Helping children choose the right book
Annual research by the National Literacy Trust consistently finds an enjoyment gap between girls and boys when it comes to reading for pleasure. The University of Dundee did a study in 2016 into the reading habits of over a million students and found that boys of all ages read less thoroughly than girls, skipping parts of books and consistently choosing reading material that is too easy for them.
In 2019, research also highlighted the significant impact of book ownership on life outcomes. Children who reported that they had a book of their own were not only more engaged with reading but also six times more likely to read above the level expected for their age than children who didn’t own a book, according to the National Literacy Trust.
We want all children to reap the academic and personal benefits of reading, therefore it is important to tackle the factors which may be taking away from their enjoyment and causing them to skip parts or half-heartedly flick through the pages.
Genre and topic
A child's attention will wane if they are not interested in the book they are reading. It is, therefore, important you help your child something to read that they will want to read. This will help them to become more invested in the plot and the characters and keep them wanting to read on to see what happens next.
Try to find books that appeal to your child's existing interests. Remember, you aren't just limited to fiction and some children will be more interested in learning about the world around them. Maybe a book about racing cars, or a history book about an inspiring figure will be best for your child. If they enjoy a book, you can look for others by the same author, or suggest that they read the next in the series.
Ability, not age
Children will quickly become frustrated and disheartened when reading a book which is too difficult for them. Likewise, they will soon disengage with a book if it is too easy for them. Encourage your child to select books based on their ability, not their age.
It is important to let your child's ability guide their reading choices, not their school's expectations of what they should be reading. Kumon's Recommended Reading List is categorised in this very way - by difficulty, rather than age or academic year.
Length of the book
When helping a child to choose a book to read, consider if they will be able to finish it in a good amount of time. As wonderful as the 600-page classic you have in mind may be, if your child rushes to finish it, they'll be more likely to skip passages and read less thoroughly, causing them to miss out on details and lessening their enjoyment of the book.
Consider the length of the last book they read and how long it took them to reach the end - did they breeze through it in a day? Did it take them months and months to see the last page? Then it might be time to reconsider the length of what they're reading!
Created as a supplement to the Kumon English Programme, Kumon's Recommended Reading List has 380 books of all genres and styles, intended to help all students including those studying the maths programme, to develop a love of reading. Students are encouraged to choose books which match their reading ability, and work their way through the recommendations as their skills, fluency, and confidence improve.
Reading books should entertain and enlighten; so in choosing books that are just right for the reader, we can encourage them to read more and more and develop a lifelong love of reading!