How Can We Engage Children In Reading?

Reading time: 3

Anna Wells

Anna has an MA in Applied Linguistics and came into teaching via Schools Direct in 2013. She currently works at a prep school in Greater London teaching English and has previously been an Assistant Head, focusing on assessment. She is a self-confessed football nerd and...
Read more about Anna Wells

How can we encourage children to read a book in a world of distractions? 

I have been struggling since September. Struggling to get children in my class to want to read a book. I’ve been struggling to get them to even pick up a book, let alone open it and turn the first page! When did it ever get this hard?

With such a proliferation of great fiction around, I feel we are in a golden age of children’s literature. The market is full to the brim of authors, therefore upping the quality of books that get published due to the increased competition around.

Therefore, what is not getting through to the intended audience – the children in our schools?

I have thought a lot about this problem and have put together my ideas around encouraging engagement in reading.

My tips for encouraging reading

1. Competition

Children are always looking for an incentive, or a reason to do something. By adding an element of competition, it could encourage children to read books if they are up against their peers. Perhaps a reading tournament themed around the World Cup? Prizes for children who finish their book and can explain what has happened? It’s a fine line between racing through a book just to get to the end and being a voracious reader who can keep up with what is going on, but it may encourage those who don’t have any motivation to pick up a book if their peers are doing it.

2. Make reading cool

In my humble opinion, reading is pretty cool. However that is my opinion, and I am a teacher who tells my class to do things. Therefore I am not always the coolest person they know.

So, I am constantly on the look-out for people who are cooler than me, have achieved something awesome and yet still have time to read a book and understand its benefits. For example, I have signed my school up to Premier League Reading Stars and am considering reaching out on Twitter for anyone who could come and talk to children at their level about why reading is a pretty good thing to do. Breaking down the stigma of reading as something that isn’t cool is one of the biggest factors for children not wanting to pick up a book.

3. Go all out

Following on from the above point, I am pretty much ready to do anything. Big and bold and in people’s faces is my new approach. Make it so that everywhere children look there is a book or something related to a book. Assemblies start with a book or extract, English lessons hang on the hook of a story and wet play involves children burying their heads into a book. It’s all or nothing!

4. Community involvement

If children see reading being modelled around them, it makes it a habit and a routine that is part of their day. The more unfamiliar it is, the less likely they are to pick it up.

I am thinking of putting on parent workshops to guide families in reading at home – it only takes 15 minutes to sit down and talk about a book, or a trip to the local library to unlock a passion for an author. Perhaps there is a local author who lives nearby and could talk about issues that are relevant to children, or an alumni from a school to explain how reading got them where they are. Reading has got to start at home, and be at the centre of family life.

5. Invest

Good quality books often cost money. Schools don’t have much money. These are two facts which are unlikely to change. However, if you are in a position where you can influence budget decisions be bold and go for it. Ask for a donation from the governors or PTA to freshen up the school library.

Does your reading scheme need an injection of up to date titles? Maybe the furniture that the books are housed in needs a coat of paint or some motivational slogans. Whatever it is, be brave and ask, the worst someone can say is no!

Reading needs to regain its place at the forefront of our curriculum; to do this it needs the passion of teachers to get there. I’m all in, I hope everyone is with me.

You might also be interested in reading: How To Revolutionise Your Guided Reading.

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