The first thing I would say is don’t make children love reading, you can’t. Support their natural inspiration and drive to learn to read because they are curious and they want to.
Some ideas on how to inspire children to read
Read them stories, if they want you to. Let them as far as possible choose what you are going to read.
Even if they seem ‘too old’ to be read to, read to them. I noticed that our children followed every word I said whilst being read to. I would throw in mistakes to check if they were following and they always spotted them.
Put your fingers under the words ONLY if they want you too.
Leave age appropriate interesting books around the place. Things that you think that they might like and let go of the expectation that they will like what you have chosen them. They may or the might not.
Furnish them with what they love as language is everywhere from toy instructions to maps, to video games. If your child loves horses get horse books. You will find that if a child needs and wants information they will do their best to read it.
Have books around the house and let them see that you enjoy reading.
If they like going to the library, go to the library.
Give them book tokens and step away in the bookshop. Even if this means biting your fist in the corner because you don’t like what they have chosen and you have to stifle your opinion on what you think is good for them to read. (Obviously if the child is five, you might want to step in if they go for a rather hectic graphic novel, this happened to me!) But ultimately let it be their choice and give them their control back.
If they are of an age where they can choose books online then ask them to find a list of books they like, get them to read the reviews or go to the Common Sense Media website to find out more about the books they are choosing.
Watch movies with the subtitles on. They may well be reading without realising they are reading. Many children in Finland grow up watching television with subtitles on. They don’t encourage reading in Kindergarten and have very high literacy rates.
Write them letters, e-mails, sticky notes, that they may or may not read.
Nurture pen pal relationships, if that excites them.
Write things on the fridge that make them laugh.
Read joke books, fridge magnets and poems.
Ask them if they would like to be your personal assistant and get them to read your e mails, where appropriate!
Ask them if they want to be corrected when they make mistakes or not.
Let them read books, privately on a tablet. When they don’t understand a word it can explain it to them. They can choose the font and can choose the way in which they view the words, it can even read out loud to them. Let them lead that process, step away, I repeat, step away….
Children can learn through video games like Minecraft and Animals Jam, from chatting to friends on Skype, to baking cakes, helping with the shopping, from reading maps, looking through magazines, to reading e mails, to listening to songs on YouTube with the lyrics turned on, to playing online scrabble on the phone, to reading road signs etc. Words are everywhere.
More than anything I feel that the biggest gift you can give to a child around reading is to let the child lead the process. This goes for children who have really struggled at school with reading. There is a powerlessness for a child in the system if they are considered to be behind as readers. I know how hard it can be for parents and children, where the children have to fit in and be at a certain level at a specific age, especially when your child is struggling with dyslexia or something like Irlen’s Syndrome.
One of the reasons that we left the system was because of this. Our children were ‘late’ readers and ‘problem’ readers and now our girls spend most of their days in books. They are ploughing through novel after novel. They learned to read by having a positive emotional experience around reading. I am still not sure that this would have happened had they constantly been tested, harassed, coerced and pushed in to learning to read.
Above all if you want to instill a love of reading in children follow what they enjoy and let them learn to read when they are ready.