Some children are naturally inclined to pick up a book at bedtime but others avoid them like the plague. This month's 'Ask our expert' sees our education consultant advise an anxious parent on reading.
Q: My daughter read avidly from the age of 4 and had finished all the Harry Potter books by the time she was 9. My son is now 9 and I can't get him to read anything other than football magazines. He resists all my attempts to start him on proper books. What can I do?
A: My sympathies. My son was exactly the same and when he had to spend several months off school through illness and still wouldn't read, it almost drove me demented.
It's one thing to cuddle up next to a 4-year-old and read a picture book together. A 9-year-old is a very different proposition. And 9-year-olds have so many other ways to occupy their time these days - computer games being, of course, the principle time-cruncher.
If your aim is to encourage the enjoyment of reading, you won't do it by force-feeding, threats, bribes or inducements. You certainly won't do it by buying him books that he will find a chore and will end up by ‘losing.’
You have to work with your son and alongside him. The key thing is to start making reading a habit - whatever he reads.
So, here's a few things you can try:
i) Make sure he sees you reading and getting really absorbed in what you read. That normalises it.
ii) Pick up on his enthusiasms. If he is into sports or space travel or Minecraft or war gaming there is always literature to go with these activities. Some football magazines use grown-up words like strategies and complete sentences. There will be books on all these things. Try to bring yourself to read these with him and talk over the content. You can even encourage him to look critically at the style.
iii) Reading is not just about books. If you want to encourage your son’s reading, don't rubbish his preference for reading on a screen. Why not buy him a Kindle or download books he can read on an ipad?
iv) One of his friends probably really enjoys reading. Ask someone your son respects to recommend something that he feels he will enjoy. If your son doesn't listen to you he may well be prepared to listen to someone he considers more on his wavelength.
Most people read in the end, but some take longer to come to it than others. My son now tells me what I should be reading.