This morning my daughter had quite a sad look on her face. She told me that she was gutted that she had finished reading her book and was desperate to find another one that she could read and enjoy as much. So, we went on Amazon and discovered that there are still a couple of books by her favourite authors that she has yet to read. That seemed to make her feel a lot better. She loves going to bed at night and reading. I sometimes see her reading in the odd moment when she is waiting for something. She has a reading lesson at school, where she is encouraged to share books that she enjoys with other students.
My son last week asked me for a copy of Frankenstein to read. He has just finished Jekyll and Hyde and I had suggested that he might like to read the novel afterwards as they are quite similar in their depiction of gothic horror. He is eighteen and he always seems to have a book in his hand, especially when he is waiting for his bus to arrive in the morning.
I am very lucky that both my children enjoy reading so much. I have always encouraged them to read, mainly by showing them that I read a lot too. Children learn behaviour that is modelled to them. My daughter loves reading teen fiction. The sort of books about American High Schools. My son loves history and the classics. They are both very different in their tastes but with both I found the ‘hook’ to encourage them to read more. With my daughter it was surprisingly karaoke that encouraged her to read. With my son it was Dr Who.
Parents may think that these days with technology being so advanced, that it is hard to get children to read. I disagree. With Kindles, tablets and laptops so easily available, children have a wide range of books and reading material easily accessible to them. Books are often incredibly cheap. There are car boot sales, charity shops and book retailers online. It is so easy to get hold of books. If books are not your preferred reading material, then there are a plethora of magazines and comics both online and in newsagents.
As an English teacher, I always encourage my students to read as much as possible. The new GCSE is incredibly difficult, and it is vital that students read in order to pass. As I always explain, you wouldn’t go in for the Bake-Off unless you had made some cakes, previously would you? In the same way you can not perform well on the new GCSE without reading. There is, however, a lot of snobbery over reading. Many parents seem to think that their child should be reading those huge tomes of Harry Potter. This is most definitely not the case. If you can find the hook to get a child into reading, then the battle is won. I encourage my students by finding out what they enjoy. If a child is into football, I might suggest non-fiction books on the history of football, autobiographies or biographies of their favourite footballer, Sports News websites. If someone is into baking, then I encourage them to seek out unusual recipes. Recipes are a complex form of comprehension. Most kids love comics and this time of year there are so many annuals available that are the perfect way for children to dip in and out of reading.
If you find the hook, everything else will fit into place. If your child is struggling at school with English literature, it is worth looking at film and television adaptations of a book to help them to understand the plot and characters. Shakespeare’s plays were written to be performed and it is often only when students see the play being performed that they start to understand. Charles Dickens’s Christmas Carol is currently on the GCSE syllabus. I always tell my students to watch, The Muppet Christmas Carol as it is one of the best adaptations and there are quotes from the book used in it.
It is never too early to start to cultivate a love of reading. It is much easier to teach a five-year-old to love reading rather than a reluctant teenager.
Whatever you give your children this year, try to give them the gift of reading. It’s one of the most valuable treasures that they will keep forever.