I remember when Little Man was a baby, I would read to him every night before bedtime. I am sure that from this, he had developed his love for books. Fast forward 7 years and he’s now a little more reluctant to just pick up a book and read. That is partly my own fault for letting him loose on electronics too soon! He’s just really into building his own Lego monster creations or spawning a new animal encounter on Minecraft, which isn’t bad but I do need to increase his screen-free time.
Despite this, he still loves being read to at bedtime. So does Little Miss, she also loves books and occasionally we’d go Waterstones together to buy a new book. As a full-time working parent, it can be tricky to carve out a reading routine alongside all the homework, house chores, work work etc but it is possible.
Lifestyle brand, Very have just announced their collaboration with Roald Dahl X Beanstalk and asked if I could jump on board to share my thoughts and reading tips with you all. Of course, I said yes! Coram Beanstalk is a charity close to me and Roald Dahl happens to be my favourite childhood author. 🙂
The importance of reading to children
So is it really important to read?
100% YES! From past experiences as a parent, a child, and former volunteer reading helper, I think it’s incredibly important to read to your children AND encourage them to enjoy reading. It’s more than just about learning how to read. No-one likes doing things if they feel like they’re being forced to, but if they enjoy it, it then also becomes rewarding.
When I was a child, we (my dad was a single parent) couldn’t afford to buy any books. His limited English also meant he was unaware of what support was available to us. I do remember when the ‘book van’ came to my primary school – that was one of my best memories in primary school. My dad didn’t see the value in reading fun children’s books only academic study books – that might explain why I had such an imaginative mind… and also why I spent most of my early teens staying out late to read in the library.
During my time as a volunteer reading helper, I found that the children I read with all loved to read but needed extra support due to the following hurdles:
- Reluctant to read for fear of being judged ie. making mistakes with pronunciation
- Shy or lack of confidence reading aloud
- Prefers being read to, or taking turns reading
- Very active and unable to focus
- Confident reader but low comprehension
I was a shy child, always afraid to get things wrong and could empathise with what these kids were going through. Up to my teens I hated reading aloud. I love that Coram Beanstalk gives children, like me and the ones I read with, a chance to have a safe space to read and feel comfortable doing so on a one-to-one basis.
With all this knowledge and experience, it’s the main reason why I really tried my hardest to read daily to the kids when they were younger. Without knowing, it’s become a routine for them. Even til now, it’s either a bedtime story from me, I let them make up their own story and I listen or we put on Moshi Twilight stories.
Top 5 ways to get your children excited about reading:
So… how can you make reading fun and engaging for your kids?
These are my five personally tried-and-tested ways. They’re not perfect but have worked well for us so if you give any of these techniques a try, let me know how it goes!
1. Set aside ‘time’ specifically for reading
Reading together is a beautiful bonding experience between parent and child. If you create the mindset that ‘reading is not a chore’, your child will think the same. Setting some time aside for reading shouldn’t have to be difficult either – pick a period of the day i.e. morning time, tea time, bedtime etc so you’re not tied down to a specific hour of the day. This will give you a little more freedom to fit it around your work, house chores and current routines. Let the children pick the story or if you don’t have a lot of books, make one up and let your imagination take over.
2. Create an enjoyable space to read
Having a designated ‘space’ to read can be extremely beneficial. Creating a little ‘safe haven’ where they can read in peace and quiet or a space you can enjoy together. Spaces can be physical or psychological. For physical space, focus on creating a comfortable, calm and quiet place. A reading nook/corner works well with a small bookshelf or box to store the books. You could make it extra cosy with cushions and comfy beanbags. If you lack space, a reading wall is just as effective. You could even buy matching bedding of their favourite book characters to get them excited about books visually.
3. Choose books of interest and take turns to read
One of my first Roald Dahl book was The Twits. Because we had read and watched James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in class, I wanted something different. I still remember reading the page that described The Twits’ dinner (I think it was spaghetti hoop sauce) trapped in the man’s beard! If you have a reluctant or shy reader, take it in turns to read a page. If their favourite book is too advanced for them, you can read it to them instead. Taking turns to read a page each is also fun and a nice experience to share.
Some children can be confident readers but they might not fully understand the words they’re reading. Simple questions i.e. “what does … mean?”, “how do you think … feels?”, or “What do you think will happen next?” will allow you to check for comprehension and gets them thinking.
4. Role-playing and inventing versions
If your little one has a big imagination, let them invent their own stories or tell their own versions of the story. It’s so interesting to hear what they come up with. Role-playing (acting out lines or the whole story) allows their imagination to come alive and be creative with their thinking. Role-play is not only immersive, it’s also a lot of fun and can help improve self-confidence and presentation skills. You could even take role-playing to the next level by letting your kids dress up as their favourite characters whilst playing along.
5. Off the page reading
We sometimes incorporate yoga poses into our bedtime storytelling and call it ‘bedtime yoga stories’. It works up a bit of a sweat sometimes but it allows the children to burn off that last little bit of energy. Other ways you can get children to enjoy reading is through active listening i.e. audio books, podcasts, read-along/sing-along books.
Lots of children’s story books have also been adapted for movies, plays and performances, making it even more of an experience. Discover Stratford Story Centre is an interactive place that blends storytelling with active play. If your child(ren) loves arts and crafts, you could print out story characters to make paper puppets and create a play of your own. Little Miss and I did that with the Three Little Pigs story, which was a lot of fun.
Very Collection: Roald Dahl X Beanstalk
The Very Roald Dahl X Beanstalk collection will bring books to life in family homes all over the country with matching bedding, pyjama sets and costumes. There are three additional sets which showcases designs from the Enormous Crocodile, the BFG and the Witches – just in time for Halloween and Christmas. We’ve got our eyes set on the PJ sets and bedding.
Better yet, for every sale from the exclusive collection, Very.co.uk will donate all profits* to reading charity, Coram Beanstalk. The collection is aimed for children aged 3-10, with prices starting from £15 making them the ideal Christmas gifts for kids.
*see website for full details
NB. [AD] This post was written in collaboration with Very. I was kindly gifted the products above in exchange for this blog review post. All words, content and opinions are my own and should not be reused without permission.