This week saw the very last of the schools turn out their children for the long summer holiday. As exciting as this may be, with 30 full weekdays to fill (and there will be rain!), some trepidation is quite understandable. It will come as no surprise that at Booka we believe reading can be a summer lifesaver for all. These are our seven tips for encouraging even your reluctant little readers to spend more time with a book this summer.
- Let Them Choose
Yes, it can be really hard, especially with a reluctant reader. Steering your child towards books you think they will like is commendable. However Egmont, a children’s and YA publisher who has funded extensive research into children’s reading habits, suggests this might not always be the best policy. Reading for pleasure as a child is crucial for creating a life-long reader and their research indicates that free choice is a vital part of encouraging reading. This leads on to point number two…
- Welcome All Print
We can be very quick to judge. If you are bravely giving your child a free choice and they choose a sticker book, it can be hard to accept. The research though is as you would expect – we should welcome all print. If a child has chosen a book and then reads it, whether it is 90% text or 90% picture, this is something to be celebrated. If you can get it out of their hands for a few moments, flick through it yourself. You may be pleasantly surprised by the educational value or key messages you find! One positive experience of print will lead to another.
- Read Together
Again, the research on this one is as you would expect. Children who are read to regularly, benefit from improvements in their own reading, are more likely to read independently, develop their confidence and experience closer bonds with the adult reading to them. Sadly, Egmont’s research suggests that the number of children read to regularly is less than 50%. Time pressures, managing multiple children, and even parental confidence add to the challenge. But take heart, just five or ten minutes can make a huge difference. And it doesn’t have to be at bedtime. Get into the habit of carrying a book wherever you go. You might be surprised where you can squeeze in a quick ten minute read.
- Talk About the Books
This is actually just as important as reading the books, and it makes sense. Adults have book groups, forums, reviews and festivals celebrating books. Children will benefit from this dialogue too. Ask them what happened in the last chapter, what they think might happen next, who their favourite character is and why, how they think it might end and why they think the characters made the decision they did. Children’s books, especially good ones, don’t shy away from the big themes of life. This might open up an opportunity to have an important conversation about life’s big issues.
- Keep it Positive
Hard, we know, but try and keep it positive. As soon as you start pressuring, resistance will surely follow! The most rewarding sight is a child, with other options available, choosing a book. However, there are ways you can help. Make it part of the routine, and offer lots of praise. Don’t worry if a child is fidgeting while you read. They are probably taking in more than you think. Ask them if they are enjoying it. If they say no, ask them why and try to take them seriously. The more positive you can make the experience, the more likely they will keep reading independently, and the more enjoyable you will find it too.
- Make an Event Out of It
Reading is an activity you can happily do every day, but doing something special can really boost your child’s interest. We have a great program of events over the summer at Booka to get children excited about reading and writing, either at a small cost, or free drop-in. An opportunity to meet a children’s author is another way to fire their imagination. Our visit from former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq on the 6th of August is sure to be a brilliant morning for young readers. If you can’t make it to an organised event, you could get together with another likeminded parent and their children to go to the bookshop together. Exploring the books with a friend will elevate their experience into an adventure.
- Set a Good Example
Children learn by example. Be honest, are you asking them to read, while you never have the time to pick up a book yourself? Our lives are full, and sometimes you cannot fit anything else in. In this scenario, you might have to consider a screen-time swap. Maybe you do your reading in bed and they don’t see it. Tell them about it, let them see what you are reading, and give them an (age-appropriate!) account of the story so they can see all the exciting adult reading they have to look forward to. Remember, all print matters, so if you read newspapers, magazines, comics, non-fiction, it all counts. If you have a holiday together, make sure everyone is packing books.
Habits can take weeks to form, so play a long game. Don’t despair if everyone isn’t sitting down reading together on the very first day. An opportunity to choose their very own book, in the first week or so could set the reading tone for the whole summer. We have a great selection of books for children of all ages at Booka, and are always happy to advise (even if our advice on this occasion is to let them choose themselves!).