Teaching reading and nurturing a love of reading are two different, but interlinked issues. If your child is struggling to learn to read, then this needs to be addressed with explicit, direct instruction. However, we also need to nurture a love of reading so that when children can read independently they continue to read.
Reading books should not be a battle ground. Separate learning to read from loving to read. Don’t make every book a reading lesson because then reading books will be seen as a chore. Instead, nurture a love of books by reading books together where the focus in on enjoyment, not decoding.
Establish a ‘protected reading space’
As children get older it becomes increasingly difficult to find time to read, especially given competing entertainment options such as video games, social media and television. You need to set aside a designated time for reading and allow children to read whatever they like during that time. Having reading as a non-negotiable component of the child’s bedtime routine often works well. The younger your child is when you start this routine, the easier it will be to maintain as they get older. Make the time one of connection between you and your child whereby you read to your child from the same book that your child is reading. Even older independent readers still like having parents read to them.
Model reading behaviour
Parents are a role model. If books are a part of your life, then they are more likely to be a part of your children’s lives. Talk about things that you have read – it could be from a magazine, a newspaper or a book.
Make books readily available
Surround your children with books. Have books everywhere – in their bedrooms, in the family room, on a shelf under the television, in the car. If you make it easy for children to pick up a book, they are more likely to read. Get in the habit of carrying books or having your children take a book (or a comic or magazine), especially if you are going to a place where you are likely to be waiting (a doctor’s surgery, the shops, on a train). Instead of handing your children your smart phone, they can read a book.
Variety is the spice of life
Let children choose what they want to read. It’s fine to have a mixture of books of different genres, comics, magazines, recipes, fact cards. At the same time provide a range of different types of reading material for your children. Reading variety exposes children to experiences and vocabulary that might not otherwise be encountered. This material can also provide a ‘jumping off point’ for conversations on a whole range of subjects.
Highlight the value of books
Give books as gifts – this might just be the trigger to encourage your child to start reading or for older children to go back to reading. Making trips to the library a regular part of your family’s routine can also be a great trigger.