How do you encourage your children to enjoy reading?
I’ve written many times before about my children and their reading struggles.
The eldest found learning to read difficult and as a consequence refused to even try. The reading schemes did nothing to inspire her and rather than face a daily battle of tears and tantrums, I gave up on them in favour of reading to her.
My thoughts were that as long as she was listening to a story, that was all that mattered. Around about the same time, I found a box of old books in my mum’s loft and brought them back down with me. They were the stories that had inspired me most as a child and I read them all to my daughter, hoping they would have the same effect on her.
Heidi, Little Women, The Silver Sword, Anne of Green Gables, My Naughty Little Sister and the Ramona series – we read them all and do you know what? It worked. When I didn’t have as much time to spare to read, she would ask could she carry on for a bit longer by herself and it went on from there.
She never looked back and at thirteen is a full on bookworm.
Daughter number two had no problem learning to read and would diligently read the school books because the teachers told her she had to. The problem was, she didn’t enjoy reading and when she moved on to being able to choose her own books, we began to see a pattern emerging of her reading one or two chapters then losing interest. Pretty soon her bedside table was piled high with unfinished books.
She was getting pressure from school about the importance of reading everyday and people would say to her ‘haven’t you ever got to that point in a book where you can’t put it down?’ She just didn’t get that nor did she feel that way about books and the feeling of inadequacy was starting to make her anxious.
I pulled her right back and we switched to audio books. I also subscribed to First News and a story magazine. The important thing for her to realise was she could read any written material or listen to a story and that was still ok. We also realised her bad eyesight wasn’t helping. It was a struggle for her to concentrate on the words and she often came home from school complaining of a headache. We’ve since bought her a Kindle, which is backlit and has the ability to change the font type and size. She uses it to read the books they are studying at school and it has made a big difference.
You can’t force a child to read a book. That much I know.
All this time I was writing my own stories and sharing my ideas with my children. Their enthusiasm spurred my on – I wanted to write something that would appeal to my daughter, something that she would actually enjoy reading, maybe even get to the end of.
I’m not suggesting I can write better than any author out there, but this is mum right? If my kids won’t read a story written by their own mother, what would they read? My middle daughter and younger son loved the idea of the story I was writing and encouraged me to get it published. Their enthusiasm for the project went all the way through the publication process, right down to the launch and beyond.
I gave each of my three children their own copy, not only signed but dedicated to them too – they were, after all, my inspiration. The teenager read it on one sitting, of course and I let my younger daughter deal with it in her own time, not wanting to put any pressure on her.
She read a little each evening – the book is split into very short chapters as well as sections, using the point of view of each character. This means the story moves along quite quickly and it’s manageable. That was the whole point.
Then one evening, I came upstairs to find her still reading. She looked up at me with a wide grin spread across her face and said ‘Mum, I’ve got to the really exciting part and I have to find out what happens. Can I read for a bit longer please?’
I said of course and left her to it. I didn’t say anything more because I didn’t need to. She and I both knew she was experiencing that elusive moment she’d been longing for. Instead I did an air punch and went to my room where I danced a little jig.
My work here is done.
Except of course it isn’t, but it was a special moment that made writing and publishing the book all the more worthwhile.
Then comes child number three.
My son is eight and he isn’t a big reader either. He too enjoys audio books, as well as ibooks, or an on-line library he uses called Bug Club. Basically, he’s all about the electronics that boy, but at least I can get him to read and as long as I keep writing with both my son and middle daughter in mind, I’m sure I can come up with ideas that will inspire them.
If you have a reluctant reader my advice would be this:
- Don’t force the issue as it will only make it worse
- Pull back and try reading to them or letting them listen to a story on audio books. It’s about getting them to learn to appreciate and love stories, more than anything else.
- Reading is reading and it doesn’t matter if it’s a newspaper or the back of a cereal packet. They need to know that too so they don’t get disheartened or feel they are disappointing you or their teachers.
- Remove all unfinished books from the side of the bed. Psychologically, this is not a good thing to look at last thing before you go to bed and first thing when you wake up.
- Try other mediums like an e-reader or even the computer. The Bug Club my son uses is also great for comprehension because every other page has a little bug icon on it which means you have to click on it and answer a question about the story. It breaks up the reading too, which seems to help.
My book is called ‘The Mystery of the Disappearing Underpants’. It appeals to both boys and girls and the ideal age range is 8-10 years. Find out more on my book page, or visit Amazon to see what people have been saying about it so far.