Whether your child is just starting primary school or is finishing year 9, by encouraging your child to choose themselves what they want to read you can help them develop a real love of reading. There is no point encouraging a child to read The Gruffalo when they are only interested in aliens. Luckily, the choice of children’s books today is very varied, so your child has an amazing array of books to choose from that can reflect their interests.
Beanstalk is a national children’s charity that recruits, trains and places volunteers directly in settings to work one-to-one with children aged 3-13 who struggle with reading or are reluctant readers. Here their volunteers provide their top tips and strategies for engaging children with reading:
1. Get to know what they like
Choosing a book with the child is very important and helps you to understand what the your child is interested in; would they like a fairy tale, a detailed study of birds from around the world or a simple story about dinosaurs. Point out the title, pictures on the front cover, maybe take a look at the first few pages to see if it’s something they might be interested in reading. Don’t forget, you don’t have to just read fiction books, you can choose comic books, encyclopedias or non-fiction books on a subject they’re interested in.
2. Choosing the right size of book
For early years or primary school age it is advisable to choose a book with plenty of illustrations. Younger children are much more likely to engage with a book that has pictures in as they will be less daunting. For older children, try to choose a size of book that suits their reading ability. Providing a competent 11-year old with Harry Potter makes perfect sense, yet giving the same book to a reluctant reader of the same age and you’ll likely put them off reading Harry Potter forever! For less keen readers, try finding chapter books that are thinner and smaller in size and might even have a few illustrations scattered throughout the book.
3. Is it the right level for them?
Once you’ve chosen the right subject and the right size, make sure the book isn’t too difficult or too easy for them. If you think your child is struggling then don’t be afraid to stop and suggest choosing something else. You can gauge whether a child understands the book by asking open-ended questions (what, why, when, where are often the best questions). For instance, ‘What do you think the bear was thinking about at the end of this book’ If they haven’t quite understood the book then go back and read again together stopping at points you feel they might benefit from an explanation.
Also, encourage them to ask you questions about the book. This is quite fun for your child as it makes them feel like the parent yet allows you to explain the book to them in your own way. If you choose a book that is too difficult for a child to read then it will severely knock their reading confidence and make them feel less engaged with reading. However, choosing a book that is too easy might make them view reading as boring. Choosing the right book, whilst this might be difficult initially, is extremely rewarding as once they successfully read a book that wasn’t too easy the child will be so delighted with the fact they managed to finish reading it and this might kick start that love of reading!
Our volunteers and staff at Beanstalk love so many books, here are a few favourites:
For younger children (aged between 3-5 or maybe even up to 7 if they’re reluctant readers)
we would recommend books, such as Oi Frog! By Kes Gray, not only is this funny to read (for both child and adult!) but contains more complex words such as gopher and satsuma.
For children aged 5-8 (again you can go older for reluctant or struggling readers)
try The Big Book of Magical Mix Ups by Nick Sharratt and Hilary Robinson. This contains plenty of words but the pages are physically split so they can create their own magical spells.
For children aged 9-12 we love The Brilliant World of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon as it is relatable to most children and very funny.
Once a child reaches 11
they often know what they like to read and there are so many fantastic books out there that they can begin to experiment with different chapter books and really discover what they love to read. Don’t be afraid to visit some classics with your children, such as The Hobbit or Roald Dahl. They’ve been around for so long because they’re so good!
If you would like to find out more about Beanstalk then please visit beanstalkcharity.org.uk
You can support Beanstalk in a variety of ways - becoming a volunteer, recommending your local school to Beanstalk or supporting with fundraising.