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Reading is one of the most important influences a child can have, helping to develop their understanding and outlook on the world. We all read for different reasons and in different ways; some for pleasure, others for escapism, many for learning and more for all of the above.

Start 'em young I say

Start ’em young I say

In this age of handheld gadgets, eBooks and online technology I got to wondering how relevant books are in modern society – particularly for our kids.

I don’t consider myself a dinosaur (in fact a lot of my posts are about exploring new advances in EdTech) but there’s something about the personal experience of investing time in a physical book; a haptic object with well-thumbed pages that simply can’t be replicated by modern machines – incredible though they are. I still remember with fondness the scent of those ever-present Ladybird books with their thick, yellowing cartridge-paper pages – something akin to a sweet, woody smell. A natural smell.

The sensory element of cardboard and pulp seemed to add to the escapist experience of heading off with the Famous Five, or learning about the garden birds of Britain. Then again, it’s quite possible I’m taking a romanticised view, looking back as I do with rose-tinted nostalgia.

As parents and teachers, is there more we can do to nurture a love of reading in our children and pupils? Some would argue that new technology only eases the availability of good literature to our kids. I’m not so sure. While that’s patently the case (some e-readers hold around 1,500 books on one device!) I think it’s important for us all to plant the seed early on in those embryonic minds and cultivate a zest for the written word, in all its forms.

Here’s a few ideas I’ve cobbled together for you to muse over – please feel free to add your own suggestions and idea using the comment box provided.

 Top tips for nurturing a love of reading

Set a good example: Children with parents who are active readers are far more likely to take an interest and pleasure in it themselves. Make sure your children can see you reading and enjoying books. Keep the shelves well stocked with a variety of books, comics, magazines – anything and everything.

Share your reading experiences as much as possible: Talk about the book you’re reading and ask about the things they are too. Books can often be a very personal, insular experience and rightly so, but keeping up a positive dialogue about reading and books reinforces them as normal parts of everyday life.

Reading isn’t always about books: I grew up in a household without television and the radio was always on in every room. Radio 4 had, and still has, some fantastic content including serials, abridged classic stories, dramatisations, plays and more. Rather than having the TV on in every room try setting aside one room and leaving the radio tuned in. Some brilliant contemporary programmes that I would recommend are Wordaholics, Word of mouth, Book of the week and Reading between the lines. Seek them out, and for loads more drama and serials go to 4 Extra.

Alternatively there are a myriad of CD’s, tapes and audiobooks (great for listening to at night) as well as online reading forums like goodreads where you can share ideas, get recommendations and read reviews.

Everywhere you go, always take the words with you: Keep reading material in the car, take it on holiday or to the beach – wherever you are, keep the words close. Remember; a book is a companion and you’ll never be lonely or bored with one to hand.

Don’t underestimate your child: Reading works wonders in improving a child’s vocabulary and helps develop excellent language and written skills. Having challenging and thought provoking material around to read is essential.

It’s all good: Reading works towards developing imaginations, it instils kids with a sense of empathy. It teaches lessons about the world around us. Kids learn about people, places and events outside their own experience. They are exposed to other ways of living and different ideas and beliefs that are removed from their own surroundings. Reading expands minds and exercises brains.

And finally: Reading is also a great way to relax bodies and calm minds.

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