Nurturing buzzing, life long readers is a big responsibility.
Some children take to it like a duck to water, others, well a little more creativity is required.
Paul Jennings, as well as being a prolific childrens’ author has a strong background in teaching and speech pathology. Oh, and he also has six children of his own.
So, when I had the chance for Paul to pop into My Book Corner I just had to ask him to share some of his invaluable advice with you.
Paul Jenning’s Top Ten Tips for Encouraging Children to Read
Fun, fun, fun.
If children don’t want to do something it’s almost impossible to get them going. If they love something it’s almost impossible to stop them. There must be no pain in the reading experience.
Choose material which interests them.
It can be fiction, it can be non-fiction. It can be superheroes, it can be dinosaurs. It can be Mongolian sea slugs, or riding surfboards.
There is something for everyone – find it.
Make sure the reading difficulty level is appropriate.
If a child is struggling, sighing or groaning because the words or concepts are too hard, you have reached the point of disaster and failure.
Read to the children from a very early age. This has enormous benefits.
Some parents start when the child is in the womb. The child will learn the language of books which is different to the language of speech. They will learn new words. They will go new places. But best of all, they will have fun. They will associate books with love if you are sitting there reading to them and giving up your time for mutual enjoyment. You will have set up a book as something to bring enormous pleasure for the rest of their life.
Include a lot of funny books in the mix. Everyone loves to laugh, especially children.
Keep it positive and avoid failure.
It is really important when children read aloud not to let them struggle. The purpose of reading aloud is really to let the parent or teacher see how the child is progressing. In itself it is not particularly important.
Constantly pointing out mispronounced or misrecognised words is painful. Every time you do it to a child it is like a little electric shock – no wonder they won’t come back for more. If they are struggling, the book is too hard, find another.
Let children guess words.
A lot of parents still believe that guessing is wrong. Guessing is good. It means that the child is reading for meaning. It means they know what the story is about. In primary school what is important is that the children get the idea and understand what is happening. We needn’t worry too much about accuracy until secondary school.
Choose books which look acceptable to the other kids.
This can be a difficult task when the child’s reading ability is well below the level of the rest of the class. But to force a child to work with a grade one book when he is in grade five can be humiliating. If the child doesn’t mind, there is no problem. But if he or she is embarrassed we are inflicting great emotional pain.
Don’t worry if the child will read nothing else except one author or one type of book.
I am not still reading Biggles. In the end they will move on. The main thing is that they are reading and enjoying it.
Involve children in reading activities around the day to day life of the family.
Let them read about holiday destinations, involve them in shopping lists, recipes or football fixtures. All of these activities involve reading and can be great fun.
So there you have it, invaluable advice from a top author.
Paul Jennings is the author of the new Don’t Look Now series, illustrated by Andrew Weldon and published by Allen & Unwin.