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You could be putting children off reading – here’s how to change that

| March 23, 2020 | 0 Comments


Not every child is a bookworm, but research shows that developing a love of reading early in life can provide many benefits.

From a positive impact on academic achievement,1 increased general knowledge,2 vocabulary growth,3 improved writing ability4 and helping children to develop empathy,5 it’s clear reading can play an important role in a child’s development. It has also been argued that on top of providing pleasure, reading literature helps children to cultivate an imagination.6 And an overview of several studies on reading for pleasure suggests that it may also be a way to combat social exclusion and raise educational standards.7

Raise the alarm: young people are reading less

But despite the huge benefits that reading offers, evidence suggests that young people are reading less8 and that many children fall behind in reading from about the age of 10.9 Some teachers believe that parents should be more active in supporting their child’s reading.10 This is understandable as studies on successful literacy achievement11 often feature either support from a parent or a teacher12 – indicating how both can help children to develop a love for reading. But while it’s important that parents and teachers become actively involved in helping children to read more, my research13 reveals there are some things parents and teachers may do that actually put children off reading.

Let them choose their own books

In my research with children between the ages of nine and 12, I explored the extent to which they read for pleasure and the different factors that affected their reading engagement. Things such as parents or teachers selecting the books the children read in their leisure time, or parents not allowing the children to read their preferred books, were shown to have a negative impact on children’s reading engagement. As were parents or teachers forcing children to read and parents insisting that children read books to the end. So, as important as reading is for a child’s development, my research shows why children must be allowed to exercise their right to not read or stop reading at any time – as to do otherwise is likely to put them off reading14 altogether.

Make it fun

From my interviews with the children, I also discovered that it was common practice for teachers and parents to ask children questions about the books they read, and that reading aloud done by teachers at school was usually accompanied by questions. One boy said that knowing he would be asked questions about the reading ‘kind of makes me feel like they’re going to give us an exam or a test afterwards’. As the findings from my study show, when it comes to books, it’s important to respect your child’s preferences. So, given this, both parents and teachers would do well to remember that sometimes children just want to curl up with a good book, of their choice, and simply enjoy the process of reading for what it is.

This article first appeared on on 5 July 2019. Last year, Awah was a PhD candidate in education at the University of Cambridge in the UK. We thank for using a Creative Commons licence that allows us to feature this article here.


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2. See: does_for_the_mind

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5. See: %20fiction%20and%20empathy.pdf

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13. See: 2019/06/Education-and-New-Developments_2019_Vol_II.pdf

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16. See: uploads/attachment_data/file/284286/reading_for_pleasure.pdf

Category: Autumn 2020

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