I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves Anna Quindlen
Wherever I am, if I’ve got a book with me I have a place I can go and be happy J.K. Rowling
A child who reads will be an adult who thinks
There are not many greater gifts than you can give a child than to encourage them to grow up to become an avid reader.
There is so much joy to be got from a love for reading.
You can escape to another world within a great book, you can learn so much from them and, with a good book by your side, you are never alone.
But how do you foster a love for reading and books in your child?
We’ve put together some top tips to encourage your child to become a reader from an early age.
Read to them everyday
There’s nothing lovelier than story time with your child. It’s a magical time when you can both snuggle up together and get lost in a book.
Build in some story time to each and every day and you will be well on your way to encouraging your child to becoming an avid reader.
There are so many times in the day when cuddling together to share a book can be a wonderful time.
You might read a book together in the afternoon when you are both feeling a bit sleepy and need some quiet time. Or you may read books at bath time.
Many parents read a book (or two or three) at bedtime. Whatever you choose to do, it’s a lovely, calm bonding time to spend with your child.
Be a role model
Young children love to copy you (as their favourite person in the world) and if you read often then they begin to see it as a great thing to do too.
If you’ve never been a bookworm before, then this is the time to dive into a book or two and discover for yourself the joy of reading.
If your child sees you enjoying a novel then they are more likely to want to embrace books too.
Books, books and more books
Have plenty of books available for your child to read and look through.
Keep them in places where your child can easily reach and access them and top them up with new books often.
You can source a constant supply of new books from the library or the charity shop.
Place them at a child’s height and make sure they are easily accessible for times when your child needs some quiet time.
For school-age kids, you can also try introducing child-oriented newspapers to expose them to various reading genres. We recommend First News which we’ve reviewed here.
Create a cosy reading area
This can be anything from a beanbag to a child size comfy chair or even a Wendy house with a string of fairy lights.
If you can create a relaxing space where your child can curl up with a good book, it can encourage them to read, read and read some more.
Make sure that your reading corner has lots of books to hand at a child’s height, on bookshelves or in baskets. Maybe add in some comfy cushions or cosy blankets.
Visit your local library often
Every week or so try to take your child to the library. It’s a magical place for children where they can browse and explore the many books.
You can both curl up and read a few together. Many libraries have regular story telling sessions and rhyme times to bring books to life and these sessions are often free.
Each visit your child can choose loads of books to borrow and take home. Selecting the ones to take home is a fun activity for kids in itself.
If you visit the library often you will be on your way to showing your child that a love of books is a worthwhile and exciting part of their everyday life.
Talk about the books you read together
Books can open up so many conversations.
After you close the book talk to your child about the story and the characters. Ask them questions to spark their imagination and get them thinking about the story.
If you read The Tiger Who Came To Tea, ask them what they think would happen if a tiger rang your doorbell.
After reading The Gruffalo ask who your child thought the bravest animal in the wood was.
Often your child will ask questions that will spark conversation. That’s the beauty of reading together.
Bring books to life
Books can open up a whole world of imaginative play. Bring the books you have read to life by using them as a springboard to inspire play activities for your child.
After reading The Tiger Who Came To Tea you could get out your child’s pretend tea set for play.
After reading The Three Little Pigs you could build a house from Lego bricks and from straw and from twigs and see which one blows over first when you blast them with a hair dryer.
Make books and stories spill over into playtime to bring them to life.
Make up stories together
Stories are not just in books. Build them into your everyday life.
At quiet times like at mealtimes or in the car or on walks, encourage storytelling.
You can ask your child to tell you a story of what Teddy did today. Or you could play games where you take it in turns to add a line to a made up story that you create together.
Sometimes, instead of reading a book aloud, make up a story at bedtime.
Oral storytelling is something that has been passed down through generations and is one of the best bridges to reading books.
Your child has a wonderful imagination and will be full of stories.
Encourage them to ‘publish’ their own books by telling you stories, drawing pictures and you can write the text.
Make their own stories into books, which you can add to the bookshelves so that they can read their own novels again and again.
Get even more creative with your child’s stories
Young children who have been immersed in books and stories often tell their own stories and chatter out loud as they narrate their plot.
Record your child’s stories on your phone and be creative by turning them into a slideshow or animation to bring them to life.
Don’t panic – there are loads of apps that let you do this very easily.
Reading is all around
Words are not just in books but also all around us.
Show your child all the words they see as you go about your day. From street signs, to posters in the shop, from the words on the cereal box at breakfast time to the sign at the duck pond explaining the different birds you can spy.
Point out and read out all the words you see to encourage a natural curiosity for reading in everyday life.
Embrace (a little) technology
There’s so many bad things written in the media about too much screen time but our children are growing up in the digital age.
If you use it sensibly, it can be a useful tool to encourage early reading. There are so many great apps and computer games out there to encourage early reading skills that are engaging and exciting.
Even turning on the subtitles while they watch CBeebies can help them relate speech to the written word.
While we’re not encouraging young children to be glued to screens for hours a day, a little supervised educational screen time can entice and encourage children to learn their alphabet and engage in reading and the written word.
Sneak some words into their make-believe play
Wherever you can, add in words and reading materials to your child’s natural imaginative play.
For example, if they love playing with their pretend cooker, add a pizza menu to the play area.
If they have a play shop make a list of items with pictures and prices so that they can start relating their shop items to their written words.
Mini-me shopping lists
When you head out on your weekly food shop let your child see you write your shopping list but then also take a little time to write their own list too.
Add a few items (not too many – about 6 will do) and write the names of items that you want them to look for in the supermarket. Maybe even draw a little picture beside each one.
Not only will this start to get your child to relate pictures to words but it will make the food shop a lot easier as your child is focused on finding their chosen items and is less likely to get bored and fed up.
At this stage it’s all about a love of books and a lot of fun
At this early stage you are not expecting your child to suddenly pick up a book and be able to read. That will come as they begin school, practice their phonics and discover the joy of reading independently.
However, introducing your child to a love of books, of words, rhymes and stories will go a long way to making them into little bookworms at a later age.
Surround them with books, build story telling into their everyday lives, make reading a magical part of life and you are well on your way to fostering a life long love for reading for your child.