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8 reading tips for parents to encourage children’s reading

Before I worked in book publishing, I trained as a teacher. Though I had always wanted to write and create books, ever since I was a child, I listened to the naysayers who told me to ‘get a real job’. So, I thought of the next thing: if I worked as a teacher, I could encourage children’s reading, and help to foster a love of books for kids. In the end, my dream for writing and publishing was just too much, and I felt dishonest and fake to be standing in front of my awesome class, guiding them to achieve and run for their dreams, when I wasn’t even going for mine. Being honest and authentic are two musts for me.

However, in my time as a teacher, I experienced many amazing book moments with the kids I worked with. I did encourage children’s reading in the kids I had the opportunity to teach, and so I thought I’d collate some of my teaching memories into a list of reading tips for parents.

Here’s the list of what you’ll see in my reading tips for parents to encourage children’s reading. I’ll go a bit more into detail for them below:

  1. Let them find a genre they love.

  2. Read anything and everything.

  3. Model a love of reading.

  4. Show reading is fun and a treat, not a chore.

  5. Write their own stories.

  6. Check out children’s poetry.

  7. Play games with stories.

  8. Storytime!

Bonus 9. Let them be (a little bit) sneaky about reading.

reading tips for parents to encourage children’s reading

1: Let children choose the book genres they love

There are two sides here:

Children do need to learn about a variety of book genres: how each work, what they involve, and how to read and write them.

But, of course children will have favourites. And it’s by reading these favourites that they’ll learn to love reading and will happily read more.

I have a story on this which I’ll mention in another post, but to put it quickly:

Children who get bored by the books they read will associate all books with this feeling and give up. That’s not the fun and exciting world we need to show. What about a split of 70:30 of their favourite genre to exploring more? The number of times as a teacher I had to encourage children to choose the book they wanted to reassure them they’d love reading ...

2: Read anything and everything

This may sound strange after the one I’ve just said about children reading their favourite genre most of the time and other things the rest. But, it doesn’t just have to be books. Children need to be using their reading skills all over the place, and many can be fun.

I’ve joked with kids about reading food packets, signs, notes, words on socks … anything that just gets them reading.

Make a game out of it, make it silly.

3: Model a love of reading

How often do you sit and read, rather than reach for technology?

Children mimic: if they don’t see you sitting to read, why would they do it?

Very few people are like Roald Dahl’s Matilda--who sits and reads despite her parents--children want to be like you and do what you do, so it’s important that you show a love of reading, too.

Even if it’s just ten minutes a day.

reading tips for parents to encourage children’s reading

4: Show children that reading is fun, not a chore

I get it. As a teacher, we had to tick off reading. As a parent, it might be the same for you. It’s hard to fit in reading into the daily schedule, but we have to. If you make it seem like ‘you HAVE to read’ and make it sound like a chore, of course children won’t want to.

But, if you make it sound like fun and a treat: “Hey, if you finish this quickly enough, you may even get more reading time!” or, “I’ll let you stay up 15 minutes late for a bit of extra reading time, if you want.”

Sound weird? Honestly, it’s not. It’s how my parents raised me and it was awesome. Who doesn’t want more reading time?

5: Challenge your children to write their own stories

Now and again, put the books aside and pull out the paper and pencil (or computers) and challenge your child to write a story of their own.

It could be similar to the book they’re reading at the moment. It could be an adventure you went on with them recently. Or, it could be to some children's writing prompts (like those on my resources pages, check them out).

If children engage in writing their own stories and getting creative, they’ll enjoy reading more, too.

6: Check out children’s poetry

Children love poetry.

I know that might sound weird to some adults who have clear memories of not liking it from their high-school education, but children love poems.

They love the rhymes, the beats, the patterns, the huge range of topics and types. Get them to read it, and write it, and rap it … poetry is really engaging for children and I’ve rarely had more fun in my classroom than the times we did poetry.

If you need any more persuading, check out this video of Michael Rosen acting out his poem ‘Chocolate Cake’.

My English class never squealed so much with laughter, and it sold them to poetry for life (I hope). (That and, of course, one of my poems … if I do say so myself!)

7: Play games with stories:

Have you ever heard of ‘consequence’?

I used to play it with my friends or family, making pictures or stories. You can do it with both.

You can even do the picture one to make the characters, and the stories one to write the story about them. Essentially, you work together to create a patchwork image or story. They can be really funny!

The main aim is to play games involving books or stories and show children how diverse and fun stories can be. It’s a whole world outside of books, and can enrich their lives.

E.g. playing detectives, going on adventures, playing going back in a time machine for history, writing diaries from the POV of the characters in history or books, and more.

8: Storytime!

Who doesn’t remember storytime with parents or kids?

I still remember curling up for an afternoon nap, or before bed, when I was really young, with my parents reading to me. One of my favourite memories is being read The Hobbit bit by bit (over a looong time), and we loved the idea of hobbits, with their hairy toes, and dwarves.

My dad would even make up stories and act them out with our teddies.

Storytime is precious, and a perfect time for bonding, emotional support, comfort, and showing a love of books that’s stronger than any of the above, I’m sure.

Bonus 9th: Let them be (a little bit) sneaky about reading

Did you ever turn on the torch and read under the bed covers after bedtime?

I did. I got so excited about it. Sitting there, waiting for parents to go back downstairs, trying not to smirk at how excited I was (I wear ALL my expressions very obviously on my face … not good for sneaky, nighttime reading plans!), thinking of the next bit in the book I was reading.

Footsteps disappear … torch on! Book out from under the pillow.

And, every time there was even a hint of a sound … eeep, close book, stuff under pillow, torch off, pretend to sleep … wait … nothing. Go again.

Then, of course, the times parents would (I know now they saw the glint of light if they were moving between rooms) randomly come and check on me, and I’d have to pretend to sleep without smirking and giving the game away.

Some would solve this by just letting their kids stay up late to read, which would be another good option! I’ve always had early bedtimes. And, for good reason. I’ve been known to stay up reading waaay too late, even as a child.

reading tips for parents to encourage children’s reading

Key Takeaways

These reading tips for parents to encourage children’s reading work really well from what I’ve seen or tried (or experienced) over the years. You can try just a couple, or you can do little bits of all of them.

I find, little and often, get engaged with each and mix it up, works best, as it models consistency and variety and shows all the ways children can have fun with reading.

Which of these do you do most often, and which might you try?

Do you have any other great reading tips for parents that would help to encourage children’s reading? I’d love to know what other ways work too!


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