We all know there are many kids having more screen time than they should, and at the same time children and teens are spending less time reading. In fact, in a recent report (Scholastic Kids and Family Reading), 75 percent of parents with kids aged 6-17 wish their child would do more things that did not involve screen time.
So how can we encourage kids to put away the devices and instead pick up books?
Beyond simply having the ability to read, reading increases vocabulary, fluency and creativity while also teaching punctuation, grammar and sentence structure. Tech games may be fun, but they rarely open up a child’s mind to imagination and literacy.
Get to know your child and where their interests lay. By finding the style of book your child enjoys and providing easy access to those books, you are increasing the chances of them developing a passion for reading and choosing to pick up a book. Nearly three-quarters of kids aged 6–17 (74%) responded to the Scholastic Kids study that they would read more if they could find more books that they like.
Don’t force your child to always read new books. If there is a particular book or series they enjoy, let them build confidence in re-reading. Talk to them about what is happening in the book and get involved in their interest.
And with younger children, you can get further involved and read with them – taking on a role or a page each. They are more likely to enjoy reading if they see others get enjoyment from it.
If your child has a question, for example about how something works, try to avoid always searching the internet for an answer. If you have the time, take them to the library and look up the answer. Or you may already have a relevant book at home. This shows the child that books are a great source of knowledge.
DEAR time (Drop Everything and Read) is a strategy parents can adopt to take some time out of the chaotic technology-driven day to relax and read. With kids able to control the time and the text they are reading, it encourages them to develop a consistent reading behaviour. Even better if they see you reading at the same time.
Get your child involved with school activities such as the Premier’s Reading Challenge. Kids can be quite competitive, so this is a fun way to get them searching for new books to read and tracking their progress. And if they go out on an excursion, such as to a writers’ festival, show your interest in what they did and what they learnt.
Also, look out for local community events. Your local library may have author reading sessions or the council may have an illustrator running workshops and talking about their stories.
There are many ways to spark children’s interest in reading so get to know what makes your child tick.
Gemma Brown is the Literacy Coordinator at Waverley College.