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Novel ways to keep kids interested in reading

Do you struggle to get your child to read for pleasure? Enjoying books as well as using them for school work could mean greater academic success

By Lisa Salmon

More primary school children than ever (77.6%) are now reading for pleasure and new research by the National Literacy Trust Young Readers Programme (www.literacytrust.org.uk) shows that the longer children keep an enjoyment of reading going, the greater the benefits are in the classroom.

Ten-year-olds who enjoy reading have a reading age 1.3 years higher than their peers who don't enjoy reading, rising to 2.1 years for 12-year-olds and 3.3 years at the age of 14.

Past research has found that children who read for pleasure are likely to do significantly better at school than their peers - they make more progress in maths, vocabulary and spelling between the ages of 10 and 16 than those who rarely read.

The Institute of Education study also found children who are read bedtime stories by parents as infants performed better than those who went without.

But reading for pleasure at secondary school made the biggest difference - the combined effect on children's progress of reading books often, going to the library regularly and reading newspapers at 16 was four times greater than the advantage children gained from having a parent with a degree.

YOUNG READERS' ANNIVERSARY

The National Literacy Trust research marks the 20th anniversary of its Young Readers Programme (YRP) - the first-ever national school based reading for enjoyment initiative, which has given more than 1.1 million books to nearly 400,000 disadvantaged primary school children over the past two decades.

To celebrate the YRP anniversary, the National Literacy Trust has published a new book list: 20 Years of Children's Choices, marking the most popular books chosen by children who've taken part in the programme. The Brilliant World of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon was chosen as the most inspirational children's read of 2011. Pichon said: "I'm often contacted by parents who tell me how their kids were reluctant readers and how seeing them with their noses in a book - sometimes for the first time - makes them both happy.

"Helping children find the books they enjoy is so important, as reading should be a pleasure that will hopefully stay with them for life," Liz added.

NINE TIPS FOR ENCOURAGING YOUR CHILD TO READ

1. Make time to read: read a bedtime story with your child every night or set a regular time to read together during the day.

2. Let your child choose what to read: they're more likely to develop a love of reading if they can choose books with you.

3. Join your local library and your child can pick from a wide selection of books.

4. Explore different reading materials and formats: as well as fiction, there's a world of comics, magazines, ebooks, read-along audio books and non-fiction to discover.

5. Get the whole family involved: encourage your child to read with other family members like grandparents and brothers and sisters.

6. Bring stories to life: when reading aloud, give characters voices that match their personalities. You could pause the story and ask your child what happens next, or even try acting out parts of the story together.

7. Create fun reading challenges: organise a treasure hunt around the house; give your child a list of things to find and see how quickly they can read the list and collect all the items.

8. Be positive: praise your child for trying hard at reading and let them know it's alright to make mistakes.

9. Be a reading role model: your child learns from you, so seeing you enjoying and valuing books can be a great inspiration.

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