Sitting at a desk or table to read can sometimes make it feel like a chore. To make it more of a relaxed activity which your child is more likely to enjoy, you could try setting up a reading corner or den in your child’s bedroom or the living room. Make sure there is plenty of natural light, or buy a reading lamp to avoid them straining their eyes. Comfy cushions or beanbags will make it more fun and inviting and place books within reach, rather than high up on a shelf, to encourage your child to help themselves to a book of their choice whenever they feel like reading. Encyclopaedias, recipe books, joke books, magazines and comics can be placed on the bookcase too, to offer some variety.
Reading is an ideal activity to calm your child down just before bedtime and 10-20 minutes in their reading area, either alone or reading together, can really improve their skills. However, be careful not to use the reading corner as a ‘time out’ area when they’ve been naughty, or they might start to associate reading with punishment and their enjoyment of it could be affected.
How you can encourage young children to read
Try to make reading as fun as possible for young children. Share picture books together and see if they can describe what is happening in the pictures and what they think might happen next. Encourage them to fill in the blanks while you read aloud to them, for example, “Jack and Jill went up the…”, then point to the word “hill”. Also point to simple, high frequency words, such as “and” to see if they can recognise or sound out the word.
If you are struggling to get your child to read, try to find books with subjects they are interested in, such as superheroes or dinosaurs. While it’s good to read a variety of books, don’t worry too much if your child wants to read the same book over and over again – it shows they have enjoyed it and children learn from repetition.
When reading out loud to your child, use different tones to bring the characters to life. You could also take your little ones to interactive story telling events at local libraries or theatres to watch how they bring the stories to life.
How you can encourage older children to read
Older children may already enjoy reading and be happy to choose their own books and read independently. Others might need some encouragement and may still prefer to share a story with you rather than read alone. Let them tell you what is happening in the story so you know they understand it. This also shows that they’ve actually taken in what they’ve read and not just skimmed through the pages. Make sure they ask about any words they are not sure of, as they are less likely to enjoy a book if they don’t get it.
If your child has younger siblings, they might enjoy reading out loud to them – it’s great practice and you’ll be able to check up on their reading skills without it feeling like a test. They are also more likely to experiment with different tones and voices when reading to a younger child than when reading to a parent or teacher, as they will feel less self-conscious.
If you find it difficult to get them reading a story book, try a recipe or craft book and let them choose something different each week to make by themselves through reading and following the instructions.
Remember, the more your child reads, whether it’s fiction or not, the quicker they will improve and the more they will understand and enjoy reading.