Give the right message

Reading for pleasure is reading because you choose to and get satisfaction from doing so - a child reading because you’ve told them they have to, isn’t reading for pleasure. As adults we can heavily influence how children feel about books and reading by the way we behave; it’s vital we give out the right messages.

The act of reading to your child, and the act of listening

Growing your child’s love of reading doesn’t happen overnight, it takes work. And whilst your pre-schooler might love sharing books with you, once they begin the tricky task of learning to read themselves, some of the magic can wear off. Learning to read is not a natural process and some children find it much harder than others – which is why it’s so important to separate the act of listening to your child reading from the act of you reading to your child.

Listening to a child read is a functional activity where the child focuses on the letters, sounds and individual words.
Reading to a child can be an enjoyable, exciting activity where the child has the freedom to absorb what is happening.

Both activities are important but often, in a child’s head, the lines between the two become blurred and when you mention reading, they groan. Learning to read is an effort and not always particularly enjoyable, but the more positive experiences a child has with books, the more resilient they become in their efforts to learn to read. They begin to see the value of what they will be able to access once they are confident readers.

Rewarding their reading efforts

Making the distinction between the two will go some way to helping your child stay positive about reading even if they’re finding it difficult. Perhaps reward their efforts with their reading book with a story from you afterwards – just because they’re learning to read doesn’t mean they have to do all the reading! Think about the language you use. Say, ‘let’s go and read your reading book together’ rather than ‘you need to read your reading book’.

Make reading a personal, special time that you share – whether reading the same book or reading your own book, do it together and talk about what you are reading (not just what your child has read). Telling a child that they can watch the iPad when they have read for 30 minutes suggests reading is a chore that they need rewarding for doing. Suggesting that you would love to sit together and read your book while they read theirs is a more positive approach.

Ask your child to help you with a task then reward them with some reading, ‘can you help me put these clothes away and then we can listen to an audiobook together?’

Playing a game based on the book you are reading reinforces the fun of books but also covertly helps to deepen understanding without a child realising. There are some really simple ideas of book-based games here.

Showing a child how positively you value reading is perhaps the most powerful way to influence their perception.