My biggest piece of advice for developing a child’s reading is to find a book they love.

As a teacher, nothing gives me more satisfaction, than supporting children with their reading journey; whether it’s through learning how to read or developing an interest in books; it’s truly the most rewarding experience to be a part of. The way a child’s face lights up when the squiggles and marks on a page suddenly mean something or when an activity they showed little interest in before, makes them bubble up with excitement, these are the moments that make all the effort and hard work worthwhile.

Over the past few years, I’ve encountered many children who have told me that they ‘don’t like reading’ or that ‘reading is boring’. In my experience, this usually stems from two main factors: either they haven’t found the right books yet, or they have low self-esteem about their reading ability.

I always take the same approach with this: finding out what the child’s interests are and then directing them towards books based on that. It’s a simple strategy but the effect it has on a child’s reading engagement is huge. When I was teaching Year 3, there was a boy in my class who was reluctant to read anything. He loved rockets and space, so I guided him to the non-fiction section of space exploration in the school library; he had no idea there were so many books about space and devoured them one by one.

It’s the most amazing ‘light bulb’ moment, when this whole new world of discovery opens up for a child. From dragons to pirates, and everything in between, the transformation that happens when a child finds a book they love, is something magical.

Creating opportunities to make reading fun and engaging can be wonderfully beneficial too. Activities like going to the local library one afternoon, visiting a bookshop, setting up a bedtime reading routine, listening to an audio book, dressing up as a book character; all these little moments add up to create the big picture.

For children who struggle with reading or have low-self esteem relating to it, engaging with reading will be something they avoid at all costs. This can be extremely damaging to their success in every area of learning, as reading plays such a crucial role in accessing other areas of the curriculum. One little girl I taught before, had such a fear of reading that she would freeze up the minute she started to read the first sentence. I soon discovered that she loved Art and was able to use this as a way in; exploring books through painting and creating. This worked very well and after a few weeks, her relationship with reading improved a lot. It is important to take the pressure off children who are struggling and give them the encouragement to explore books in a playful way.

Looking back at my own childhood, I was that child who went everywhere with a book. My favourite author was Road Dahl and I read his books over and over again. Every Friday evening, I went to the library with my Mum. A lot of the time, I chose novels and other times, I chose books that didn’t really have a lot of words but looked colourful and exciting.

I remember one day, borrowing ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ by Roald Dahl - a version with a cover that smelt like real chocolate! It was moments like these, I believe, that developed my strong relationship with reading. Reading has always been something fun and exciting for me. If I look at my own bookshelf today, (that is filled to the brim and currently spilling over) I realise that it’s a brilliant mix of everything I enjoy.

Often as adults, we want to choose books for children; books with rich vocabulary and educational focused stories. At times, this works well and the benefits are great. However, making children’s choices a priority too, is something I strongly advocate. It’s important to allow children the freedom to carve out their own reading journey and to learn as they go.

As parents and educators, we must remember to avoid the ‘one size fits all’ mentality and allow children to ‘read outside the lines’, encourage them to laugh out loud at the silliness, and to embrace their individuality through their reading choices.

Books I'd recommend:

‘Oi Dog’ by Kes and Claire Grey and Jim Field 

This story will have little readers in fits of giggles. Filled with funny rhymes, and a bossy cat and frog, things are about to get very silly!

Whales sit on nails! Dragons sit on wagons!

Dogs sit on frogs because they are all squishy and squashy and go PLURPPPPPP!

‘Ruby’s Worry’ by Tom Percival

Poor Ruby doesn’t feel like herself. Something is following her everywhere she goes and will not leave her alone!

It’s a worry, and it’s growing bigger and bigger.

This is a story that will encourage children to face up to their worries and learn how to cope when they arise. With beautiful illustrations and a clear, universal message, it is an amazing story for children’s mental health.

‘Layla Locket and the Lipstick Librarian’ by Amy Jennings

One day, while Layla is reading in the library, she discovers something shiny at the top of the bookshelf.

It’s a key!

Not just any key but a precious, magical key. Layla must wait until her 8th birthday to find out the secret magic it unlocks.

Join Layla on a wonderful adventure, filled with magic, sparkle and fun, where along the way, she learns that being true to yourself is the most magical dream of all.

‘The Iron Man’ by Ted Hughes

Taller than a house, the Iron Man crashes down from the top of a hill and shatters in to pieces.

Where has he come from?

Nobody knows.

A monster is threatening to destroy planet Earth and Iron Man is ready to stop him.

A terrific tale, full of mystery and power!

‘The Wild Way Home’ by Sophie Kirtley

An adventure story with brilliant twist and turns, based in the hidden depths of a wild and ancient forest.

Charlie is so excited to meet his baby brother Dara but when he is born with a serious heart problem, Charlie’s whole world turns upside down and blurs into something he can’t quite get a grip of. So he runs….back in to the forest and away from his family.

There, he finds a boy floating in the stream; he is dressed head to toe in animal skins and has scratches all down his body.


Something WILD is about to happen!

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

A heart-felt story that will capture yound readers' imaginations and elevate them into a magical world in the sky.

After a shipwreck, a baby is found floating inside a cello case. Charles, the man who discovers her, decides to keep her and calls her Sophie. But the authorities do not approve of Charles and have different plans for her future.

With no other options, Charles and Sophie escape to Paris where Sophie meets Matteo - a boy who walks tightropes and lives in the sky.

Amy Jennings can be found on Instagram @amyjordjennings or Twitter @amyjj10