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Jill Marshall, Author
How parents can maximise their children’s reading potential
(how to choose books with them, reading with them and much more)

I don’t know about you, but I was one of those torch-under-the-bedclothes, “one more chapter before school, please!” kind of kids. I never needed any encouragement to read. I probably should have put the book down and spent more time outside …

 Today’s children have so many more distractions, however. How do you encourage them to find joy in a book instead of the Playstation; to choose reading over the latest DVD? It’s an ongoing challenge, but here are a few suggestions that may help:

1.         Let the child choose according to what interests them, not what interests you. I loved – nay, revered - “The Little House on the Prairie” series; my daughter goes cross-eyed with boredom at the mere mention of it. So what if it’s yet another story about that wretched (delete as appropriate) pony/footballer/fairy/superhero? Your child is enjoying a story without really being aware that they’re reading.  Rush out now, right now, and buy the whole of that series, then watch the smile spread over your child’s face as they rush off for a reading-fest. 

2.         Don’t be too quick to move wee Sam away from picture books. The development into chapter books can be very daunting, and the pleasure of holding a beautiful book as an artifact can be snuffed out at that very moment. Eight and nine year olds still love the odd sophisticated picture book, and you’re allowing them to carry on adoring books, without even realizing that they’re book-lovers-in-training. It’s true.

 3.         Pick the right time and the right book to read with your child. We all know we should read to and with our children, but somehow I’m never convinced that bed-time is the best time for it (once your children are past the toddler stage). To my mind, what that tells them is that you only read when you want to go to sleep. You are going to be unable to get past a chapter without your eyes closing and dribble forming at the corner of your mouth (this can apply to both reader and readee – own up if you’ve been found snoring on your child’s bed, …).

It’s fine to read at bedtime, but try finding another time too, when you’re both more alert, when the alternative would be TV or a trip to the supermarket, when you can leave them desperate for the next chapter – so desperate they’ll pick it up themselves and carry on right through dinner. It has to be the right book, of course: until you know your child is ready for more, thumb through your chapter books and check the chapter length. Too long? They’ll be bored, and you’ll be hoarse. And no way on earth are they going to tackle a chapter themselves in that deal you arranged as you sat down. Short, snappy, fun is the rule, until they volunteer for more.

 4.         Have a party each time your child reads a bit on their own … finishes a chapter … completes the book. Find a book plate and make a grand show of sticking it in the front – “As read by my brilliant child.”  Wonder together where you’ll ever find a book that good again, and then go and have a look.

It’s all about spreading the joy. Let them love books and forget they’re R-E-A-D-I-N-G. It’s hardly rocket science. Oo, rocket science!  Now I know someone who’d love a book about that …


About W.B.DJill Marshall is the author of the Jane Blonde series of books. 

We at totz2teens think these are great books for all to read.  To coincide with World book Day 2008 we are launching our competition to win a complete set of the Jane Blonde Series.  To enter visit here. 

Jill Marshall has also written a special short story for World Book Day which is titled Jane Blonde The Perfect Spylet which will be available from all good book outlets for £1.

If you have any special ways of helping encourage your children to read then why not share them on totz2teens discussion boards here

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