I recently gave a book, ‘My Naughty Little Sister Collection’, to my neighbour’s 6 year old daughter. I was rewarded with a gappy-toothed smile and a kiss – planted not on me, but on the book! There can be few things more heartening than child who loves to read. From sharing a picture book with a curious toddler to seeing a 7 year old doubled up with laughter with a funny story, to a teen engrossed in a novel, reading has enormous power to connect on a deep emotional level. It’s one of life’s greatest pleasures, and yet increasingly it seems to be passing many children by.
As a mum myself (my son is now 14) I have first-hand experience of what it takes to raise a reader. And through my work as Consumer Insight Director at leading children’s publisher, Egmont, I have conducted extensive research into what is happening to children’s reading for pleasure. A range of studies have helped inform my thinking – from following 12 families around the UK over the last 2 years and observing children’s reading in the context of family life, to talking with teachers, commissioning surveys and working with schools. It became very clear to me that children’s reading is being squeezed – by hectic family life, by children’s excess recreational screen time and by an education system that focuses on acquiring the skill to read above all else, above the simple joy of it, and in doing so, turning lots of children off reading from a very young age because they associate it with homework, not with fun.
What is really interesting is that every parent I have ever spoken to about this would like their child to read, and even if their child is a reader, they’d like them to read more than they already do. It’s an emotional and highly charged topic, full of hopes and dreams, aspirations, often redolent of parents own childhood too. But I can’t count how many parents have told me something along the lines of ‘I don’t understand why my child shows no interest in reading when I used to love it so much’. The nub of it is that parents grew up in a very different world than our children live in now. With digital devices as their fingertips, after school activities and homework – lives are busy and time is relentlessly filled. I call this ‘the lost art of being still’. And still, quiet time is, of course, where reading happens.
If we want our children to read we have to create this quiet time – in fact we need to be involved in a host of ways, and from when they are babies right through to the teenage years, to keep encouraging the reading habit to take root and grow. ‘Help Your Child Love Reading’ is a fusion of my own experiences as a mum and insights from Egmont’s research programme. The result is an accessible self-help book, full of practical advice for parents to help children find pleasure and fun in reading. I passionately hope that it will help families get the reading habit back into their children’s lives.
You can purchase Help Your Child Love Reading on hive here