First of all let me state that I am not a parent, so I can only speak from my own experiences.
My own love of reading began from an early age. I'm pretty sure that having lots of bookshelves around me and seeing my parents enjoying reading on holiday helped me to see books as something enjoyable and part of normal life. My Mum used to read with me a lot, at bedtime and using school reading books. She asked me questions about the books and got me not just interested in the words, but in what was happening in the pictures and the story as a whole.
As I grew up I began to become interested in writing. Again my Mum fostered this, encouraging me my drawing pictures to accompany my stories. This made words fun for me. I read a lot around this time, looking for inspiration for my own writing, and simply enjoying the stories themselves.
I loved reading at bedtime. As a well-behaved child, the slight risk of trying to read my torch-light after I should have been asleep was exhilarating. I loved a fantastical story (The Faraway Tree was one of my favourite books). These fantasy worlds used to go into my play at school as well.
I guess I was partly a natural reader, and I realise that for others it doesn't necessarily come naturally. However, I can see some common themes that seem to have fostered a love of reading in those kids I have babysat and worked with:
- Sharing reading as a family. This should start young, in my opinion. Start by reading to the child, then ask them questions about the pictures, and finally get them to read for themselves. A regular reading slot (ideally bedtime) should be a joy for all, especially in a busy household. Parents should let the children see them enjoying the story, and getting excited by the child's own enthusiasm.
- Read fun books. School reading schemes are all well and good, but they do not generally foster a love of reading. It's important to let a child pick what they want to read where possible. Buy books with characters and themes that they enjoy. Take them to the library and let them chose a book. If they like non-fiction then that's OK as well! And don't just read out of book- let them see you making up your own stories or retelling well known ones. One of the things that's shocked me the most at my local Junior Church is that children no longer seem to know you're telling them a story unless it comes out of a book! How can they enjoy making up their own stories if they think they need to be written down?!
- Set a good example! By this I mean letting the children see you reading. The best time to do this, in my opinion, is on holiday when you can really settle down and enjoy a good book. Now, I realise this may be easier said than done if you have young children running round your feet. But maybe you could occasionally let them go off to holiday club and return to discover you reading. You need to give the impression that this is more important to you than cleaning or cooking dinner! Then it may become important to them as well!
- Encourage reading wherever possible! What are the ingredients on the cereal? Can you read the menu at the restaurant? What does that sign say? Make reading a part of everyday life! And if your children show any enthusiasm then go with the flow! If you want to foster a love of reading then you have to make time for it!
- Encourage friends and family to give books as presents. To do this you will need to make sure you keep them up to date with reading ability and interests of your child. However, I think its worth it as then they see reading as something that society values and not just their immediate family.
To add to all this, I would also suggest making reading a game. Maybe you could join BookCrossing and then they could help you register and wild release books. What could be more exciting than tracking a book's journey round the world? And for the computer lover, it also gives another route into reading by encouraging them to read a book before they can do they ICT part.
What would your tips be for encouraging reading?