Paper books might be going out of fashion but reading won’t. Here’s how to get your kids to love reading with practical and inspiring tips for the whole family.

First music and movies started disappearing off our shelves. Printed books might be next. But even if reading goes completely digital, it will remain something precious that opens minds and stirs imaginations.

How do you get your child to love books as much as you do? And how do you convince them that there are more thrills and excitement to be had with reading Harry Potter than with watching a YouTube gamer playing yet another Minecraft mod?

It won’t get any easier as the view that kids have ever shorter attention spans becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But a healthy dose of enthusiasm and some clever strategies will do it.

Less than half of UK pre-schoolers are read to by parents daily. That’s the finding of 2018's annual Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer Survey from Nielsen Book Research. It constitutes a drop of 20 per cent in five years. Main reasons given by parents are “too tired at the end of the day” or "kids would rather do something else”.

Bedtime stories are a crucial part of a child’s progress to independent reading. Most kids, especially boys, stop reading regularly or purely for fun in their early teens. You have to get them hooked before then. Why bother? Research shows that early, independent readers become better at it, score higher on achievement tests in all subjects and have greater content knowledge.

You’re getting a sense of urgency here but the first rule is not to push it. Let them choose the book and be prepared to read a favourite story many times. Even when they start reading on their own, keep doing it. Reading to them gives a tired young reader a break and educationalists say it has as much social value as educational value.

Ask questions – why they like a character or what they would do in a situation from the story. Focusing only on letters and words feels a bit too much like homework and builds resentment. Dress up and act out some of the scenes or draw the best moments from their favourite books.

Audiobooks might seem like cheating to you but they count – and they help a lot. Borrow some audio books at the library or get an audio app. Why it works: "Hearing someone reading a book confidently is a great way to experience fluency, which is the ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with good expression,” this is how one American teacher and mum explains it.

Don’t dismiss comic books and graphic novels. For some children, especially ones who might have a reading difficulty, this is an easy and fun way to get to get them to read.

A library is still a magical place through a child’s eyes. The rows of books and long shelves seem like an endless opportunity for adventure and discovery. Take them often and look out for special activities, the staff might be organising, such as story times or themed events.

Let your children see you read regularly – and WhatsApp doesn’t count. If it’s on a tablet, show them that it’s a book. Ask if they’d like to know what the story is about or share a child-friendly episode from it. You know how they say, “let me try, let me try” when you do something new? It’s the same principle.

Have a reading spot and a time when everyone relaxes with a book. Decorate it if you like and have the space available. Don’t force it but you could have everyone in the family tell a bit about what they’re reading.

Try activities inspired by books. For instance, look online for recipes to make some of the weird snacks in Harry Potter. Take a little one to meet a few real little piggies at a petting zoo.

Your child’s teacher most likely has a box or shelf of books in the classroom. Have one at home and change the titles regularly. You don’t have to spend a fortune buying books – get them from the library or swap with friends.

Whether it’s a book on the bedside table, a magazine or an app on their tablet – surrounding kids with things worth reading is doing them a service. Reading fiction develops social skills like empathy, Toronto University has found. Reading reduces stress, according to studies at Surrey University. And for today’s children, experts tell us, continuous learning will be the key to a successful career. That means reading – a lot, taking it in, letting it transform you.

“You really can’t teach reading as a science” Dr Seuss said, "Love gets mixed up in it.” So spread the love of books in your home.

HOW TO RAISE LITTLE READERS HOW TO RAISE LITTLE READERS Reviewed by Jet Club on January 17, 2019 Rating: 5
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