Here’s How to Make Summer Reading Fun For Your Child
Takeaway: Try to transform reading into a fun activity rather than a chore your child forces herself to do. This means making it a daily routine, choosing books that explore her interests, and blurring the lines between everyday activities (e.g., TV, cooking, playing, relaxing) and official reading time.
Reading can be such a powerful tool in raising healthy, well-adjusted children.
We all get that reading is a great way for children to learn about how the world works – for instance, it helps them learn facts and figures related to a wide range of subjects. But there’s so much more to it than that. Reading also helps children develop their language and communication skills, improve their attention span and concentration, hone their reasoning and logic, and spark their curiosity and sense of adventure. Most importantly, it can be a great bonding activity for you and your child.
But remember, each child develops at their own pace. The key is to focus on creating a pro-reading environment.
As parents, we often worry if our children aren’t reaching the right reading milestones on time. For instance, are they responding to stories and storybook pictures by age 1? Or can they finish sentences from their favourite books by age 3? These milestones help us track a child’s development, but they aren’t the only things that matter. Remember, each child is different and will advance at their own pace. So, the key is to set up an environment that encourages reading and then let the process take care of itself.
With younger children, your first step would be to understand and nurture ‘pre-reading’ skills.
Long before children start reading, they begin to develop a set of pre-reading skills. For instance, they gradually realise that squiggles (i.e., letters) on a page connect to distinct units of speech sounds called phonemes (e.g. ‘p’ in ‘pad’ and ‘b’ in ‘bad’). And that these phonemes join to form words and sentences. Further, they explore how words are written on a page – i.e., words go from left to right, and sentences go from top to bottom of a page. The psychology of pre-reading skills can get technical but children develop these skills intuitively. So, as parents, all we really need to do is give them a lot of practise. This means reading aloud to them from very early on and letting them turn the pages of a book, pat the colourful pictures, and memorise the fun rhymes.
Whatever your child’s age, the most important thing is to make reading part of her daily routine.
Your goal is to make reading an everyday activity. And you can do this through a few simple habits. First, stash books everywhere, so they always surround your child. This way, she doesn’t have the hassle of finding something interesting to read. You could also set up a cosy reading nook for her – something out of the way, quiet, and specially reserved just for her. (It could be as simple as a little ‘fort’ or ‘enchanted forest’ made by draping towels/bedsheets over chairs.) Next, consider setting up a reading routine. For young children, this would mean reading aloud to them, and as they grow, transitioning into them reading for you, and finally reading by themselves. The routine could also include weekly trips to the library to borrow books, join book clubs, and take part in other organised reading activities.
When choosing books, focus on your child’s interests rather than her reading level.
Your child’s official reading level is a helpful guide when choosing books for her to read. But remember that it’s only a rough estimate. If she’s slightly behind or ahead of her reading level (both of which are perfectly okay), sticking to it too closely could stall her progress. For example, if the recommended books are too challenging, she might compensate by ignoring difficult words/sentences and looking at the pictures instead (which isn’t actually ‘reading’). And if the books aren’t challenging enough, she won’t have a chance to improve. So, instead of focusing on reading levels, consider choosing books based on her interests. That means comics, graphic novels, and magazines are fine for starters. Later, she can graduate to fun genres like fantasy, science fiction, adventure stories, mysteries, etc. And as she develops specific interests, you could find niche books (and even audiobooks) to stoke her curiosity. The strategy here is to let her passion for learning and entertainment (rather than official reading levels) motivate her to tackle more challenging books. And when screening books, just use the five-fingers vocabulary test. (This involves reading one page of a book and raising a finger for every word she doesn’t understand. By the end of the page, if you’ve raised only five fingers or less, then the book is a great fit.)
The trick is to blend reading with regular life seamlessly.
You don’t want reading to be something ‘extra’ that your child forces herself to do. So, the trick is to blur the lines between reading and day-to-day living. For instance, talk to your child about the books she reads, discussing the stories and insights rather than the technicalities of grammar and syntax. If you’re going for a movie (E.g., The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe), encourage her to read the book version first, tell you all about it, and maybe invent alternate endings for the story. When going on holiday, get her to read the travel-related emails and descriptions of the destination. You could even play ‘pre-reading’ games with young children – like, finding objects in the house that start with a particular letter/phoneme, or sounding out the letters for long words (e.g., ask her to sound out the letters/phonemes for supercalifragilisticexpialidocious).
Most importantly, remember that all this should be low-effort and fun. So, if your child is really struggling, check for underlying issues rather than forcing any of these techniques on her.
Some children have brain or learning differences that require a more specialised approach. For instance, if your child has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it’ll affect basic brain functions like processing speed and attention span. Similarly, children with dyslexia engage with spelling and reading differently, meaning traditional teaching methods often won’t work. So, if you suspect your child needs a bit of extra attention, do consider reaching out to us for support. The Ed Psych Practice offers face-to-face and online assessments, consultation, advice, and problem-solving strategies for parents, nurseries, schools, and universities in London. We have psychologists, paediatricians, and therapists who can help assess your child and offer guidance and support. To consult with us or set up an appointment:
- Phone: +44 (0) 78 3344 7356
- Email: Office@TheEdPsych.com
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