July 04, 2016

Give a child a book they’ll love!

In a recent lecture for the Reading Agency on the future of reading and libraries, children’s author Neil Gaiman described the importance of helping children to fall in love with reading through the provision of appropriate reading matter. He championed reading as a pleasurable activity and emphasised the importance of giving children books that they will enjoy: ‘The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them. I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad book for children.’ Gaiman identifies the importance of connecting children with books that they will love in order to create a passion for reading.

‘The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity’

BookTrust c.e.o Diana Gerald expressed disappointment that a recent BBC survey revealing which books children should read focused only on the classics. Such a bias could provide many obstacles to children developing a reading habit. Gerald explains: “We’re great fans of Pants by Giles Andreae and Nick Sharratt because children love shouting ‘pants’ every time they turn the page,” she said. “The point is that the wider variety of choice a child is given, the more likely they are to love reading. And that, after all, is what this is all about.”

‘The point is that the wider variety of choice a child is given, the more likely they are to love reading’

For young children, it is especially important to give them books they can get excited about. If they love Thomas, Mr Men or Fireman Sam on television, what better way to introduce them to the joy of reading than with the help of their favourite character? Children build strong connections with well-loved characters for a variety of reasons. With heroic characters such as Thomas the Tank Engine and Fireman Sam, children often find them aspirational. In Help Your Child Love Reading, Alison David, Consumer Research Director at Egmont, describes four main ways with which children connect with favourite characters:

Reflection: children recognise their own character traits and go on learning journeys with characters. Thomas the Tank Engine, for example, means well but often gets it wrong.

Emulation: children want to be heroes like Fireman Sam and save the day. They want to feel that sense of control.

Nurturing: children seek a certain security in the familiarity of nurturing characters such as Something Special’s Mr Tumble.

Dis-identification: allows children to explore their naughtier side through characters like Fireman Sam’s Naughty Norman.

Children like nothing more than to spend hours and hours with their favourite character. The fun-packed combination of a personalised book featuring not just the child but also their favourite characters will become a bedtime favourite that will help propel a child towards a regular reading habit.