Are you worried that your child, tween or teen isn't reading enough? Have they lost their love of reading, or never gained it in the first place? Do you despair, not sure what to do, where to start?
Be assured, you are not alone and that there are many, many things that you can do to help your child not just like, but love to read.
We Have a BIG Problem
Ring the alarm bells. Recent research from Scholastic shows that only 37% of children aged 6 - 17 are frequent readers, meaning they read for fun 5 - 7 days per week. Frequent readers, read, on average, 45.6 books per year. Infrequent readers read only 17 books per year, and read for fun less than one day per week.
That is a staggering difference and a major problem because infrequent readers are missing out on the MANY benefits of reading. It's this knowledge that keeps me focused on my own children's reading journey through the highs, lows, rocky roads, and occasional flat tyre.
The Incredible Benefits of Reading
There is no question that reading makes people smarter and more confident learners, thereby helping students perform better in school. When I ask students what are the benefits of reading, they tell me that reading helps them survive, and gives them increased: mental stimulation, knowledge, vocabulary, memory, concentration, writing skills, and imagination. My jaw drops open when they tell me it helps them to see the world in new ways and increases their capacity to empathise.
Why is this Happening?
Research from Scholastic shows that there is a decline in reading frequency once a child turns eight; interestingly, the same age when reading enjoyment declines. And, sadly this means that for those children who don't reconnect with books, they are likely to become an infrequent and not a frequent reader.
I believe there are a combination of reasons that reading frequency declines at age eight, but the two biggies are: there is more competition for their time (screens, homework, activities, busy households) and parents of eight years olds can make the understandable mistake of assuming that because their child can read, they no longer need their help.
There is a lot of information and support for parents of younger children to help them learn to read, but it pretty much dries up after that. Parents tick that box, feeling proud, as they should. But, what parents perhaps don't realise is that their job doesn't stop there. It's simply time to tack and change the direction of the parenting boat, and set their sights on helping their children LOVE books for their whole childhood.
There is a Solution
Helping your child get hooked on books sounds easy, right? No, it doesn't. It sounds overwhelming, but I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be.
There are three simple steps that parents can follow to help their child love to read. And, I won't lie to you: it will require some work, but in the words of Art Williams, "it will be worth it."
1. Recognise our Role as Parent
The most important and foundation first step is for parents to fully recognise their role in helping their child. Parents need to understand that once their child can read, their job is not over. It has simply changed, and will not finish until their child is an adult.
2. Improve Reading Skills
There are direct relationships between reading skills, reading enjoyment and the number of books a child reads. Every child will benefit from improving their reading skills. Our job as parents is to put the time aside and read with them, and create the time for them to read - most days, every week, every year until they are grown up. 86% of children, across all ages, love reading books aloud with their parents at home because they see it as a special time to spend with their parents.
3. Reading for Enjoyment
It is critical that parents find their child books that they love and that are appropriate to their reading level. 58% of children (aged 6 - 17) say reading books for fun is extremely important, and 91% of frequent readers are currently reading at least one book for fun. It doesn't matter what books your child enjoys, as long as both parent and child understand what types of books they enjoy and what their child's reading level is.
And, whilst parents need to supply the books, children like the power to choose. 90% of children say their favourite books are the ones they have chosen for themselves. Oh, and another predictor of frequent readers is having parents who read frequently. I don't know about you, but I don't have to be asked twice.
** Your child may only be having an issue in one, and not all, of these areas, so modify your plan to suit your child.
The Results: Frequent Readers
When parents embrace their role in their child's reading journey, and work on improving their child's reading skills and providing continuous access to books that their child loves, the number of books their child reads will increase. And, of course, this will lead to more enjoyment and connection with books.
It is time for us parents to stop looking back, wondering what went wrong. There is no place for that now. So, pull up those sails, look to a new horizon and get sailing. And, lastly, never forget that children love reading with their parents. As parents we will never get this time back again, so let's treasure the snuggles on the couch as much as they do, and read with our children.