Children are individuals and so when it comes to reading preferences, one size absolutely doesn’t fit all. But, unlike adults who have had time to consider what interests and entertains them, where and when they like to read, children often have no idea what they like! It’s easy to assume that because they like playing cricket or doing gardening that they’re going to enjoy reading books about someone else doing it but often, this isn’t actually the case.

You can also be forgiven for thinking that a book at the top of a best-seller list is a must read for your child – it might be a wonderful book with a poignant message and they might love it, but equally, it might not be the right choice for your child at this time, or even ever!

You might also be drawn to the lists of books ‘perfect for 8 year olds’, and yes, they may give you some ideas of what’s out there but no book is perfect for every 8 year old. No 8 year old has exactly the same reading level, comprehension level, range of interests or attitude towards reading as another 8 year old.

All this makes choosing books for a child to read a rather tricky business!

When it comes to growing a love of reading:

  • Approach is everything – what we do with the book, how we present it, where/when we read it
  • Books are versatile – lots of books are multi-layered meaning they can be taken at face-value or delved deeper into
  • Children are unique – there are books out there for every child, we just have to help each child find theirs!
  • We should regard books as books rather than pigeon-holing by age, gender or reading level. Children are more likely to read and enjoy a book they have chosen themselves (albeit possibly with some subtle guidance from you to showcase what’s available). You do need to expose them to a wide-range of books to enable them to make that choice.
  • If a child likes the look and sound of a book but the language is too difficult for them - read it to them. Similarly, if they choose a book where you feel the content may be a little advanced or scary, read it together and guide them through it sensitively.
  • If a child picks a book with lots of text and you fear it will overwhelm them, read a page or paragraph each.
  • If a child opts for a book you feel is too easy for them, let them read it then extend the learning with some book-talk. Reading should be fun – where’s the enjoyment in always reading a book that’s challenging?!
  • Keep in mind that there is no requirement to persevere with a book if your child isn’t enjoying it – you want reading to be pleasurable and not forced. Talk about what it is they don’t like and work together to choose a new book.
  • Offer reading options in different formats – pocket-sized, over-sized, picture books, chapter books, audiobooks, comics and magazines. Books you can dip in and out of like joke books or fact books and even articles on the internet.
  • Share with your child book reviews written by children on websites such as Toppsta as peer recommendations are more likely to persuade a child to give a book a go.

Ultimately, keep in mind that reading isn’t a race, children aren’t in competition with each other and they aren’t doing anything wrong if they don’t like Harry Potter or Matilda; reading choices are personal and every choice is a valid one.