Saturday, 22 June 2013

How To Get Your Children to Fall in Love with Reading

I read an article last week about boys falling behind girls in school and particularly when it comes to reading. I am a writer, therefore I read. I read a lot. Whilst I don't quite have the time to read like I used to pre-motherhood I still try and get through as many books as I can. If you want your kids to read, then be a role model for them, let them see you reading for pleasure. I encourage my three sons to look at books as much as possible and so far it has paid off - my sons love looking at books and it is fun to watch my eldest enthusiastically start his reading journey.

"Kids with parents who read for pleasure are six times more likely to do so themselves -- and their grades shoot up. Which is why I talk about the books I love, and ask kids about their favorites, every chance I get." Lisa Bloom (Author, 'Swagger: 10 Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness and Thug Culture')
I was quite shocked to read that boys have a tendency to think that reading is a girl's thing and I intend to do everything in my power to make sure my three sons continue to think that reading is the most natural thing in the world and I want to keep them interested in it as a foundation for later years. Not only are their language skills enhanced, reading also provides fun moments and important relaxation for children who tend to be hopping from one extra-curriculum activity to another.

Story Time
(c) Amanda van Mulligen
Books are an important part of our home. To get children looking at books the most important thing is make them accessible. We have a bookcase in our front room and the bottom two shelves are filled with books for the children. Even our 19 month old shuffles over to the bookcase, grabs himself a book, toddles over to the sofa and inelegantly hoists himself up to sit so he can thumb through his book. When he's finished he throws the book on the floor or table and returns to the bookcase for another book. (We're working on the last stage of this with him......)

My eldest two often sit with a book for a few minutes before we leave for school in the mornings and discuss the size of dinosaurs, the meaness of the look on a T-Rex's face or how fast Thomas the Tank Engine can go around Sodor.

They also each have a bookshelf in their room with English and Dutch language books, and we keep books on hand in the car to entertain them on longer journeys. They never have the excuse that they can't get to a book!

To keep children interested, you can put a basket of books under the coffee table filled with topically themed book. Gather books about summer as warmer days come to greet us, or about autumn as the leaves turn to beautiful shades of red and start tumbling to the ground, or put a basket of Christmas related books under the Christmas tree - keeping a theme going makes reading particularly relevant to the children. You can also match the book theme to projects the children are working on in school, or for pre-schoolers events or celebrations that effect them such as potty training, birthdays or an impending house or country move.

Story time also gets children buzzing about books in our house. If you make story time an event it not only provides cosy family moments to cherish, but also shows children how fun and uniting books can be. In the summertime grab a blanket and an ice cream and sit under the shade of a tree with a book and read to your kids. Last Christmastime the five of us gathered around the dining table, illuminated only by candlelight, holding our mugs of hot chocolate with marshmallows and listened to papa reading "De Kleine Kerstman" (Santa's Littlest Helper). The kids loved it and were a captive audience. And we did too. And as a bonus, you show your sons that reading is not a girly activity if dad is the one doing the reading.
Use books as the basis for other activities
(c) Amanda van Mulligen
Using books as the foundation for other activities is also popular in our house. My three year old and I recently sat and read The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle together. Then we grabbed play dough and made the caterpillar and the food he ate through. My pre-schooler loved it. There are so many wonderful, creative websites out there that can give you ideas - one of my favourites is The Imagination Tree.

I also recently had the pleasure of reviewing Giselle Shardlow's kid's yoga book Luke's Beach Day: A Fun and Educational Kids Yoga Story and we had a lot of fun going through this book together - reading and then trying out the yoga positions. Such activity books are a great way to get kids falling in love with books.

If you are lucky enough to still have a local library then make use of it. It has a real sense of an outing for my children when we say we're going to the library to choose some books. It's a great way to build on the fleeting interests that children suddenly have. My six year old has become fascinated with dinosaurs so we took him to the library to check some books out. He loved choosing them and his library membership is free. Many libraries also have a regular story time for toddlers which is great fun for them, and makes the idea of books and reading natural from the start.

Some of our family favourites:


  1. Stephen Greene23 June 2013 at 03:23

    I once heard that one of the problems for boys is that they are expected to read story books, when sometimes they just want to read stuff about dinosaurs or fun facts about the moon. Unfortunately, these types of books are looked down upon as not being proper and so not encouraged.

    To my mind it doesn't really matter what kids want to read, so long as they want to read.

  2. Completely agree Stephen - boys have to be able to read about what interests them. At the moment my children love informative books as well as stories but if that changes I'll go with the flow! Reading is reading.

  3. The problem with my son was that he just didn't care for Biff and Chip and Kipper. It wasn't until I found him the right non fiction books for his level, that he became interested. He is still not a great reader, but he will read parts of the newspaper, the national geographic and any magazine about cars that he can get his hands on.

  4. Hi. Find your blog very interesting. My mum is Dutch and I was born in the UK but don't speak Dutch. I now have a sixth month old boy and would like to get him some dual language dutch-English books. Can you recommend any good ones?

  5. Hi Ed. As a foundation learning the alphabet with this resource is a good place to start:

    We used this book to get the alphabet under my eldest's belt :)

  6. I hope that our son (who is currently six months old) will grow up to enjoy reading. I think that I always did but my parents (mum especially) always seemed to encourage me to read more and read more fiction.

    When it comes to boys and educational attainment, I'd love to see the UK media trying to make a few subtle changes that might help to promote boys' educational aspirations. For example, whenever there are reports on A-level results days, they almost always seem to focus on female start students ( particular blonde females). It's strange how certain subjects are studied more by one gender than another. I did French & Philosophy at university, and about 75% of the other French students were female.

  7. Just shared this on Pinterest after finding it on MKB. Really great article. I'd love it if you shared this and other literacy-related articles at my all-things-books link-up, Booknificent Thursday, every Thursday at