Some of my fondest childhood memories are of holidays at Forster and the Snowy Mountains involving family members relaxing together in the lounge room, immersed in books. There was an appreciation of a special bond and an unspoken palpable joy in the room.
If you want your child to be excited about reading, you need to be, too. These precious years, when your child is young and observing your approach to life, are a worthwhile time to nurture your own reading habits along with his.
“Your job is to teach your children how to love to read,” says Pamela Paul, co-author of the book, How to Raise a Reader. “It does start with the parent,” Paul states, “So even if you haven’t been reading a lot, it is important to bring books into your life because kids look to their parents as role models. To foster a love of reading in young children, is to model as someone who loves reading.”
University of Virginia psychology professor Daniel Willingham, author of Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do, suggests that parents reframe the act of reading as having less to do with school and more with a life well-lived. Instead of telling children that reading books will help them get good grades or find a good career, make reading part of a larger family value: ‘loving to learn’.
It can be very powerful in establishing (or further supporting) a climate where your family celebrates learning new things. Take enjoyment in learning about the world together. A large part of that will be reading. Children may then absorb the message, ‘reading is important to who we are; reading is what we do.’
What Parents Can do - 5 Tips for Helping to Foster a Love of Reading
Create a family book club. This may be within your immediate family, or your child may choose to include a cousin, grandparent or special friend. This is a great way to strengthen your child’s relationship to reading — and to strengthen relationships in general. Being in a ‘book club together’ increases the opportunities to start conversations about books, which may then lead on to deeper conversations about other subjects.
Let your child read what they choose. In the spirit of making reading pleasurable, allow your child to read whatever they are interested in. There is something magical that happens when a child discovers that books are ‘windows to the world’.
Make reading to your child part of your daily routine. Reading aloud to children each day is not only a productive investment; it also has powerful benefits for learners of all ages. Research shows that mothers are more likely than fathers to read to their children, and that both parents are more likely to read to their daughters than to their sons. It is good to be mindful of these gender gaps and work to reverse them. The research shows that girls are often more avid readers than boys, a trend that parents may inadvertently be perpetuating from an early age.
Make reading a group activity. Reading together in the same space, but reading different books is a wonderful way to spend time in each other’s company. If your child is reading right next to you, you’ll hear them laugh, exclaim or give some other response, which gives you an opening to conversation about what they are reading. Instead of organising family leisure time around TV, movies or video games, schedule a regular family reading time.
Books belong everywhere. Create impromptu reading opportunities for your child by leaving books in places where they may be picked up in an idle moment (perhaps on a coffee table or in the car). Leave comic books and magazines in the bathroom or anywhere they could catch your child’s eye.
Reading at home should be relaxed, fun, curiosity-quenching and inspiring! It’s great if you can help support your child while learning to read, but your most important job is more profound! It is ……
…… ‘to foster a love of reading’.
Peter Grimes | Headmaster
How to Raise a Reader Kids (2019) - Pamela Paul and Maria Russo