How to teach your child to love reading

What you need to know about raising a reader.

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Children reading
UNICEF/UN0424101/Margaryan
09 August 2022

A love of reading opens the door to adventures, learning new things and a whole host of key language skills such as speech development and vocabulary building. Spending time with books also creates special moments for you to bond with your child and enjoy each other’s company.

Just 10 to 15 minutes a day with a book is enough to spark your curious little one’s interest. Read on for our top tips on fostering a love of literature.

Child reading
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Start right away

 

Reading to your newborn helps to give them the best start in life. Babies learn language from adults who repeat and read words to them. When you read to your little one, talk about the characters and objects in the book or the sounds the animals make. Hearing your voice helps give meaning to the letters and pictures they are seeing. As you read, vary the pitch and tone of your voice and try different accents or voices for different characters. It helps to keep your child engaged and makes the story jump off the page!

Remember, children learn to love books long before they learn to read. Spending time with books together now will help children grow to enjoy them even more as they get older.

Children reading
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Model what a good reader looks like

 

It is important for children to see reading as something fun and pleasurable to do rather than a difficult task. What better way to teach this than to show them the ropes yourself! If your children see you reading often, it is more likely to encourage them. This will also help to promote time away from screens.

If you have been away from reading for a while, local bookshop owners and librarians can be wonderful guides in choosing the best books for you and your child. Family and friends are great resources too! Ask about their children’s favourite books and their experience reading together. You can even bring your little one with you and make it a special trip for picking out books together.

Children reading
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Take turns

 

As your child grows older, take turns reading out loud to each other. If you have an early reader, this can be as much as asking your child to point out letters and words he recognizes. Next, take turns reading sentences. As his abilities grow, you can take turns reading pages and eventually chapters. As you read together, ask questions about what you are reading: “What do you think will happen next?” “Why do you think the elephant did that?”

The time you spend reading out loud to each other will help build confidence in speaking aloud and will reinforce what your child has learned.

Children reading
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Listen to your child

 

As your little one grows, pay attention to her interests. If she is particularly drawn to a particular topic, like dinosaurs, try to find children’s books about that subject. This will help to reinforce that books are tools for learning more about the things we care about and she will be more likely to read if the subject matter is her favourite dino!

Don’t worry if your children aren’t reading Achebe or Dostoevsky just yet – the main thing is that they are reading. If they are only reading comics right now, that’s okay. Comics and graphic novels are still opportunities for reading! You can encourage them with other reading materials, but there is no need to push if they are not receptive to it right now.

Children reading
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Make it a routine

 

Making reading an enjoyable part of your child’s life starts with incorporating books into your daily routine. Create a special reading time before bed or while taking public transportation. While you are together, make sure to limit distractions like mobile phones and television. Your time should be all about each other!

Part of learning to enjoy reading is being around books at home. If possible, try starting a book collection for your children. It does not have to be extensive; a small one can work perfectly well.

If available near you, check with your local library for information on story time programmes. These meet ups can be a great way for a child to enjoy books while being social with other children. You could also see about starting a mini book club with friends and their children.

Children reading
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Reading milestones

 

While every child is different, here are some of the milestones you may observe as your child's reading skills develop:

Birth – 18 months

  • Understands some simple phrases
  • Looks at books and tries to turn pages
  • Imitates speech
  • At around 1 year can say one or more words

18 months – 3 years

  • Can say 250 – 350 words at around 2 years and 800 – 1,000 words at around 3 years
  • Enjoys listening to familiar books
  • Says a repeated phrase from a favorite book
  • Imitates the sounds of adults speaking
  • Asks to be read to

3 – 5 years

  • Recognizes familiar letters and tries to write them
  • Holds a book correctly and turns the pages
  • Identifies rhyming words
  • Uses sentences comfortably
  • Learns from books that are read aloud

Article by Mandy Rich, Digital Content Writer, UNICEF