In so many articles I read about encouraging your children to read parents are advised to ‘create a good reading environment.” All the articles agree that it is important to value readingi n your family by showing your children that you read, and by limiting time on TV, computers and game consoles to give your child time to read. They also recommend a space where books are on display, it is comfortable and quiet. Somewhere where children can lose themselves in books.
Many of us cannot afford a library in our homes, and even of we could we do not have the space! So I thought I would look at the reading elements and suggest some simple things you can do to encourage your children to read.
- A quiet space away from other distractions – we are unlikely to have a separate room where children can read in peace, but we can create the silence. You can create a quiet space by creating a quiet time, a time when no TV’s or devices or music is playing that is “reading time”. Or you can limit the availability of these things in a child’s bedroom, creating a quiet room, even if it is only for a small portion of the day.
- Have a time of day that is set aside for reading – with our busy lives and with multiple children this is perhaps the hardest thing to achieve. But if we think about it we can squeeze in 10 minutes. It may be in the morning before school, or just before bed, or in the car on the way to an activity. Finding that 10 minutes helps children develop a reading habit, and also lets them know that reading is so important it must be included in the day.
- Provide a variety of books for them to access – we may not be able to create a library in our home, but we can have regular visits to the local library to refresh the books available for our children to read. Do not forget that apart from the children’s section there is also the non-fiction section where you can find books on things your children are interested in, and do not forget that most libraries now have a section for graphic novels. Another cheap way to boost their book collections is to go second hand book sales, or even take them to a book store and turn choosing a new book for their collection into an outing.
- Display their books so they are inspired to pick one up – How many times have you been in a bookstore or library and have picked up the books where they have displayed the cover? This can simply be achieved by having a book shelf with each child’s favourite books in the area you have designated as quiet. Change the books they can see every now and then to encourage them to pick one up. If your reading space is a car, or you do not have space for book shelves, you can provide a basket or plastic crate for each child to keep their special books in. Rotate these as much as necessary to keep your child interested.
- Make the reading environment inviting and comfortable – I am sure we would all love to provide a big, comfortable chair for each of our children in our imaginary library, but we can use some simple things to a) create a comfortable reading environment and b) trigger the response that it is reading time. These things could be comfortable bean bags or big cushions, or just small pillows to lean or lounge on. It could be a favourite blanket or a special toy to snuggle with. Choosing these items with your child will make them special.
- Reading Rewards – Controversial I know, but I am a great believer that if you recognise the effort your children are putting in then you are showing them how important reading is. There is no one reward system. It could be you reward a child who likes reading non-fiction books when they read a fiction book, or when a child reads their first chapter book, or you might reward a reluctant reader for every book they complete. Rewards can be book related – a cool bookmark when your child moves to chapter books, or a new pillow for their reading environment, or it could be some extra TV or computer time for a reluctant reader. You will know what works for your child, or there is always the trial and error method the rest of us use to find out what works.
I hope this has been helpful in helping demystify a good reading environment and give you some ideas in how to create one for your children that works for your family. I would love to hear of some of the things you have done that have worked for your children.