Make reading fun!

With so many different fun, cool activities vying for your child's attention, reading often drops to the bottom of their list. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most important. Children who read more do better in school, become better readers and writers and gain a wider general knowledge. So how do you tempt them away from their computer or play station to read?  

Reading together

  • Read with your child.  Young children especially love to have stories read to them and will happily follow along and will often insist on reading themselves.  Make it extra fun by snuggling under a blanket, having a snack or having a daily routine (just before bed for instance).
  • Think beyond books.  Reading material is everywhere.  Magazines, newspapers, comic books, board games with written instructions, putting the TV on silent during 7de Laan and reading the captions. Think outside the box!
  • Have your child help you write your shopping list and write fun reminders and notes for him/her to discover through the day.  
  • Keep reading itself enjoyable.  Ask them questions about what they read and what they liked about the story, book or article.
  • Create activities around what your child is reading.  Act out the story, play word-games around difficult words you find, etc.
  • Have family discussions around what everyone is reading. Let each family member talk about their book and what they are learning.
  • Keep books around your home. Simply having reading material around your home will help children view them as part of daily life. Also keep reading yourself and serve as a good role model.
  • Start building a small library for your child.  If they have a special place for books that are "theirs" they will tend to read them more and treat them with more respect. Also let them choose the books they want to read as often as possible. Angie, a mother of two, has a reading date once a month with her girls.  She takes them to a bookshop and lets them browse the children's books for a few hours. They are each allowed to choose one book at the end which she then buys for them. You can also do a similar activity at a library. Choosing books makes children feel empowered.
  • Motivate your child to read by using a visible record of achievement.  Keep track of the number of books they have read, how many different types they read (mystery, non-fiction, rhymes, etc.) or which stories they recited the best.  Make sure you show them how proud you are with rewards when they reach certain targets.
Choosing books

  • Keep an eye on the reading level of the books your children choose to read.  Let them stretch to the best of their ability, even if it is beyond their age group.
  • Start a children's book club. Children love doing things with their friends so instead of just a play date, how about a "story time"? They can dress up, act and take turns reading.
  • Set specific times for reading. By doing this you show your child that it is just as important as soccer, ballet and homework.
  • Make it a game as to where you and your child can read. You can go to a park, next to a pond, under a tree, by the pool, in the tree house, in a "secret reading place" or even in a big pantry. Make it an adventure!
  • Choose books around themes. For example, in winter you can read about snowmen, ice-skating or winter holidays. You can also have a theme for the month like "Under the sea" where you read books about fish, the ocean and ships.
  • Get your child hooked on a reading series they love. Once they have a good experience with one book they will probably love the next book about the same characters. Just look at the huge success of Harry Potter, the Twilight series, Dr Seuss and Bob the Builder.
  • Make holiday reading exciting. Choose extra special books and have fun reading on road trips, in hotels, on the beach and even at home when you aren't going away. Make a big fuss over the holiday books so that they are always something to look forward to.
  • Choose books around characters your children already adore. These include Barbie, Ben10, Spiderman, etc. They are already collecting the toys, why not throw in a book or two?
  • The more your child can relate reading to their own lives, the better. Try and link their favourite activities to books (e.g. books on ballet, horse riding, rugby, etc.)
  • Teach your children the connection between reading and knowledge. If your family is starting a vegetable garden, have your children read about what to do, what types of seeds to plant, etc. Give them the idea that they are really helping you by giving you the information. You can also (under supervision) have your children help you do research on the internet for these activities. Everything from getting a new puppy, planning your next holiday or what it involves when you get new braces. Not only are they reading, but they are learning a lot too.  

Does your child enjoy reading? What do they read?

For advice on what is suitable for different ages to read, ask our reading expert Claire Montague-Fryer.
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