Happy reading: 5- to 10-year-olds

Happy reading: 5- to 10-year-olds

Books aren’t just for homework – here are a few tips to keep the reading habit going once your children are too old for picture books.


By the time their children start school most parents have stopped reading to their children altogether. Sometimes it’s because life takes over – children get more independent or want to watch TV as long as possible before going to sleep, and many parents regard reading as something that becomes a learning experience and therefore between the classroom and homework, their kids will have enough of books. However, bedtime stories don’t have to be babyish!


Keeping up the bedtime story habit

Wendy Cooling is an award-winning campaigner for children’s literature. In her distinguished career she has edited story books, written as a literature journalist and was a founder of the Bookstart project – a massively successful nationwide campaign to get free books into the hands of small children.
She believes strongly that the reading habit shouldn’t stop. “I always hate it when people stop reading just because their child starts school,” she says. “If you read to your child he or she will eventually join in, or be very pleased when he or she can join in with a word he or she recognises. By doing this, you begin to see your child’s progress.”


Sharing stories with older children – benefits
Time to calm down: A 2008 Ofcom report said that nine per cent of children aged 8 to 11, and 20 per cent of children aged 12 to 15 have internet access in their own bedrooms, and that children as young as eight have an average of four different media devices (including computers and TV) in their own rooms. If, before lights out, there is a time when the screens go off and you read with your child, it’s a chance to calm things down.


A time to talk: Some nights it’s not just about reading to your child or hearing him read. Bedtime stories can be a chance to chat. Let your child be your guide on this, don’t force it and you’ll be surprised that actually even the kind of child who usually says ‘can’t remember’ when you ask him about his school day will sometimes want to share something with you that’s been on his mind.


A good book message: If your child sees that you regard storytime as tiresome or boring, he will begin to associate books (and literacy) with a chore at school too. You don’t have to read Dickens together – any kinds of storybook or fact book that your child enjoys (some prefer wizardry, others tractors, others pirates), even if they are not full of complicated language, will still enhance your child’s appreciation of the power of telling a good story, how to express himself, how rich description can be, and so on.

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Reading with older children – tips
Read something more tricky: For example, if he’s reading comics or a younger words-and-picture book, you can read a chapter a night from a Roald Dahl book. This way he can enjoy stories that are beyond his reading age but not beyond his understanding and it gives him something to aim at for a couple of years’ time.


Don’t give up on picture books: Although your child might have moved on to simple or even more complicated chapter books, there is a lot of humour and excellent artistry to be enjoyed by older kids when they occasionally revisit books they liked when they were smaller.


Don’t compare with friends: Some kids will lap up Harry Potter at seven, but most children won’t be ready for such long books for years. If what gets your child excited is something shorter or less complicated, there’s no shame in that – reading together is fun, not school work!
 
Any reading is good reading: “Anything that helps children to consolidate their reading skills, to develop reading stamina, is good, even if its comics,” says Wendy Cooling. “For example, children who read all those Goosebumps books that were so popular at one point. People got panicky that these weren’t serious books, but any child who’d read 42 Goosebumps books had got reading stamina! That’s hugely important thing because when they get to longer books, they can manage them. People used to complain about Where’s Wally? But it’s great really, because children are learning to concentrate with it.”

Be a good role model: Keep up the reading habit yourself, from magazines to books. It’s good to give yourself a break, and your kids will see that there’s more to life than cooking and watching TV!


Don’t forget your local library: Libraries for kids are no longer stuffy places. They keep up to date with new books and often have great events. To find your nearest library go to localdirect.gov.uk.

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