Parents introduce their children to everything that was memorable about their own childhoods – the places they went on holiday, the music they listened to and lessons learned. Shouldn’t the same thing happen with books?
There’s a kind of magic about reading aloud to a child. You’re introducing them to the mysteries of the imagination, to be inquisitive and thoughtful, to see books as companions. And you’re giving your child a head start.
A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says that teenagers whose parents had helped them with reading when they started school, were six months ahead in reading ability by the age of 15.
What’s more, the parents didn’t have to be super-educated themselves for reading to have an effect. The important thing is to read books regularly with your kids, say several times a week, and to talk about what you read together afterwards.
(And research suggests that some types of fiction might actually increase one’s empathy and understanding of others. Books are amazing in all sorts of ways.)
What are you going to read together?
Well, how about the books you loved as a child? I don’t think kids in nursery and primary school will mind too much about what they read with mum and dad, so it’s a perfect time to introduce them to Fungus The Bogeyman or James and the Giant Peach.
Thanks to the explosion of the ‘Young Adult’ genre – with books like The Fault in our Stars and series such as The Hunger Games turned into blockbuster films – it’s now possible for adults and teenagers to read and enjoy the same books. (I recommend Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.)
As author and Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman says in a Guardian interview: ‘It’s telling that even now, there are far more children’s books and books for teens that I’d like to reread than books for adults’.
So, if you’re a parent – or an aunt or uncle – take a look at the World Book Day website. Its packed with cool ideas and resources, including ‘virtual workshops’ with famous authors, setting up book swaps and cake sales to raise funds for Book Aid and even giving kids a chance to win their school library £10,000 worth of books.
What was your favourite book growing up? Let us know in the comments. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find my copy of The Cats of Seroster.
PS. I’ve been told it’s also #NameTagDay. As an exercise, if a group of kids is reading the same book, write the characters’ names on tags and distribute them to the kids at random. They can then explore the book’s themes and ideas ‘in character’, perhaps explaining why ‘they’ chose to do certain things or how they felt.