As a child, one of my favourite activities was the weekly trip to the local library with my mom. I was an avid reader from a young age and grew up in a home filled with books. I vividly remember the first time a teacher introduced me to the beautiful minds of authors like Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, and Enid Blyton. Although I have adapted and evolved with the times – getting most of my reading material in the form of ‘e’ and audiobooks – nothing makes me happier than browsing a traditional bookshop. I run my fingers over the covers, smell the pages and stop myself from buying twenty books for the ever-growing ‘to-be-read list.’

Unfortunately, reading has become a lost art in today’s fast-paced world. With so many distractions, forgetting the wonders of getting lost in a good book is easy. Yet, reading is one of the most wonderful hobbies one can have. It opens new worlds, stimulates imagination, and expands knowledge. It is a hobby that can bring a lifetime of pleasure.

Why you should read to your children

As a parent, you can shape your child’s future. Reading aloud with your child, whether young or old, can create a deeper bond between parent and child. It also instils a love for reading, which they can carry throughout their life. Aside from the emotional and social benefits, reading is also essential for the brain’s development. Studies show that reading accelerates brain development and improves cognitive abilities.

Reading also improves vocabulary and general knowledge, enhances empathy and emotional intelligence, and reduces stress. It develops critical thinking skills and encourages creativity. So how can you ensure that reading doesn’t become a lost art in your home? Here are a few tips:

  1. Don’t fear or undermine technology: The modern world is filled with tech, and our kids need to be exposed to it if they can keep up and cope with it as adults. This tech has been incredible for kids who would have been left behind 20 years ago. Kids with challenges like dyslexia, Irlen syndrome, ADHD, and visual processing disorders were often undiagnosed. Teachers just assumed these children couldn’t grasp reading, and most struggled through school. While this is still often the case, those aware of their children’s challenges can use technology to their advantage. My son is severely dyslexic but has a thirst for knowledge and a love of stories. I got an Audible account when he was seven and never looked back. He ploughed through novels reserved for kids much older than his tender years, yet his comprehension was on par. Reading is not just about looking at letters on a page. The joy comes from hearing the stories and conjuring images in your head, regardless of your chosen format. Many apps and websites offer interactive and engaging stories, e-books, and audiobooks. You could also download reading games and puzzles to make reading fun and interactive for your child.
  2. Set a good example: Children often mimic their parents’ behaviour, so if they see you reading, they are more likely to develop an interest in books. Set aside time every day to read a book or a newspaper, and ensure your child sees you doing it. This will help them understand that reading is an enjoyable and worthwhile activity.
  3. Create a reading-friendly environment: Create a cosy and comfortable reading space in your home. This could be a living room corner or a dedicated reading nook in their bedroom. Ensure enough light, a comfy chair or cushion, and plenty of books to choose from. You could also play soft music in the background to create a calm and relaxing atmosphere.
  4. Start early: It is never too early to start reading to your child. Even if they are too young to understand the words, they will still enjoy the sound of your voice and the colourful illustrations in the books. As they grow older, they will develop an interest in the stories and characters and eventually start reading independently.
  5. Let your child choose the books: Encourage them to choose the books they want to read. Take them to the library or bookstore and let them browse the shelves. This will give them a sense of ownership and interest them more in reading. You could also ask them to recommend books and read them together as a family.
  6. Make reading fun: Reading should not be a chore or punishment. Instead, make it an enjoyable activity by incorporating it into your daily routine. For example, you could read to your child before bedtime or have a family reading hour on weekends. You could also organise a book club for your child and their friends, where they can discuss their favourite books and exchange recommendations.
  7. Celebrate reading milestones: Celebrate your child’s reading milestones by praising them and rewarding them with small treats or prizes. This will motivate them to keep reading and make them proud of their achievements.

Encouraging your children to read is one of the best gifts you can give them. If you are not sure where to start, here are some recommended books broken down by age group to get you started:

For young children (ages 0-5):

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Winnie-the-Pooh by A A Milne

Anything by Julia Donaldson

For foundation phase children (ages 6-9):

Giraffe’s Knot by Michaël Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo

Angry Owl Goes Swimming by Kerryn Ponter

The Elephant Who Was Scared By Rachel Elliot

The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde

The Twits by Roald Dahl

George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl

Anything by David Walliams

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series

Intermediate Phase Children (10-13)

Holes by Louis Sachar

The Fablehaven book series by Brandon Mull

The Land of Stories series by American Chris Colfer.

Anything by David Walliams

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series

The Witches by Roald Dahl

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

For teenagers (ages 13-18):

Eragon by Christopher Paolini.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon