Getting kids reading for fun!
Tips to get your children to love books and reading, from a busy working mom.
Did you know that when your child gets into the habit of reading books for enjoyment, he or she is more likely to do well in school, have a managerial or professional role, enjoy a better paying job and better health and wellbeing.
Reading is that powerful!
The best way to get your child excited about books is by reading aloud to them. But have you noticed that since the pandemic, even if you can grab a few minutes to snuggle down with your child and a book, they just aren’t that interested in sharing a book with you?
If you’ve noticed this, you aren’t alone. In my family, we relied on technology to educate our children, entertain them, and provide them with the opportunity to interact with family and friends. Children now are used to accessing information - visual and auditory - with the tap of a screen. Getting them to slow down to enjoy the unfolding of storybook might be a little tricky.
So what can you do? Here are a few tips!
- Meet your child where he or she is! If your child loves Peppa Pig - read a Peppa Pig book. If they are obsessed with dinosaurs - read a dinosaur book. There will be time to read beautifully written and illustrated books like Catherine’s - but if your child isn’t interested in reading anything with you, it’s probably asking too much to jump right into high quality children’s literature. My daughter loved it when we read a Paw Patrol book that was taken directly from the television series. It was an episode that she’d watched so many times, she could even ‘read’ the book herself. You don’t have to limit yourself to familiar characters forever, but it might work well if you start here.
- Don’t worry if your child doesn’t have the stamina to listen to a whole book (or chapter)! Our children have been on screens so much during the pandemic, that they’re not used to the slower pace of books. Give yourself (and the little ones) a break. We’ve done our best…but we do need to make sure our kids rebuild their stamina to focus for the duration of a book (or chapter of a book) because it’s so important for their academic success. So, start with a page and if your child has ants in their pants, shut the book dramatically, make a silly ‘dum-dum-dum’ noise, and ask them what they think will happen when you continue the story tomorrow!
Or what about trying some silly poetry? The musicality of poems can be really engaging and some are just so funny you’ll all be in fits of laughter. I remember from my childhood the poetry of Shel Silverstein, and still laugh when I think about Mrs McTwitter the babysitter who sat on babies!
- Fit sharing a book into your day, rather than trying to find more time.
I was that mum who was always the last to pick up from nursery at 6pm. Trying to read a book to my boys as I tucked them into bed just wasn’t an option. So I decided to read to them whilst they were in the bath. They’d sit in their little bath seats soaking away the grub acquired during the day, and I’d read short classic children’s books like Each Peach Pear Plum, Goodnight Moon, Dear Zoo, and Where’s Spot. Kids love repetition and being able to predict what will happen next, so we had these books in the windowsill next to the tub, and it became our bath time tradition!
My kids were also quite accident prone and we spent a fair bit of time in the waiting room at the GP. Rather than the ipads, I’d throw in several books in to read to my children. There’s nothing quite so boring as a waiting room so I had a captive audience and it worked!
My daughter and I recently spent a very long night in hospital. The voices of doctors and nurses, crying babies and the beeping of machines was so overwhelming but the stories of Mildred Hubble from The Worst Witch books took us to a new world and ensured that we have some positive memories to recall from that time whilst she was in hospital, rather than all negative.
- Give audiobooks a try! My daughter gets terrible car sickness. Having an ipad in the car just wasn’t an option. But what to do so our children don’t kill each other in the backseat? We tried audiobooks! Our local library has instant access to hundreds of free downloads and we additionally decided on an audible membership. We started off with short fairy tales - each story is usually only 5 or 6 minutes long - just right for a run to the shops and fine for short attention spans. We love Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and Ladybird Classics: The Complete Audio Collection. We also just love P. L. Travers’ Mary Poppins book series - so much funnier than the films! Do look out for ‘full cast recordings’ like BBC’s Peter Pan; these types of audio books often have sound effects and different voice actors, and it can make getting used to audiobooks just a bit easier.
Remember that whatever you can do to read with your child is amazing. But don’t set yourself up to fail - this isn’t a New Year’s Resolution! Do what you can, when you can, because it’s all so valuable. As children, we are motivated to do something because we see someone we love or admire doing it. It’s this love of reading that motivates our children to learn how to read. And you are the best person in the world to do this for your child.