Keeping books fun while learning to read
Published on: 15 January 2024
BookTrust’s Writer in Residence Michelle Robinson suggests ways for families to enjoy books together in the early school years.
I still remember how powerless I felt before I learned to read. The grown-ups around me could understand everything: books, newspapers, utility bills, road signs, shop names and even the captions on TV. My big brother could do it, too. To me, their ability seemed like a superpower. I was curious, envious and desperate to catch up.
Not every child is as eager as I was. For many, seeing other people reading feels more intimidating than inspiring. While schools do their best to get everyone on the same page, many children just don’t get along with approaches that work well for others. All of a sudden, books are no longer an enjoyable part of family life –they’ve become homework. So how can we support our children – particularly those who struggle – while they get to grips with independent reading?
I firmly believe in keeping the focus on fun. After a tiring day at school, young children still love cuddling up and enjoying time together. Sharing a book for fun is a great way of shifting the focus away from schoolwork. The more we can make every single reading encounter a positive one, the easier it becomes.
Here are a few suggestions for keeping books fun:
Reading independently doesn’t mean reading alone! Keep reading to and with your blossoming readers, making it a supported and happy experience.
Point to the words as you read them. This helps children understand that written words represent the words we speak.
Let the child be involved in choosing what to read. If they’re interested and intrigued, they’re more likely to enjoy the experience.
Don’t worry too much about reading level if they’re reading to you. There’s no such thing as ‘too young’ or ‘too easy’. Words are words, letters are letters, sounds are sounds.
Try to provide fresh things to read each time to avoid boredom. Visit the library, or ask the teacher if you can borrow picture books from the school’s collection.
Try rhyming books and books with lots of repetition. Children quickly pick up and learn the patterns, so they can predict and ‘read along’ with you. This gives them a sense of achievement, which encourages them to stick at it!
Let children make their own books. It might be a sequel to something they’ve read with you, or feature a favourite character. You don’t need fancy materials; just a pencil and some folded-up paper. This helps children view books as something they are capable of conquering.
Each and every time we have a go at reading, we are getting better. Every little helps and it all adds up. Research shows that reading with children improves their ability to sleep, to learn and to concentrate. It’s proven to help them feel happier, form closer family bonds, boost brain development, do better in school and understand the world and people around them. So keep reading together. You really are passing on a true superpower!
Bookbuzz is a reading programme from BookTrust that aims to help schools inspire a love of reading in 11 to 13-year-olds. Participating schools give their students the opportunity to choose their own book to take home and keep from a list of 16 titles.