Enjoyment and interest key to a child's reading habits

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 September, 2011, 12:00am


My son is not a keen reader at school, but it's absolutely impossible to get him to read in the holidays. He is simply not interested and always makes excuses. How can I get him to willingly read out of school?

It sounds like your son relates reading only to schoolwork and does not see the need for it during the holidays. Encouraging and inspiring him to read for pleasure may not be easy but is the only way he will read of his own accord. The key to this is finding things he enjoys reading.

Non-fiction texts tend to be popular with boys. Action or adventure books can also appeal and there are some excellent authors who write relevant and often humorous novels for boys. An alternative to chapter books are high-level picture books specifically written for older children and are ideal for reluctant readers as they are attractive and look more accessible.

Your son's school library should have a wide variety of factual books that are written at the right level and preferably illustrated. Your son's teacher can guide him in his reading choices. You could also consider joining a local library to give an extra dimension to your son's choice of books. The internet is a great resource for all types of reading. There are many interactive reading programmes on offer, which can be a great incentive. These can include audiobooks and comprehension quizzes. Check with your son's school to see if they are registered with any of these sites or have any recommendations.

Having a purpose for reading is important. This can lead to frequent and relevant reading practice occurring as part of a natural day's activities. Your son may already be reading e-mails from friends, following instructions for a computer game or reading a report of a sports match, for example. He may be reading more than you think. Don't worry too much about what he reads as long as he is reading something. Some parents see comics or picture books as childish but if these unlock the door to reading for pleasure it will lead to a wider range of materials.

It is important for you as parents to be good reading role models. Fathers, in particular, are important for boys in this respect. Generally try to limit television viewing and time spent on computer games and make sure your son sees you reading for pleasure. Show an interest in what he is reading, and discuss books together, as this will help his comprehension and reading skills.

When you read the newspaper, encourage him to discuss the news so he learns about current affairs and increases his general knowledge. If the newspaper is too challenging, there are children's newspapers he could subscribe to.

Of course, reading is a key skill for education and a vital skill for life.

Even if your son is already an able reader he is obviously missing out on the joys that books offer. Make the school aware of your concerns so he can receive extra encouragement and guidance.

Julie McGuire teaches at an international school