Acting Head of English

Academic plenary season is coming to a close. After six years at Loreto, I’ve noticed that a frequently asked question from parents in the junior years is, ‘How do I encourage my daughter to read?’ 

Year 7 parents report their daughters’ love of reading, but often show some concern about the encroachment of YouTube into recreation time. Year 8 parents reflect nostalgically that their daughter, ‘used to be such a great reader.’ And understandably, parents of students in Year 9 and above have all but succumbed to the realisation that their daughter rarely reads for pleasure.   This is a generalisation, but the Learning Resource Centre borrowing rates also reflect these patterns. It’s never too late to develop reading habits but it does take some parental input and effort. 

To research answers to the perennial question of how to ‘grow’ readers, I drew heavily on the work of cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham. While there is no magic wand, the following suggestions are practical, accessible and address some of the misconceptions about cultivating a habit of reading for leisure.

  • Show that you value reading and knowledge
    • Model curiosity. When you go to a museum, read the placards. Ask your child about what they are reading and why they like it, even if you don’t think too highly of the book yourself.
    • Buy your child a bookcase, however modest, to show that books have pride of place in your home.
    • Your child needs to see you reading, not only to see that you value it, but to build a conception of themselves as a member of a family of readers.
  • Support your child to schedule their leisure time
    • The evidence is unclear about whether reading is ‘pushed out’ by digital media. It is clear that engaging with online entertainment is an easier option than reading.
    • The brain is not thought to be malleable enough for attention spans to permanently ‘change’ in response to digital media, but children are more impatient with boredom than ever before.
    • You can help your child by scheduling reading time into their extra-curricular program. Be forewarned though, ‘rewards’ for reading have the opposite effect to what we might hope and actually diminish motivation and intrinsic pleasure.
    • Children need 20 minutes or more per session to really engage meaningfully with a book.
  • Make reading the easy option
    • If your child borrows, prompt them to borrow several books. This will make a change of mind a simple and quick transaction.
    • Consider e-readers which give instant access to texts. No more waiting to go to the mall or library.
    • If you are more concerned with reading for pleasure and habit formation, and less concerned about knowledge, find books that align with your child’s interests. Even Wattpad or fanfiction online is better than nothing.
    • On this note, asking other parents about the books their children are enjoying could be a useful way to find accessible and enjoyable books for your daughter.

We are so lucky to have a team of passionate and dedicated staff at the Loreto Learning Resource Centre. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with the LRC or your child’s English teacher for more specific advice about book choices for your child and together we can revive your daughter’s enthusiasm for reading. 

Willingham, D.T. (2015). Raising Kids Who Read : What Parents and Teachers Can Do. New York: John Wiley  & Sons Inc.

 

Ms Rebecca Birch

Acting Head of English