How to encourage your kids to read more
Reading opens up a world of possibility for kids... but it's tough for a paperback to compete with an iPad. We've rounded up some exciting ways to encourage reading.
As a child grows, reading has its tedious aspects (we're looking at you digraphs). Some parents also face the difficulty of trying to understand why their newly independent reader wants to do anything but read.
There's plenty of science to back up the benefits of lots and lots of reading for kids: it's so good that studies have shown kids who are read to do better at school than those who don't, regardless of their social and financial circumstances.
Ahead of World Book Day, here are some fun (and expert) ideas on getting your kids reading - and loving it.
Parrot Street Book Club specialises in introducing kids to new authors and books
Make reading a treat: Subscription book boxes
One way to get your child excited about books? Turn book reading into an exciting treat for them to enjoy and savour each month with a book subscription box (this also has the surprise element kids like).
For the 5-11 age group, Parrot Street Book Club is the book subscription service of choice. Launched by mums Emily Bright and Sarah Campbell, Parrot Street sends kids a monthly chapter book with a fun-filled activity pack inspired by the book, which includes puzzles, crafts, recipes and book-club style questions to analyse (their specialty is sourcing books and authors beyond the obvious).
"With so many digital distractions competing for our children’s time and attention these days we need to do more to help get our kids into the habit of reading. Making books and reading an important part of family life is key," Sarah tells CW.
She's given us some of her top tips to make reading fun:
- It sounds obvious but ensure that books are a prominent feature within your home. Have them accessible wherever you and your children spend time – you may find it good to rotate them from time to time too.
- Don’t save books for bedtime. Whilst a bedtime story is a lovely ritual, books are fun at any time of day. Why not pop some in the car or your bag so that you can enjoy them out of the house too? And don’t forget that our children are never too old to be read to!
- Let your children see you reading. Whether it’s a book, a newspaper or a magazine, showing your children that you enjoy spending time reading and find it relaxing is hugely important.
- Don’t discourage them from reading a book you wouldn’t necessarily have chosen yourself. The debate about good books v. bad books is complex, but we believe that any book that provides an accessible gateway for reluctant readers, giving them the confidence they need to develop a regular reading routine, is a good thing.
- Weave the characters and stories you’ve read into your conversations, adventures and play. You will all think a bit more deeply about what you’ve read and make connections to your own lives – books will become more real and relevant, rather than something you look at and then forget as soon as you put down.
Younger kids at home? Try Bookabees for baby and board book subscription services.
The Tonies musical box is a fun way for little ones to listen to a range of books and stories
Audiobooks are valuable tools in encouraging a child to read
Parents with older children will tell you the secret to turning their kids into bookworms lies in audio books: not only do they turn every traffic-jam car trip into an adventure, they help little ones jump from boring phonics books straight to Harry Potter adventures.
They're also a great idea for kids who get hooked on a particular author - and if that author is Jacqueline Wilson, who's written over 100 books that your child is determined to get through, audio books can be a real life (and space) saver.
For younger kids, Tonies, a musical/audio book story box, is the new favourite toy: listen to everything from The Little Prince to Room on the Broom by swapping the little toy character at the top of the box. Kids can even make up their own songs and stories to record.
Drag Queen Story Time
Head to the local library
Local libraries run free weekly story time sessions and music sessions and are a great way to expose kids to books from a child's earliest days (they often have crafts events and guest speakers come in too).
Londoners are especially lucky: some boroughs like Islington host Drag Queen Story Time sessions with queens including Alyssa Van Delle and Cookie MonStar, who add a dose of glamour, glitz and personality to reading picture books - which often tackle gender stereotypes - aloud to kiddos.
The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr Illustrations © Kerr Kneale Productions Ltd, 1968, image courtesy of Seven Stories at Discovering Children's Books
Go on a book hunt
London is a city of fantastic children's bookshops - visiting them weekly may prove an expensive habit (unless you're frequenting the secondhand ones) but these shops often host author meet-and-greets and story time sessions to excite children. Atmosphere can be everything when it comes to cultivating a love of literature.
Look out for literary festivals in and around London, too: Barnes Children's Literature Festival in June is a brilliant weekend full of author and illustrator talks and workshops with amazing writers like Lauren Child, Jacqueline Wilson, Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet, Harriet Muncaster and more.
Discover Children's Story Centre's story world immersive play space helps stories come alive
There are a few dedicated spaces in London designed to help children fall in love with books.
Discover Children's Story Centre combines immersive exhibitions with storytelling sessions, an incredible indoor play space and a bookshop. It's a place where books turn into magical playscapes that kids will adore.
The British Library regularly hosts kid-friendly exhibitions (we really enjoyed their latest one on rebels in children's literature). They've recently launched a new website for children, Discovering Children's Books, which not only has exciting craft ideas (like how to draw Axel Scheffler's Gruffalo!) but also includes a range of articles and resources on various themes to give parents ideas.
Watch theatre, TV and film - and take them to see art
Books are constantly being reworked for stage and screen, and these adaptations can be a real gateway to encouraging a love of books.
There is a fantastic array of West End musicals for kids that we think they'll love on now - that happen to combine great entertainment with something literary. & Juliet got our reluctant-reader seven-year-old poring through kiddie versions of Shakespeare stories, while Six kicked off a historical obsession for her which led us to discover My Story historical diaries about the Tudors. It's also helped us realise not every child wants straight fiction - try graphic novels, poetry, plays and fact books instead.
Here are some amazing book adaptations to watch on the small screen or stage:
- To All The Boys I've Loved Before: This three-part YA series from Jenny Han has become everyone's favourite Netflix obsession. The second film launched on Netflix in February 2020, with Lana Condor and Noah Centineo reprising their roles as Lara Jean and Peter.
- Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman: This fantastic YA series has been adapted into a BBC show, with Stormzy making a cameo appearance. Watch it from March 2020.
- La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman: Nicholas Hytner is transforming this first book in The Book of Dust trilogy, which sees Lyra as a baby, into a National Theatre production in July 2020.
Yayoi Kusama Covered Everything In Dots and Wasn't Sorry by Fausto Gilberti is published by Phaidon, 6 March, £12.95
We love Phaidon's latest release, Yayoi Kusama Covered Everything In Dots and Wasn't Sorry - simple, eye-popping illustrations, interesting biographic info, lots of pumpkins, it helps kids to make sense of contemporary art and works nicely across a wide age range. Read it and then take them to see Kusama's immersive Mirror Rooms at the Tate Modern this May.
Three books for independent readers to read now:
Sarah from Parrot Street gave us her top three book recommendations for independent readers looking for new inspiration. Happy reading!
- Zanzibar by Catharina Valckx
- Warrior Boy by Virginia Clay
- High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson