I was on a train to London the other day and didn’t have a seat. As I stood near the door, I looked around the carriage and something struck me. Apart from a couple of people reading a newspaper, everyone else was on a device. Some were watching videos, others scrolling through social media feeds, and a few working on laptops. I couldn’t help thinking how times have changed from when I used to commute to London back in the late nineties when I and most other people, would use the commuter time to read a book. It was one of the only things I loved about commuting as I got through book after book.
How can we expect children to read more when reading enjoyment has been in decline for years.
As a writing coach and English tutor, I’ve been writing for years about how to encourage your children to read more. Not only that, as a mother of reluctant readers, I saw myself as somewhat of an expert in this area. I can recommend numerous ways to get your children reading more, but what struck me that day on the train was that there was one obvious factor that I was missing.
As parents, we model the behaviour we want to instil in our kids. We are their teachers and they learn how to behave through our guidance. So one of the greatest gifts we can give them is the gift of reading and how do we do that? By having them see us read too. If your child sees you on your smartphone at every waking moment, what are they going to take from that? This is behaviour that you are telling them is okay. And I’m not saying that you should get rid of your smartphone. They’re here to stay and we have to learn to live with them, but look at where we’ve got to. From the days when we only used mobile phones to phone or text someone, they’ve come a long was and now house everything you could ever desire. And we’re on them so much we’re addicted to them. Do you want that for your kids?
When I was little, my mum took me to the library every week. We couldn’t afford to buy new books, but that didn’t matter. She’s been an avid reader all her life and instilled a love of reading in me by exposing me to books, letting me find and choose ones that interested me and making reading a normal part of our lives. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’m also a fan of reading, as I learned that from my mum. I’ve modelled the same behaviour with my kids and even the reluctant reader enjoys books in her own way. It’s her poor eyesight that makes reading difficult, not her lack of enthusiasm for the written word.
So, I’m not here to lecture, but if you want your children to read more, then let them see you reading too.