Why 11 you may ask? A nod to a favourite movie — Spinal Tap — if 10 is good, then 11 is even better; that’s the theory. I think the easiest way for a child to enjoy education and develop a thirst for learning is creating a love of reading. Children who read a lot, expand their vocabulary, pick up a range of knowledge, and generally do better at school. But best of all, it’s fun — the thrill of having a good book to escape into is magical. But how do you encourage a love of reading? Like most things to do with children — sleeping, eating etc., — there is no magic one-size-fits-all solution to encourage reading. This is my perspective as a parent with what has worked for our family — I have two sons aged 7 and 9 — and I would love to hear ideas of what has worked for your family or students.
1. What first got you excited about reading?
When I asked my parents (mid 60s), my children, and my husband what first got them excited about reading, they — and I — all had the same answer: comics. We all are huge readers and we all started on comics — and sometimes still read them. My boys would ‘read’ comics before they could read — the picture would tell them what was going on. I have heard concerns from some other parents about children only reading comics, at the exclusion of all else. For me, reading is reading — it doesn’t matter what type of reading your child is doing, as long as they are reading, and generally they move on to chapter books eventually.
My oldest son loved reading comics, and didn’t start reading chapter books for pleasure until he was 8. Now at 9, he’s just finished reading The Hobbit. New comics are expensive, but I bought 20–30 comics for $10 off TradeMe: Garfield, Beano, Buster, Whizzer, Roy of the Rovers — the same ones I read as a child.
2. How do you get access to great reading material?
We’re a bit obsessive about the library in my family — apparently my mother signed me up for a library card before I was born. Going to the library once a week was always an exciting part of my life growing up. Now it’s the same with my sons; reading and getting new books out is a pleasure that everyone can enjoy. Make going to a library for new books once a week part of your family’s life. The librarians are also an excellent resource for suggestions of new authors, or pointing out books on topics for certain ages: Star Wars, Dr Who etc. Especially if your own suggestions sometimes come with the response, ‘No thanks Mum’.
Libraries also often have special school holiday activities listed on their website. Auckland libraries have a range of fun, free activities from dressing up as a comic book character to poetry writing and creating your own cartoon.
3. Just five minutes more?
Reading before bed:
We started the routine of reading a story to our boys when they were really young — around 18 months old. This not only signalled to them that after dinner was a bath, after a bath was a story, and after a story was bed; it was also a part of the day we all look forward to. I love introducing them to authors that I loved as a child, and to help create interest in stories. Even when my children weren’t keen to listen to stories at any other time of the day, they always liked to snuggle down in bed and be read to before turning out the light.
Even the most reluctant reader will generally be keen to have ten or twenty minutes of reading before turning out the light — especially if they get to stay up later. This could be a combination of you reading to your child, your child reading to you, sharing the reading (one page/chapter each), or your child reading by himself or herself.
4. I spy with my little eye something beginning with G?
Games involving words – I Spy, magnetic letters on the fridge, Junior Scrabble:
When the boys were younger, we had a magnetic alphabet on the fridge that encouraged them to make words and recognise letters. Also at this time, we spent several years without a working car radio (and we were quickly able to define between luxury and necessity), and, as a result, we played a lot of car games. One of our favourites was I Spy, which helped my younger son with his spelling and working out what letter words started with — we still play this regularly now, and my boys are 7 and 9.
We also have several word magnet sets on the fridge from which the boys love to make hilarious (their description) sentences. During winter we often play board games on a Sunday afternoon, and some games can really help with word recognition, such as Junior Scrabble, or word Yahtzee.
5. How do you encourage reading over the long summer holiday break?
Summer library reading programmes:
The holiday break is a long time for primary children to go without the regular reading they would have during term time, so, participating in a library summer reading programme could be a great way to continue building their reading 'mileage'.
The way it works at our library is that children write down the books they have read, ‘checking in’ with the librarian around 4 or 5 times during the holiday period. This involves talking about — reviewing and discussing a book of their choice with the librarian. In return, they receive a small gift for doing so. At the end of the summer, as long as they have checked in regularly, they are invited to attend to a party with certificates, entertainment and food and drink. This is a great way to encourage reluctant readers and enable them to see how reading can be part of their life, even when they’re not at school. And it’s free! However, spaces are limited so your children often need to sign up in early December.
6. What if your child isn’t keen on chapter books?
Sometimes chapter books can seem a bit ‘boring’ or intimidating, especially when you’re just starting out reading. Books such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which has pictures throughout, seem to grab younger readers. Most libraries also have comic books and graphic novels, which have appeal to a wide variety of ages, especially teenage boys. My husband and I still read graphic novels such as those by Harvey Pekar and the Hernandez Brothers.
7. What would your children like for Christmas or birthdays?
Ask the experts — birthday presents, Christmas presents:
LEGO® is the most popular present in our house, but a good book is also always appreciated (a slow burning appreciation sometimes). My in-laws are fantastic for heading to The Children’s Book Shop and asking staff about what is popular for the age group they are looking for. My nine-year-old discovered David Walliams books this way.
8. How to get closer as a family?
Create family traditions such as family story time or reading plays:
I still love being read to – even as an adult. My husband reads us all a chapter a night — sometimes two if we beg enough. So far we’ve read — the first three Harry Potter books, all of Roald Dahl’s, The Hobbit, and are now looking for new suggestions. Another family tradition could be to put on short plays — or perhaps even just reading the plays aloud. My youngest son loves it when he assigns us characters and we read a play from the school journal together as a family. Some other options for listening to stories can be podcasts, listening to Storytime on National Radio, or listening to an audiobook in the car.
9. What are your children/students interested in?
My boys adore Star Wars and like to read a book on all the characters several times a week. Never belittle what your child is reading, nor dismiss a book unless it is not age appropriate; the main thing is that they’re reading. Some online options my children enjoy are Studyladder and Sumdog. While Studyladder offer reading literacy options, Sumdog is more maths focused, however, reading is involved in the instructions.
10. Is reading and writing a priority?
Read to them and have them read to you; find an option to include writing:
Most children under 7, and older ones as well, enjoy being read to. I try not to say no if my child asks me to read to them. Find a snuggly place such as a bean bag or couch and read. My youngest son (7) usually chooses three types of books at the library: some to read by himself (Asterix, Garfield), some for me to read to him (a wide selection), and others for him to read to me (The Rascal series by Paul Jennings is a current favourite). We also take turns reading to each other, the boys hop into bed, on weekend mornings — once winter sport has finished.
When it’s time for birthday party invitations, I get my boys to write the invitations themselves, and a list of who they want to come. I also get them to write a list of their clothes to pack when they are going away, and food shopping lists. Not only is this less for me to do, it gives their writing a purpose and a meaningful context. It has also ensured smaller birthday party numbers :)
11. Do you read?
Children mimic us — both the good and the bad; I have never eaten so many vegetables, or tried to exercise as much as I have since I have had children. If you really want your children to read, then read yourself. Let them see you reading and the evidence of that — the bookshelf in your house, the books beside your bed, the newspapers, etc.
Websites parents and teachers might find useful:
Competition: Book prizes for your school
We have 5 copies of The Three Bears….Sort Of, winner of the NZ Post Children’s Award 2014 (Published by Scholastic) to give away to 5 schools.
To enter, just make a comment below on this blog post and let us know the primary school you would like the book sent to. Let us know…
- What works for your children and/or students?
- What gets them excited about reading?
The 5 winners of the blog comments competition will be randomly selected on October 31st and send out shortly afterwards.
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