How to get kids reading

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Parenting blogger Luschka from Diary of a First Child looks at what you need in a reading nook to encourage a lifelong love of reading.


My daughters love story time and since my five-year-old has learned to read, reading to her three-year-old sister is their idea of an afternoon well spent, and I am not complaining. Since reading and writing have always been such a huge part of my life, anything I can do to encourage a lifelong love of reading and storytelling, I will do.

One of the biggest influences on a good reading experience is the place you do it. Through reading we can ignore our actual surroundings, we can pass time, we can escape into another world for a time. While it's perfectly acceptable to do squashed against a stranger in a hot and stuffy underground train, it's so much better in the right place, so here are five things to add to your reading nook to make it perfect.

1) Light

Eyes — old and new — need the correct light to read by. According to experts a 10-year old can read comfortably by a 40w lamp, while a 60-year old needs a 100w lamp. Make sure it's not too dark but also that there isn't too much glare, which often leads to tired eyes and sore heads. So make sure your reading nook has sufficient lighting, whether natural or artificial.

2) Comfort

A reading nook should be the place you escape to, not from. A tipi is the perfect setting for a mental adventure, but if that's not achievable, any kind of secluded space will do. My children have a pop-up tent, half the size of our dining table. Before that we had a sheet that we wrapped around the table for a fort. Even without the cover, under the table is still a go-to adventure zone. Kids don't need it to be complicated. Just fill it with cushions, a few favourite stuffed toys, and you're on your way.

3) Sustenance

No one can go on an adventure on an empty tummy. While my children aren't allowed to eat in their tent — no one wants to bin apple cores and banana peels and jam sandwiches six weeks after consumption! — they are allowed to eat just outside the entrance. This means a gentle scoot with their heads outside and they can fuel up for wherever their imaginations are taking them next, and I can sweep up the crumbs without hassle.


4) Props

This will depend on the child, and on their age, but my daughter often works through scenes in a story by acting them out or roleplaying them. It helps her to process what she's reading. That's not to say you need a full character set for every story you own, because fortunately children are so very much smarter than that.

Scarves, dolls, a toy car, some animals and a toy mobile phone seem to fit most of the scenarios my children work through. It also means that being done with reading for the day doesn't have to mean heading straight for the screens, as often their play will develop from whatever they've been reading.

5) A Notepad and Pen

Again this will depend on age. As an adult my best ideas come at me when my mind is clear of my to-do list, and having a notebook on hand is the best thing for that moment, to save the idea. Don't think you'll remember it, because you won't. The same is true of children. My daughter will write a note, a letter, draw a picture, or simply doodle when her 'brain' has become 'tired'. Some interactive magazines like StoryBox include puzzles, spotting differences, etc, and I find having to get up to go and find a pen is disruptive and often ends the reading session. Keeping a notebook handy prevents this.

A reading nook doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. Under the table, in a tent, a sheet tied to two chairs... these are all valid ideas. So long as there's somewhere accessible, relatively clean and comfortable for your little explorer to go, watch as they fill themselves with snacks and ideas, and let them set off for the stars.


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2 thoughts on “How to get kids reading”

  • Tyrney D. Friend
    Tyrney D. Friend August 20, 2015 at 11:42 PM

    The only thing I would add here is to pay attention to lighting location as well. If where the reader frequently sits, casts shadows on the book, it can tire the reader out quickly.