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Books and beyond – 13 top tips for encouraging kids to read

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”   

― Dr Seuss

Reading. One of life’s great pleasures. But don’t take my word for it. Action for Children asked kids from around the world why they love reading and this is what they said:

“I like to read because there are new adventures all the time. Fiction is my favourite because you can get inside the adventure” – Brandon

“I love reading because you can learn many things in a book. You can even learn how to build a hamster home!” – Kori

“The more I read, the better I can read. It helps me to get good grades.” – Orlando

Through nurturing a love of reading, parents can equip their kids with a skill that will enrich their personal and professional lives for years to come. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

5 key benefits of encouraging kids to read

Parent and child reading aloud | Books and Beyond – Don’t Let Your Reluctant Reader Miss Out | Habyts

Teaching your kids to become skilled readers from an early age sets them up for lifelong success. It helps them grasp vocabulary, boosts grades and opens doors.  Below are 5 key benefits of encouraging kids to read:

#1 Boost brains:

Studies have shown reading for pleasure can improve a child’s academic performance. And for young kids, being read to by a parent has the same effect. Reading stimulates the brain, strengthening neuropathways and building new ones.

#2 Improves speech:

For young kids especially, reading broadens vocabulary and introduces them to new words and phrases. According to the University of Michigan Health System, reading helps improves phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, reading comprehension and fluency of speech.

#3 Increases knowledge:

Through reading, kids learn about people, places, cultures and events outside of their neighbourhood. Not only does this increase their knowledge but boost their imaginations too.

#4 Teaches empathy:

Not only does reading make your kids smarter, it can also make them kinder. Studies show kids who read fiction are better able to understand their emotions and those of others. That’s because kids fiction books are jam-packed with characters who describe their feelings.

#5 Strengthens bonds:

For young kids especially, reading aloud together is a great way for parent and child to spend time together. And kids agree! Scholastic’s Kids and Family Reading Report 2016 found that both parents and kids aged six to 11 years view reading together as quality parent-child time.

And it just so happens that reading is a wonderful screen-free activity too.

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Changing times (and habits)

“The technological revolution of the past decade has led our society to a major transition point in this history of reading“ – Common Sense Media

But despite its benefits, the art of reading is under threat. Back in 2014, Common Sense Media investigated reading rates and achievement over time among US kids. Their study found:

  • Reading for pleasure decreases as kids get older.
  • Reading scores improved overall but achievement has stagnated among older teens.
  • Girls read for pleasure for 10 minutes longer a day than boys.
  • Over a third of teenagers only read for pleasure once or twice a year.
  • Use of eReading is increasing, but the impact is still unknown.

In short, kids are more reluctant to pick up a book. And at the same time, kids are spending more of their time on screens – up to 6.5 hours daily for kids aged five to 11 years and 8 hours a day for teens! That’s a 116% increase in screen time consumption since 1995 and less time for traditional pastimes such as reading and unstructured play activities.

Nurturing a love of reading

Child reading | Books and Beyond – Don’t Let Your Reluctant Reader Miss Out | Habyts

With screens competing for your child’s attention, it’s more important than ever for parents to nurture a love of reading. Thankfully, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure your child balances screen time with reading and other non-screen activities. Here are our top tips to encourage kids to read whatever their age:

Tips for tots and young kids:
  1. Read to your child. It’s never too early to get started. Read to your child for a few minutes at a time. Point to the pictures. Use rhymes and songs to teach language skills.
  2. Make time for reading. Reading to your child is one of the most valuable ways to spend quality time together. So make story time a regular routine every evening before bed.
  3. Make reading fun. Train yourself to read in an animated fashion. At the same time, encourage your child to read some passages aloud to you or their siblings. Share questions about what you read together or make up your own variations on the story.
  4. Enlist your child’s teacher.  They may spot weaknesses in your child’s reading skills before they become an issue or be able to recommend books your child might enjoy.
  5. Visit your local library. Take your child to the library or kid-themed events at local bookstores. Get them a library card as soon as they’re old enough to have one.
  6. Encourage your child to write. Giving your child opportunities to write will help reinforce their literacy skills. Leave notes, write emails or send greeting cards to each other.
Tips for tweens and teens:
  1. Lead by example. Let your tweens and teens see you reading. Help them develop their critical thinking skills by discussing books as part of everyday conversations.
  2. Help them find time. Tweens and teens spend 6-8 hours a day on screens. Introduce screen time limits or agree 30 minutes daily reading to unlock screen time privileges.
  3. Build a home library. Create a comfortable, inviting space for family members to read which is well stocked with books. If you don’t have an extra room, you can still set aside a corner of the living room or den. Beanbags make fantastic reading perches!
  4. Look for books that reflect their interests. Let your teen pick their own books as long as the titles are age appropriate. Let them read comic books, fanzines, etc.
  5. Integrate reading into fun family activities. If your tween or teen is reading Hamlet in their English class, offer to take them to a live performance. If they enjoy a movie based on a Jane Austen novel, buy them the paperback, or rent the film as a family.
  6. Listen: Help your child discover the joys of reading by introducing them to audiobooks. Great times to listen are on the way to school, long journeys or just before lights out.
  7. Read ahead: Get them to read a book in anticipation of upcoming events or occasions. It could be a national holiday, a new film release or a place you’ll be visiting. Even better – read the same book and test each other on the facts. Make it an event.

Help your kids get off to a good start by teaching them to love reading from the outset. It will help build basic comprehension skills and change their lives for the better.

How do you make time for reading in your family?  Share them in the comments below.

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