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Young people should love to read...how do we encourage their reading for pleasure?

Young people should love to read...how do we encourage their reading for pleasure?
24 Feb 2020
Reading for pleasure is often regarded as a luxury for adults, with many of us wishing we had more time to read.  This shouldn't be the case for our children; they don't have the same life commitments we do.  Yet figures from the paper, 'Children's Reading for Pleasure: trends and challenges , Egmont, 2019' states the number of children reading for pleasure is in decline, with only 29% of 0-13's reading for pleasure, daily.


How do we increase the number of children reading daily for pleasure, or at least nearly every day? 

It has been proven that when children are read to they enjoy the same benefits as reading independently and more! I remember my mum reading to my brothers and me in the evening, either just before bed or after dinner snuggled up on  the sofa, it was magical!  'Children's Reading for Pleasure: trends and challenges , Egmont, 2019' says when 'reading to a child the implicit message is 'You matter enough for me to give you my time'. Children feel loved, secure and a deep sense of well-being when they are read to.'  The positive impact of reading to your child encourages them to want to recreate the feelings they got from being read to and so gravitate to reading independently for pleasure.

I remember my parents being so busy during the day we often wouldn't see them except for meal times and being chased up to do our chores.  Having a regular story time made such a difference to the stress levels in the house of an evening.  Having this time together brought us closer as a family; we dared not fight or squabble during story time for fear of missing something in the story or having story time cancelled because we weren't listening!  We rarely fought after either, instead we played out the story, each of us embracing our imaginations to expand on the chapter we had just had read to us.  The enjoyment from these story times with my parents and brothers, led me to want to recreate the magic and excitement of these moments myself.  I would find myself a book and smuggle a torch into my bedroom ready for lights out!  Soon after, my own reading adventure would begin!


The extensive research done by Egmont's (www.egmont.co.uk/research), certainly supports how I keen I was to read independently, for pleasure as a child.  For me it was unquestionably the 'emotional connection between parent and child' that facilitated my eagerness to read independently as well as having 'a reading routine and having free choice of reading material'.


Image courtesy of geralt, Freiburg, DeutschlandSo in the age of digital everything, how does reading compete with screen time.  The fact is it doesn't.  If truth be told there are many pastimes that are in decline due to the digital age.  As children grow up, activities such as playing outside, playing with toys or games, doing arts and crafts, even going out with friends and family are all in decline.    'Children's Reading for Pleasure: trends and challenges, Egmont, 2019' states 'There is a sense of increasingly atomised family life and solitary children on screens'.  I know if I give my 6 year old a choice of one more episode, a game on the tablet or story time snuggled up in bed, she will seldom choose the latter.  I have been guilty of being swept along with the digital age and using the 'screen' to do the calming, entertaining, etc but if I'm honest it does not leave me feeling satisfied, it eats at my conscience and I feel like a bad parent.  Rather than beat myself up about it, I have decided it is just better to readdress the balance.


Through researching how we can encourage children's reading for pleasure, I have also learnt through 'Children's Reading for Pleasure: trends and challenges , Egmont, 2019'  article, that for parents and children alike it is easy to confuse reading for pleasure with literacy in school life.  We regard it as a subject to be learnt, rather 'than a pleasure to delight in'.  They further identified the lack of awareness among parents of the benefits reading aloud can bring to their children throughout childhood.  Whether your child can read on their own or not, being read to is 'pivotal for the child's enthusiasm, enjoyment and independent reading'.   Reading aloud to your child should not stop just because they can now read alone.  Reading to your child has huge positive impacts on their well-being and mental health (and on parents' too), while also further aiding in building 'their imagination and empathy' and expanding 'their vocabulary and communication skills.'


The positive steps I've taken to read more regularly to my child

Admittedly there have been many an evening after dinner where I have just wanted to tuck my little one up in bed and escape as quickly as possible for some peace and quiet.  In doing this, I was finding that I just wasn't enjoying my evenings - something inside of me was restless and not sitting comfortably on my morale compass.  I realised as we had progressed through foundation and into year one at school we had almost stopped reading for pleasure!  The story time we used to enjoy at bedtime had all but gone and we only focused on reading practice for school.  The pressure of helping your child to learn to read can be overwhelming and I found mine would use it as a tool of control (one day she would read the book incredibly well, the next day she wouldn't be able to read a single word of the same book).  Reading became traumatic for both of us for a while and story time in the evenings started to disappear because I just saw reading with my child in any form as being overly stressful.  We then just focussed on what was necessary for school!!  She was missing out on the joys of being read to, a pastime I had thoroughly enjoyed with my parents when I was her age.
After making the commitment to read aloud to her more regularly (10-15 minutes before bed) I have noticed her excelling with her school reading and enjoyment has come back for both of us.  I now realise we should have kept story time as a regular occurrence instead of allowing the stress of school reading to take over and letting "just one more episode" of her favourite TV program take the place of the bedtime story. 

Having reembraced the bedtime story as a way for us both to escape the day and enjoy an adventure together through a book, has brought us closer, physically and emotionally.  The calmness my little one now feels going to bed, means she falls asleep quicker and is even sleeping a little longer (OK this might be coincidence, but I'll take it!).  I can genuinely enjoy my evenings more because I feel like a better parent; enjoying the time I've spent reading with my daughter and discussing the characters and talking about what might happen next has been a delight.  I too have found I enjoy reading again and have to force myself to put the book down at the end of a chapter!!

Something I wasn't expecting was that we have even started to make up our own stories!  Travelling in the car over half term we spent time telling each other stories; taking it in turns to make one up, while others we evolved together, taking it in turns to develop the story and the characters - these made for some hilarious moments, with some very bizarre scenarios!!  However our stories ended, or even if we never finished telling them, we had great fun inventing the characters and going on our own adventure in a world of our creation! 

To celebrate this change in our reading approach and our new found fun in story telling Once upon a heroes has created a family competition to coincide with World Book Day month......the details of which will be released on 27th February 2020 on this news blog or via our newsletter, so make sure you're subscribed!