Photograph: Child Reading, by Dihl et Guerhard Manufactory (Boston, MA), by takomabibelot, on Flickr (CC BY-2.0)
It’s World Book Day today, and hopefully you’ve helped your child organise their outfit for school.
If you’re child is a big reader, this is great news! There is plenty of evidence to suggest that reading builds confidence, self-esteem and well-being. Stories give them the ability to imagine other people’s worlds and put themselves in other people’s shoes, which offers them an advantage when they face problems in the real world.
Research at the Institute of Education has found that 10 to 16-year-olds who read for pleasure do better at school while reading for pleasure is more important for children’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education.
If your child is not a big reader, and you want to improve this, here's a few pointers to get you started
While they are in nursery and infant school
Remarkably, 35% of adults don't read for pleasure. It's good for you! - regular reading is associated with a 35% reduction in the risk of dementia. It can also reduce stress levels by up to 68%.
If you are a parent in the 35% camp then get reading! - being a role model to your child, and giving them the ability to learn from your behaviour, will increase their chances of picking up a book. They are far more likely to read if they see that it's a pleasurable experience for you.
When they are very young set aside some time, perhaps half an hour before bed, in which to read to them. Take them to the library once a week where they can pick some new books to take home with them. Even at this age, regular reading sets them apart from their peers - children who are read to every day at age three have a vocab at age five that is nearly 2 months in advance of those that are not, while a child taken to the library on a monthly basis from ages three to five is two and a half months ahead an equivalent child at age five who did not visit the library so regularly.
If they are starting to enjoy reading by themselves set aside a time when the family can dedicate themselves to the act of reading - perhaps an hour on a couple of nights of the week and an hour on the weekend. You can then, as a family, discuss the books that you've read/are reading over dinner, making the act a social experience.
If they enjoy going to the library, continue taking them, but if you can afford to by them some books, maybe purchase a few of their favourites as they might want to read them more than once. They might also want to swap them with friends.
If they still aren't enjoying the reading process, help them through reference books. They might be obsessed with something else, say dinosaurs, and you could find them books or internet articles that help them understand the different species of dinosaur, what they eat, how big they are and what they look like. By teaching them to find out information for themselves they'll improve their reading ability along the way.
Photograph: Reading, ThomasLife flickr commons (CC BY-ND-2.0)
When they are in primary school
Primary school is the time to let your child explore books. Let them choose their books - if a book is forced upon them, it may feel like a chore, while reading has to be associated with pleasure and achievement.
If they are stuck for ideas on what to read next, take them along to a library or bookshop and let them converse with the bookseller/librarian while you are somewhere else in the bookshop/library. This helps them to take charge of their reading, and help them feel as though they are reading for their own pleasure, rather than to please their parents.
Don't worry about your kids and their reading habits, as long as they are reading. This includes the age range of novels - they may branch out into books that are too young or old for them; how they read - a tablet or physical book are both equally good for reading; and what they read, whether it's manga, sports statistics, vampire sagas, or anything else you detest.
When they are in secondary school
Reading seems to take a back seat during secondary school, with 46% of 16 to 24 year olds not reading for pleasure. However, reading is the only out-of-school activity for 16-year-olds demonstrably linked to securing managerial or professional jobs.
At this age, motivation and finding something that your child enjoys reading is the key to success. Luckily, books for young adults have moved ahead in leaps and bounds since I was a teenager, thanks, primarily, to JK Rowling.
If your child doesn't know where to start, newspapers such as The Guardian and The Telegraph have some fantastic lists and articles for you or your child to get some inspiration. The Book Trust also has a list of their top 100 books for children depending on their age.