My (just) 8-year-old son loves being read to, and always has. He is the youngest in his year group and was put under a lot of pressure to start reading aged 4-5. I just don’t think he was ready and it has really put him off. He reads quite well now and his school encourages 15 minutes of reading at home every day. We mostly manage this but it’s often a real effort to get him to sit and read. I long for him to enjoy his reading – how can I instil this love?
It’s important to remove any traces of pressure from the daily reading ration and appear completely unpressured yourself: difficult to achieve.
What do you like to read? Thrillers, magazines, cookery books, seed catalogues? Make sure your son sees you reading and enjoying it. If you would usually read in bed (for the few minutes you get to yourself) read at least some of these pages in public. Ask other older family members or visitors to collude with you in this. Only use reading material that you honestly want to read. If you think the time is right, suggest that he sits and reads with you “just while I finish this chapter” and make sure it takes 15 minutes. Appear to be interested in your reading rather than monitoring his reading.
Fortunately there is a huge choice of enticing books for this age group, including plenty of series that are clearly meant for fun rather than target-related tasks and mean another title can be offered right away if one is a success. You can’t go far wrong with the shortlisted books for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize (check out the current 7-14 winner, Jamie Thomson, author of the Dark Lord series). You’ll find all the shortlists from previous years at www.booktrust.org.) Depending on your son’s particular level of ability and enthusiasms, you might try Jeremy Strong, Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants, good preparation for Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid books), Eoin Colfer (Half Moon Investigations), the new Doctor Who stories from Colfer and other Puffin authors and (my personal cure for most reading reluctance ills) Andy Stanton’s Mr Gum books. All these authors have websites with fun background material and interactive activities.
If he enjoys fantasy, try Beast Quest. If he likes silly jokes, share reading Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes aloud, then give him some Michael Rosen poetry books and ask him to read you his favourites. There will be something that he enjoys so much (football, dogs, robots) that he’s prepared to read about it and eventually you will find it together.