The benefits of reading are without dispute. Kids who are proficient readers tend to do better in school, have a larger vocabulary, and be better prepared for later academic challenges than kids who don’t pick up books. Parents know this, but it’s not always easy to convince a child that spending time with their nose in a classic is worthwhile.
The Guardian recently solicited advice on the topic from 10 Children’s Laureates—authors in the UK who are celebrated for their achievements in children’s literature. The recurring tip? Set an example for kids. Madame Doubtfire author Anne Fine, the Children’s Laureate for 2001 to 2003, said that kids who see their parents hovering over their smart phone or tablet screens are more likely to want to do the same thing. But if they see parents holding a book, they’ll want to emulate that instead.
The Story of Tracy Beaker author and laureate Jacqueline Wilson (2005 to 2007) added that being a strong influence also extends to sharing books with kids. Toddlers, she said, particularly enjoy spending time with a parent and discussing both a book and its illustrations. If they’re reading on their own, it’s still worthwhile to pick up a more advanced book and help them through it.
Willy and Hugh author Anthony Browne (the laureate from 2009 to 2011) echoed the shared-reading advice, suggesting that pictures can provoke a lot of questions about relationships between characters, locations, and body language. This can not only reinforce a love of reading, but an ability to read between the lines.
Wilson also said that some reverse psychology might be in order. If you tell a child to stop reading, they may want to read more than ever in an act of literary defiance. That kind of strategy might work for some kids, but ultimately, the best way to instill a love of reading is to demonstrate your own love for books.
[h/t The Guardian]