12 Tips to encourage your child to read

Thursday, 12 September 2013

We all know how important and essential reading is in life, not just for the practical things but for fun and reading really should be fun.  Thankfully I'm blessed with three little bookworms.   Things One and Two are many years ahead with their reading, during the holidays the local library had a competition to read six full books in six weeks.....Things One and Two did it in a week.  Although not a reader yet, The Toddler loves his books, he loves looking through them, he loves pretending to read them and he loves us reading to him.  So for anyone not quite sure on how to start and encourage reading, here's some basic tips:

1. It's never too early.  You can read to your baby whilst it's in utero.  The sound of your voice will be comforting and you yourself may find it relaxing, and a way to bond with baby before they're even born.  Once baby is born, read to them, It doesn't matter if they don't appear to show any attention.  Just read.  It encourages and creates a quiet place and time to relax and just be with mum or dad.  Let them explore the books, there's some fabulously tactile books available even if they just chew that amazing board book you got them, let them.

2. Have plenty of books.  We have hundreds.  Literally.  With places like Pound shops, Home Bargains, The Book People and second hand shops there really is no excuse to not have a heap of books.

3. Make them easily accessible.  We have toy tubs filled with books so when toddlers they can rummage through, pick their own...sometimes half the fun is in the choosing or rediscovering an old favourate under a pile of new ones. Make them a natural part of everyday life, utilise bath books and buggy books.  If you babywear you can attach buggy books to your sling.

4. Toddlers often enjoy word books, insofar as to say books full of pictures of things around the home or in nature etc where they can point at an item and you can name it.  As they get older they have so much fun 'seeking' things on the page you name.  Rhyming books are also a favourate where they can often finish the last word of the sentence from memory.

5. Let them see you read.  Children like to emulate adults.

6. Use subtitles.  As Things One and Two learned to read they'd subconsciously read the subtitles on the television, something we usually leave on permanently because of the noise The Spawn make.  This way they are actually reading whilst doing something else they enjoy, watching tv, thus giving it another positive association.

7. Unless what you are doing is absolutely 100% time critical urgent, never ever say no if your child asks you to read them a book.  Put your phone down, turn off the laptop, lower the volume on the tv.  Focus that moment on being with your child and sharing the book.  Cuddle them, laugh with them....enjoy the story with them.

8. Ask questions.  Ask them about the story, about the characters and the pictures.  Let them try and guess what will happen next or let them think about why something happened before.  Ask them about their favourite part.  If a character is happy/sad ask the child why they think that is.  Point out colours and details. Involve them in the story.

9. Remember it doesn't matter what they read, reading is reading.  Forget about the books they 'should' be reading according to whoareyou et al. Whether it's road signs, magazines, the Argos catalogue or the back of a cereal box, it's all reading.  Better still, it's natural curiosity fuelled reading.  They're doing it because they can and because they want to.  Encourage it all.  Discover what they're interested in, be it cars or Moshi Monsters and feed their interest with associated literature.

10. Never treat reading as a chore.  The more you try and make someone do something, the less likely they are to ever want to do it.  The key to successful reading is to ensure it's something they want to do and better still, like doing.  Never force it.  Personally we don't believe in homework for infants, they spend enough time at school without having to bring it home.  Don't tell your child they have to read that night, ask them if they'd like to.  Tell them you enjoy doing it with them.  Ask them if you can do it together Show interest in what they're learning to read and again ask questions about it that they can answer.  Children like feeling knowledgeable, they like the novelty of teaching you something.  Respect them if they don't want to read right now.  It's really okay.

11. They're never too old to be read a story.  Why not take it in turns to read a page/chapter each to unwind after a busy day, snuggle up and enjoy the closeness it can bring whilst you discover a story together, share the anticipation for the next instalment.

12. Finally, limit technology.  Seriously.  It's unnecessary.  I'm not saying ban it, yet there is no need for young children to possess phones, consoles and the like.  Let them have limited access to your laptop or pc, to explore Google etc, it's still reading and is a fun way for them to get answers to their many questions and expand their general knowledge of the world around them.  Let them be children and use their imagination.  To understand the magic of writing and reading. Provide them with the tools, plenty of books, pens and paper. You'll soon find them devouring novels in their rooms and writing their own.  A video game or tablet is only a gift until the next upgrade is available.  Letting a child organically nurture their own imagination through books however, is a gift for life.


  1. Excellent advice makes my job easier when they get to school

  2. Brilliant post. I could read before I went to school and avidly read anything, even the back of a cereal box!

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  4. Sarah> I think there is a fine balance, I purposefully didn't teach my kids to read before starting school, if they asked we'd help so to speak we'd never deny them knowledge they thirsted for but reading is more a skill than a talent to start with and we didn't want them to be bored when they started school and miss out on the fun and excitement of what they were about to learn iyswim? They were so enthused and ready for it however that they took to it very quickly and more
    importantly, they love reading.

    I think when left to explore it themselves they *want* to learn it and may even autonomously learn before they start school which is always amazing to see. However, far too often we read online tales of parents purposefully teaching their children to read before they start school yet to what end? Just so they can gloat how clever their child is to have been *taught* something before others?

    I still read everything and anything lol backs of bubble bath bottles when in the bath, road signs when on the bus, stickers and signs etc etc

  5. We love reading in this house. Also audio stories are great.

  6. Just popping by from Britmums! Lovely to see you endorsing having books in the home. As you say there's no excuse with charity shops and swaps etc these days. I think some parents feel that to do it all on a device now is not only 'current' but adequate! It isn't! Kids begin their love of reading from holding, snuggling with and even ripping sometimes, a book. And reading TO them is essential and can go on for as long as they want it!

  7. Stephanie: So glad to hear your household too also love reading. I'm sure one of the reasons some kids seem to resent it so much is because it was never shown to be fun to them.

    Ross: Thank you for reading. I absolutely agree. Reading is a sensual experience insofar as to say it involves the feel, the smell, the sound etc of the book. There are alternatives to books but no substitutes. Teaching a child to read purely on an electronic device is akin to teaching them to type rather than to write or to teach them to write only in dialect and broken.


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