All part of a fun routine

When asked, as part of a MS Readathon author survey, what she’d say to encourage children to read, children’s author Sarah Webb said: “It’s fun. Monsters, vampires, puppies, skeleton detectives, mad granddads — what’s not to like?”

Judy May Murphy advised: “Read what you want to read, not just what others are excited about.”

Niamh Fortune, president of the Reading Association of Ireland, encourages parents to start instilling early in children a love of books and reading.

“Start the minute they’re born, with simple picture books and nursery rhymes.”

Ten minutes spent reading each day with your child is much better than making it a once-a-week event.

“Bring it into the routine — that cosy time, that bit of calmness together.”

Ambitious parents should resist the temptation to make it about teaching their child to read. Motivate your child to want to read. “Better to take an easier book and enjoy it together rather than going too challenging when the child’s struggling,” says Fortune.

Be led by your child. Let them choose the book or story. Follow their interests.

“Say to your child: ‘You were watching a show about sharks on TV – do you want to get a book about sharks?’ Then find one.”

Be active while reading to children: “Use plenty of expression in your voice, with different voices for different characters. You’re modelling fluency and expression, which is great for keeping their attention.”

Other ways of keeping attention include talking about the pictures in the book or asking the child to predict what will happen next in the story. You might also ask your child to try out a funny voice for a character or get an older child to read aloud to a younger one.

“Keep reading aloud to your child for as long as they enjoy it. Don’t stop just because they can now read for themselves,” says Fortune, who urges parents to use books as reward.

“Instead of rewarding with toys or sweets, say ‘will we pick up a lovely book this weekend?’”

Model for children your own enjoyment of reading.

Turn off the TV and have some quiet time, where mum, dad and child read their books.

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