How to cultivate a love of reading in your child – whether they’re a toddler or teen

If stocking the bookshelves with the latest kids books hasn’t inspired your little one’s love of reading just yet, then heed our advice on bringing out the bookworm in your child

Help your child develop a love of reading that will last a lifetime 

Children who enjoy reading and writing are happier with their lives, according to the UK’s National Literacy Trust. Yet only 55 percent of children in Dubai’s private schools read for pleasure, says a report by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

If you’re keen to help your little one spark a passion for reading, then see our top tips for nurturing bookworms at every age and stage. 

Newborn to age 4

Man wearing grey shirt holds a baby in white and a grey hat and reads a picture book to him
Reading aloud benefits your baby in more ways than one

Start them young

“Books should be shared with babies as soon as possible,” said Yvette Judge, Education and Children’s Programme Advisor for the Emirates Literature Foundation. Reading aloud not only strengthens your bond, but helps build language, literacy, and social-emotional skills in little ones, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Choose picture books

Bright and colourful picture books are perfect for budding bookworms, as they introduce young minds to primary colours, numbers, shapes, and rhymes in a fun and age appropriate way.

Make bedtime stories a daily ritual

Reading a bedtime story offers a chance to reconnect and de-stress from the day. Kids will thrive on this feel-good routine and the habit of reading to help unwind the mind and prepare for sleep is something they can continue to turn to as they grow older. 

5 to 11 years old

two young boys reading a book outside
Encourage them to start reading independently when they get a little older

Let them choose

Children now have a grasp of independent reading and will start to develop their own interests when it comes to choosing a topic. This is a great time to start taking your child to the local library or bookshop so they can select books they are excited about.

Keep their favourite preschool books

“Don’t give away the books your child had as a toddler just yet,” said Yvette. “Sometimes it is a joyful discovery when a child realises that they can read a book that had been read to them when they were younger.” 

Don’t make a fuss

“Avoid making reading a daily chore for your kids,” said Yvette. Encourage them by guiding them to read at their level and keep the more challenging texts for bedtime stories. You can also point your child towards solo-reading shorter chapter books, which will help them feel as if they are progressing in their reading skills. When they feel successful, they’ll be more likely to want to continue.

12 to 16 years old

Inspire your teen to desire their own budding bookshelf

Focus on their interests

Getting your teenager to read needn’t be a battle. Hone in on topics that really appeal to them, whether it’s the book versions of their favourite films or television shows, or simply investigating different genres until you find what makes them tick. 

Use technology to inspire reading

If your child is more excited by gadgets than paperbacks, you could invest in a Kindle so they can keep all their favourite books on one device. 

Lead by example

Finally, one of the most powerful ways to inspire a love of reading in children of all ages is by leading by example. Children imitate behaviour, so model what you want to see. If they see you devoting some time to enjoying a good book, it’s likely they will follow suit. 

Add to Reading list

The Emirates Literature Foundation (ELF) and Ministry of Tolerance have launched a project with Emirati authors and illustrators to produce a series of 30, beautiful children’s stories on the theme of tolerance. Available in Arabic and English, the books will be distributed to libraries, schools and cultural centres across the UAE and internationally as part of the new ELF initiative.

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