Motivation to read tends to decrease with age, especially if pupils’ attitudes towards reading become less positive. If kids do not enjoy reading when they are young, they are unlikely to become avid bookworms when they are older. Therefore an important part of encouraging children to read is nurturing a love for literature early on. Studies have found that children who read for pleasure are not only more likely to be lifelong readers but are also more likely to succeed both academically and socially.
Winter is a great time of the year to get your head stuck in a good book or fantasy world. Escape wintery afternoons by snuggling up with a book and a hot drink and perhaps a mince pie? With the Christmas holidays soon upon us, it’s the perfect time to encourage your children to start reading at home.
Benefits of reading
Getting lost inside the pages of a good book has many benefits, one of which is communication. We are surrounded by words and media, whether it is on the page or on a screen. In the modern professional world, a lot of communication takes place digitally through word-based messages. Therefore the ability to read and communicate through the written words – as well as picking up on face-to-face social cues – is essential for pupils later in life. Interpreting and composing the appropriate tone of voice via email is becoming an increasingly vital skill.
Through regular reading children grow their vocabulary, improve their understanding of language and enhance their ability to absorb and understand information. This has positive effects on their academic ability across the curriculum (not just in English) as well as their communication in everyday life.
Reading also builds on children’s imaginations, transporting them to new worlds and placing them in the lives of different characters. By seeing the world through the eyes of others, children gain greater emotional intelligence as they develop a wider understanding of people, the world and life experiences different from their own. Here are two Albert Einstein quotes, eloquently summarising this:
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
A love of books can also aid children in learning how to deal with different social situations. Books about new and challenging experiences like the first day at school, a new baby on the way or moving house can help children to process and navigate through these situations more easily.
The same is true for learning how to deal with different emotions. Children need to learn to cope with a variety of feelings, which can be frustrating when they don’t know why they are feeling a certain way or how to deal with it. Reading can help children to understand their own emotions. For example by empathising with the characters and developing the vocabulary to accurately communicate their feelings with. Examples and characters from books which they can relate back to in any given situation can make processing difficult their own feelings easier, reducing frustration at being unable to articulate how they feel.
Reading is a great stress-reliever and can help us to fall asleep at bedtime. It fosters relaxation and can really help kids (and adults) who struggle to unwind before bed. Read silently for just six minutes and you can reduce heart rate and ease muscle tension.
Encourage reading this Christmas
The Christmas break paves the way for plenty of opportunities to lay the foundation of a love of literature. A respite from the normal demands of school, reading can be a great way for children to continue using their brains over the holidays, while still gaining a break from classroom activities.
To encourage reading, make it a fun activity and not a chore. Describe it as something to enjoy and as a form of adventure and children are more likely to react positively to it. Enjoying a book should be seen and described as a self-indulgent, relaxing hobby rather than a test of intelligence or holiday homework.
Even if your child is an independent reader, taking the time to read with them can be a wonderful way to spend one-to-one with them. This will encourage them and expose them to books that they may not choose themselves, such as non-fiction books or longer books with more complex sentences and words. Hearing you read sections smoothly and with expression will also inspire them to read more like you. As an enjoyable family activity (and an excellent stage in your daily routines) you can enjoy a story together for 10 minutes a day, reading a Christmas classic or the book of your child’s favourite film. This combines reading with quality family time, which sounds a lot more inviting to than 10 minutes of reading by themselves each night.
Why not take a trip to the local library, where you and your child can ‘escape for an hour’. It’s a great idea to let them choose what book they can take home, as this allows them to read books that they are drawn to, naturally pairing reading with their own curiosity and interests. A trip to the library and selecting new books for themselves could be a reward or treat and can be a fun activity to look forward to. When it is, children will associate reading with positive experiences.
If traditional books are not appealing to your child, embrace some of the digital alternatives as a way to engage them. As the younger generation are surrounded by smart technology, your smartphone or tablet can be one of the best tools to encourage your child to read. Reading apps and e-readers are also great ways to read without needing to have a physical paper book.
If your child sees you and other people they admire enjoying a book and talking about their favourite stories, they may be inspired to pick up a book themselves. This way children come to reading on their own terms because they were inspired by your own reading habits, instead of being asked to do it.
Cranmore Library has compiled a list of the books which Cranmore pupils love and would like to share with others. These books are great holiday reads for children looking to snuggle up with a book this Christmas or read together with relatives.
Christmas reading recommendations
Juniors: Children aged 5-7:
- Going to the Volcano by Andy Stanton
This is a hilarious picture book, that is ideal for reading aloud as it will have you in fits of laughter. A great one for reading together while enjoying some Christmas treats.
- The Zoological Times: the Animal Kingdom’s Wildest Newspaper by Stella Gurney
This is a non-fiction book written in association with the Natural History Museum. It is a great book to dip in and out of as it has lots of facts, puzzles and activities about animals to captivate your child’s imagination.
- Hansel and Gretel by Bethan Woolvin
A twist on an old classic, this is the story of a good witch and two very naughty children who turn the classic fairy tale upside down.
Seniors: Children aged 7-10:
- A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig
A great read for sparking a child’s imagination, this book is perfect for festive reading as it’s all about the one and only Father Christmas. If your child loves this book, also check out The Girl Who Saved Christmas and Father Christmas and Me – both fantastic stories to read at Christmas time!
- Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend
This book is a perfect Christmas read for Harry Potter fans, as it is full of magic and mischief. This captivating book sets hope and imagination alive, transporting readers into an extraordinary world – just what you need during the most magical time of year.
- Cogheart (plus sequels Moonlocket and Skycircus) by Peter Bunzl
A tale of mystery, excitement, courage, as an inventor’s daughter, the clockmaker’s son, and a loveable mechanical fox named Malkin go on an adventure full of airships and plots.
Older Readers: Children aged 10+
- Booked by Kwame Alexander
A story for the football fanatics about Nick Hall, a star on the football team whose world gets turned upside down by a bombshell announcement. This story is written in verse, perfect for a slightly more difficult read but one you’ll still read quickly but remember for a long time.
- The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
Winner of the 2015 Costa Book of the Year, The Lie Tree is jammed packed of secrets and lies, mystery and suspense. It’s all about a girl called Faith Sunday, who goes on an adventure to try to find out more about her father’s mysterious death by trading lies for truths from the Lie Tree.
Nothing beats a good book. Cranmore School encourages a love of reading across all age groups. From daily reading sessions to celebrating Book Week and book themed baking competitions, a love of literature is fostered from an early age.