By Sarah Willis, Guest Blogger
Reading rates among children have declined over the years.
The U.S. Department of Education found that between 1984 and 1996 the percentage of 12th grade students reporting that they "never" or "hardly ever" read for fun increased from 9 percent to 16 percent.
A poll of middle and high school students commissioned by the National Education Association discovered that 56 percent of young people say they read more than 10 books a year, with middle school students reading the most. Approximately 70 percent of middle school students read more than 10 books a year, compared with 49 percent of high school students.
Reading rates have also declined abroad. In 2005, 40 percent of 8- to 16-year-olds in the United Kingdom read daily, but by 2012 this figure had dropped to 28 percent. Regular reading improves memory, concentration, and confidence, so it’s not surprising that 64 percent of parents want their children to love reading as much as they do.
But if you’re struggling to get your child to read, don’t despair. There are things you can do to help your child enjoy books and reap of the benefits of being a regular reader.
1) Make reading more interesting
If you look at the most popular magazines for elementary school children, they all have one thing in common. They don’t just present stories. Instead, written material is broken up with activities like coloring, games, and puzzles. This creates a more engaging experience and presents “chunks” of reading that are manageable for children’s shorter attention spans.
- Encourage your child to do activities related to the book they’re reading. For instance, read a chapter together and then suggest that they draw a picture of their favorite character.
- Tablets like the iPad have interactive eBooks. While reading these books, your child can play games and change characters’ appearances, creating an engaging, immersive learning experience.
2) Try different genres
Not all children like the same type of books. For example, many boys are known for preferring non-fiction, so experiment with introducing your child to some different genres and styles of writing. This can be particularly effective if they are feeling disengaged with the books read in school.
- Take your child to the library or bookstore and give them free reign to browse different types of books. You may want to check that they are age-appropriate before your child starts reading them though.
- Choose books that link in with your child’s current passion or spark, whether it’s dinosaurs or ballet.
3) Reward their achievements
Children are easily motivated by celebrating their achievements. This can be as simple as praising them directly, but it can also include rewards like stickers, star charts, or taking them out for ice cream when they’ve finished a book.
- Within your child’s earshot, tell friends and family how well he or she is doing at reading; this can reinforce in your child a sense of pride for being a reader.
4) Get involved with local book events
Most libraries and bookshops run events designed for children, from story time to summer reading challenges. Link reading to having fun with friends; this will make reading more appealing and exposes children to environments where an enthusiasm for books is the norm.
- Make taking your young child to story hours at the local library or children’s bookstore a part of your weekly routine. If this does not fit your schedule, create your own daily story time.
- Get your older children and their friends involved in a local reading challenge. This can encourage a little healthy competition, and the challenge can really spur children on.
5) Model reading yourself
Children learn best by example. This doesn’t mean you have to spend hours reading, but do have a book or two of your own about the house.
- Read in front of your children. Younger children often want to emulate their parents. If you’re encouraging them to read, but they never see you doing so yourself, it can send mixed messages.
- With older children who can read alone, a quality time activity can be reading together and then discussing your books.
6) Give children their own bookshelf
Let your child build up his or her own book collection and take pride in it. This encourages them to associate reading with the pride of ownership.
- You don’t need to spend a lot of money doing this, because you can easily find children’s books at second hand stores or used bookshops.
- Give your child an edition of a particularly beloved story on special occasions. Or give them a gift certificate and let them choose their own book and pay for it themselves like a grown-up.
7) Create a special reading area
If you have space, create a snug nook for reading in your child’s room.
- Again, this doesn’t have to be expensive. A colorful beanbag or comfy chair, a small bookshelf, and a poster from a favorite book is more than sufficient. Make sure that the space adequately lit, particularly during the winter.
- Get your child involved in picking out items for the space. This will give him or her a feeling of ownership and pride over the space.
Doing any of these seven suggestions makes reading more engaging and appealing for your child, so choose the ones that suit your child’s personality and interests.
Tell Us: How do you encourage your kids to read?
Sarah Willis is a freelance writer working out of Brighton, UK. She has worked in the business and financial industries, and she now covers a range of subjects including personal finance, start-ups, and education.
Photo Credit: Tim Pierce on Flickr.