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We all know how important reading is for children and that reading to even the tiniest toddler will help them in so many ways, but it can be frustrating if you find that your child loses interest after a little while or simply won't settle when you are ready to read a book.
The first thing to remember, is that this is not unusual. Every child is different and while some love the idea of a book, the pictures, the page turning the flaps etc, others are not interested. They don't want to lift flaps or look at the pictures. They consider reading a book as something passive, they sit back and listen and perhaps fall asleep rather than get involved. Or, they will just lose interest and walk away. The answer is not to force them to sit, be still and listen. It is our job to inspire them.
- Find something they are interested in. Have a chat with your child and find out what they like. They may not like train books, but love books about animals. Then, focus on their interest and keep feeding them more of the same.
- Find books that reflect what they have done or recall a recent event. If they have just been a bridesmaid or been to a castle, find books that relate to this experience. Start by not even opening the book, but look at the front cover and talk about it. Then, talk about their own experience.
- Don't assume that children only want stories(ie. fiction). Some are not interested in wizards or fairies but will be more excited by facts. A book about the body, nature, how cars are made etc may inspire them.
- Don't be too demanding. Don't expect to read pages of words and finish the book each time. You may not even complete each book you start. Read a few pages then if you feel it's time to stop, then do!
- You don't even need to read a single word! Just look at the pictures, talk about the colours and the illustrations. Compare the pictures to real life or imagine how you would draw the pictures.
- Read at different times. While routine can be great for some children and a book before bed can be an ideal time to set aside. Don't think that's the only time you can read with your child. Read before breakfast, or after lunch or take a book out and about to the coffee shop, in a car journey or to the doctor's and read together.
- Make it fun! In winter snuggle under a blanket and have a warm drink together. In summer take a book to the park and sit on a rug under a tree.
- Don't forget the voices... children adore the funny voices that parents and carers put on when reading a book. Try to make the book as animated and as compelling as possible.
- Ask your child to choose the book. Try not to dictate which book you read, give them the choice and don't feel aggrieved if they choose the same one they had yesterday. Children love repetition and familiarity so just read it again or focus on something different this time when you read the book.
- Book activities: A book is more than words: one day how about focusing on the pictures only: count how many sheep in the field or clouds in the sky. Ask your child to find the carrot in the picture or ask what colour the door is. Make the pictures come alive by asking interesting questions that they can answer and feel involved and inspired by what they find in the book.