For many children who find page after page of text daunting, reading can seem like a dreaded chore. Here are some ideas to help make reading fun, build confidence and encourage a lifelong love of books and reading.
1. Factual Books and Magazines
When children prefer to enjoy their reading in tasty, bite-sized helpings rather than devouring chapters of a novel, fact filled books and magazines are perfect. Every child has something that interests them; space, football, dinosaurs, baking, history, motor bikes, super cars, pop stars or movies. This is a perfect starting point to build reading resources around.
By combining a few car magazines, Supercars Top Trumps cards, a how-to-draw racing cars guide and a factual book about the evolution of the cars and gadgets in the Bond movies, you have the beginnings of a collection no young car enthusiast could resist dipping into.
For those young readers who prefer facts of the fictional variety (after all this is all about building on their interests - whatever they may be) there are amazing superhero encyclopedias, gaming character guides and movie tie-ins which come in all shapes and sizes.
If children are enthusiastic about a topic they will push themselves to find out more. By gradually increasing the challenge of the materials and activities within their interest zone you will be able to stretch them without you (or them) feeling that they are being forced.
2. Environmental Print
We can see words everywhere we go; street signs, directions, shop names, packaging, posters and timetables. We read hundreds of words every day without opening a book or looking at a screen and this is a great way to help develop children's reading skills.
From the ingredients on his breakfast cereal to the ' Drive Carefully' sign near his school make finding environmental print a fun part of the day. It is amazing how many words even very young children recognise because of the distinctive colours and design and their knowledge of supermarkets, restaurants and products used regularly by their family.
By simply playing ' How many words can you find?' when going to school, shopping or helping get dinner ready, your child will be reading aloud dozens of words and phrases that they didn't pay particular attention to beforehand. Encourage him to play around with words and different print styles by creating his own packaging for a chocolate bar, drawing a poster or designing a new logo for a superhero or favourite sports team.
Poetry can paint a picture, tell a story, make us laugh or make us cry. Poetry collections are a great way to introduce children to beautiful language, imagery and clever use of words without long pages full of text.
Often poems follow a rhyming or repetitive pattern which provides the reader with clues about what is coming next. For children who lose their place when reading a long paragraph of text, a verse of poetry with seven or eight words on each line is much less stressful to read but still full of lovely volcabulary and ideas.
Poetry collections can be dipped into. They don't need to be read in a particular order and a favourite can be revisited again and again. It doesn't take long to read a poem and yet what a sense of achievement and completion for a young reader who struggles to read half a chapter.
A wide range of poetry styles from limericks and haikus to longer narrative pieces are usually contained in a collection, allowing readers to progress to more challenging poems within a book they have become familiar with, as their confidence grows.
4. Comic Books and Graphic Novels
The appeal of comics and graphic novels span every age from school to retirement and beyond. There are a dazzling array of titles and the market continues to grow. The quality of the artwork is stunning, the storytelling is engaging and exciting. The dialogue rich vocabulary brings the characters to life and literally lifts them off the page and into the imagination of the reader.
The use of the storyboard style of pictures and words creates a frame by frame animation effect. This helps transport a young reader right into the story. In a text only book it may take several paragraphs to establish that the main character is injured, scared and caught in a snowstorm. A graphic novel sets this scene with the illustrations, allowing the reader to concentrate on what the characters are thinking and saying and key developments in the story.
If your child is anxious about reading a chapter of a novel, she will be so focused on the words that she will struggle to 'see' the story and won't enjoy it. Using comic books and graphic novels is a great way to build her reading enjoyment, confidence and imaginative visualisation skills......... and they are very, very cool.
5. Picture Books
Picture books are certainly not just for the youngest children. Many schools use picture books to develop cross curricular projects and enhance reading and comprehension in the classroom. Your child may enjoy revisiting some of the picture books he listened to when he was younger and feel positive because he can now read these by himself.
If you have younger children in the family, you could encourage him to read his favourite picture books to them. This is a lovely way to develop confidence in reading. Younger children are so in awe of an elder child who can read (no matter how well they do it.) Shared reading initiaives in schools where senior pupils read to the children in the early years have proved highly effective in building confidence and enthusiasm for reading across the age ranges.
There are also some stunning wordless picture books ('Clown' by Quentin Blake is a favourite in my house) which adults are enjoying as much as children. By completely removing any pressure of reading, these books open up an endless range of possibilities for interpretation while helping develop sequencing, storytelling and imaginative skills. Just imagine the relief of a young person really struggling to read when presented with a book which they can talk about and enjoy without having to read a word.
Maps are fascinating and full of weird and wonderful words. A large map of the world on a child's bedroom wall provides a wealth of opportunities for discovering amazing countries, cities, oceans and mountain ranges. If your child has an interest in travel, and geography or if you have family connections in other countries, this could provide a perfect hook to develop and support her reading skills.
The map could take you and you child on an 'Around the World' fact challenge to find information about a different location every day until you have travelled around the world and home again. She will need to explore encyclopedia, websites and atlases to gather the information but as this is a fun quest she will feel challenged but not stressed out.
An interest in geography and maps could also open up the opportunity to plot a reading journey by discovering and sharing traditional stories associated with different countries. 'A Year Full of Stories' by Angela McAllister and Christopher Corr is an illustrated collection of short folk tales from around the world which would create a perfect bedtime reading expedition.
Comic Books? Encyclopedias? Poems? No matter what direction your child's reading adventure takes you, just sit back and enjoy the journey with them!