend to appear that this is more of a field for boys but take a look at our booklists and see what’s available.
- Reading isn’t just a fictional topic. Many people forget that reading isn’t just for novels. Non-fiction is much easier for some children to relate to. There are a lot of publishers who produce good quality biographies, they can range from pop stars to political figures. Most celebrities will have a biography out there, if your reader has progressed through the children’s publishers check the content in adult books to see if they would be appropriate to read. A lot of biographies designed for children have a magazine style layout which feels a lot less formal to read and there are always photos to keep them interested in the page.
- Encourage discussion. Try and familiarise yourself with the books they are reading, that way once they’ve finished you can talk with them about it. Not only will this help them develop other skills it will give you some insight into why they liked the books so that you can look for others that might appeal.
- Give them a challenge/incentive to keep reading. If they read the first book in a series, and enjoy it, the rest of that series provides an opportunity for encouragement. Once they’ve finished book two then you can go out and find book three or if there’s a film edition you can watch that. Mixing reading with activities they are already familiar with will help them associate reading with their everyday lives, and help to make it a more pleasurable activity.
- If reading is more of a challenge, choose activities that encourage them to read. For example, making something that needs instructions or cook something that requires a recipe. You will be able to read them together and help them understand the different form of writing. It is also an excellent way to help their accuracy, in this sort of activity if you miss something the final result won’t be what you were expecting.