Reading time about 3.5 minutes
Is there a magic recipe or set of golden rules for raising a reader? While, of course, no child, parent or grandparent is the same, there do seem to be some special ingredients for inspiring a love of books in young children. That is, according to renowned authors Julia Donaldson, Anne Civardi, Niki Daly and Paddy Bouma – who are not only well-loved children’s book authors, but have raised a flock of avid readers and ‘grand-readers’ themselves.
Ingredient 1: Loving books yourself
“I think the secret of raising a reader lies in the parent or teacher's own enthusiasm for books and willingness to spend time with the child, reading,” says Paddy Bouma.
Ingredient 2: Surround your child with books and stories
“No one book can answer all that is needed to engage a child in stories, they need to experience many books,” explains Niki Daly. This means reading the classics, contemporary, popular bookstore books, as well as those with different art and writing styles. “I have collected a great selection of wonderful books, old and contemporary, by browsing through second hand bookshops,” says Niki.
“It is not just about books – it’s about stories,” says Anne Civardi, “each of my grandchildren have story CDs that they listen to in the car, or by themselves in their rooms. My eldest granddaughter is a bit of a bad sleeper, so she has stories to listen to when she’s in bed.”
Ingredient 3: Start young
“Instilling a love of books, stories and words right happens right from the very start,” says Anne, “just chat away about what's in the book, even if your 8-week-old is looking at you as if you are a loony! My daughter has always read to her daughter and showed her the pictures, she has a book beside her on her changing mat and in the bath. She already really loves books and she is only 10 month old.”
Ingredient 4: Make story time special
In a recent interview with infamous children’s book author, Julia Donaldson, she explains how reading with your child is also about getting to know your child, “sharing stories can be such a bonding experience and it helps you to understand your children and they you.”
“Storytime should NEVER be a chore,” says Niki, “the image of a child being physically close to and being read to has a sacred glow. It is still one of the most precious gifts we can give to our children and also to ourselves.”
“For my grandsons story time on the bean bag has become an after bath and before bed tradition,” says Anne, “and they truly love books.”
Ingredient 5: Have fun
If story time is fun, it almost doesn't matter what you read together. “When our third son chortled out loud at a Winnie the Pooh book – a book our other two sons didn’t really take to – we realised that he had a very particular sense of humour,” remembers Julia. Author Jeff Norton, who was a reluctant reader as a child, agrees, “if we can hook kids on reading through laughter, we can hook 'em for life.”
As an aside….What are the best books for children?
So, which books are the best for young, keen readers? “I ask parents to question books that are thrust at them through overhyped marketing, many of these are not the best books,” explains Niki, “Children's books provide the reader (parent, grandparent or caregiver) and the listener (the child) the opportunity to share unforgettable stories, which like journeys, can forge relationships that are warm and bonding.”
Here are Paddy Bouma and Julia Donaldson’s list of books that they say will inspire a love of reading in any child.
What books and stories do you like to read to your little guys?