How to Turn Your Child into a Skilled Reader

It is a common complaint that children don’t like to read. This is a natural consequence of the environment we live in – thanks to distractions like TV and video games, even adults find it hard to concentrate on books. With a few lifestyle changes however, you can help any child catch the reading bug:


1. Children Read When Their Parents Do


Children who come from well read households tend to be well read. It’s that simple.


Children imitate their parents, and most want to take part in the same activities as the adults they see. If you discuss books over dinner, and share a novel with your children, this is where their attention will go. Conversely, if you spend most of your time staring at the TV screen that’s what your children will do as well.


Besides, you have to be well read to guide your children’s reading habits. You have to be able to identify genres that appeal to them, and know which titles are similar to the ones they enjoy.


A simple rule of thumb: if no one in your household is reading at least one literary book a week, you are not in a good position to raise a well read child.







2. Avoid “Dumbing Down” the Books Your Children Read


Captain Underpants and cheesy romance novels are easy to read. Unfortunately, it’s like living on a diet of junk food – it’s unhealthy and stunts your growth.


So as far as possible, encourage your children to read the very best. Get them started on Robert Louis Stevenson, or Rudyard Kipling. If they have trouble with the language, you can always re-tell the story in a simpler form. Remember: most of the time children can understand the plot and characters; it is just the language that’s the barrier.


The reason for using more advanced text is to develop your child’s sense of narrative structure and pacing – this is integral when writing compositions. Of course, it also helps their vocabulary (always look up new words with them).


A good English tutor can also do this for your children – but you will need one to one tutoring to cater to your child’s specific reading preferences. We can put you in touch with one immediately.



3. Read With Your Children, Don’t Pass Them the Books and Then Ignore Them


The downside of books is that they cannot respond to your children, and play with them. In order to engage your child, added interaction is necessary.


This means you can’t pass them a stack of books, and then wander off to watch TV while expecting them to read quietly. You have to read the books with them – for younger children, you might want to imitate voices and sounds, or use simple puppets (e.g. draw the characters and glue them on ice cream sticks)


Don’t be under the impression that reading sessions must be serious, quiet times. They should be engaging, and should sometimes be rowdy.


This being said, your child may sometimes want to read alone. This is more common among teenagers. Don’t stop them from doing so, but talk to them about the story afterwards. Show that you are also interested.



4. Discuss the Books Afterward


This doesn’t mean you should come at your children with a quiz – there is a difference between sharing about a book, and a comprehension test.

Ask your children questions like:

  • ·         How they feel about the main characters. Who is annoying? Who is smart? Who is slimy or brilliant?
  • ·         Which parts of the plot were most exciting
  • ·         Which parts of the plot were shocking, sad, or dull

Notice that these are not “comprehension” questions – they have no correct answer. Do not slip into the habit of asking questions like “Where did XYZ happen” or “Why did so-and-so say that”. These will make your child regard reading as a chore, one that comes with questions afterward.

For more on discussing texts with young students, follow us on Facebook (click “like” and our updates will appear on your wall)

5. Make the Books Accessible

Make it easy for your child to read. Pack the shelves with books they like, and visit the bookstores with them often. If you bury all the books in boxes, then well…the Xbox will always be easier to reach.

How do you get your child to read? Comment and let us know.


Image Credits:


Steven Depolo, Thomas Abbs, Zhao!, Brian Neudorff