Championing Children’s Reading

A Round Robin Post

This month, dear followers, we have been asked to address the following question:

How do you encourage reading in your children?

Despite my age and the impact technology has had on the formats that children read in, I have decided to begin with myself. A little self-indulgent, but somehow looking back at my own reading as a child feels like a good place to start. It also gave me an excuse to dig up some very old and sentimental books!

The very first book that I recall absolutely loving is An ABC for You and Me. It wasn’t just that, on the very first page, ‘Ann has an Apple’ (no matter that my name was spelt without an ‘e’, this book was clearly about me, even if in the form of cute mice, rabbits, squirrels and birds), it was also beautifully illustrated and an initial introduction to my future love: calligraphy. Learning the alphabet seemed secondary, as was probably intended, and the cute rhyme on the last pages (‘XYZ went off to bed at the end of the ABC’) perhaps also set me up for a future love of poetry.

Moving on to books with a few more words and a proper story, we come to the wonderful Molly Brett. A theme is already emerging here of how important pictures and illustrations can be in helping a child to engage. I just loved Molly’s beautiful pictures of nature and wildlife, and the stories just fitted in a very satisfactory way around the edges.

I didn’t move on far for my next memory, and predictably these books also featured animals as their main characters: come in Alison Uttley and the Little Grey Rabbit stories! I think that non-human characters are still very popular with children but perhaps the trend now days is for central characters to be human (perhaps more identifiable) – maybe on some kind of a quest. Of course that doesn’t stop an author going to town on an array of non-human characters – just consider J K Rowling and Harry Potter.

Alongside books with stories, I have always loved poetry. I was lucky to be given anthologies of poems when I was young, and who can resist the humorous poetry of people like A A Milne and Spike Milligan? I think you can see from the state of my copy of Now We Are Six just how much it was loved and read.  Humour and children – well that is definitely the winning combination!

My love of beautiful illustrations and wildlife (or perhaps my mother’s, as she was the purchaser of most of our mini-library of books) continued with books like the haunting Rustle of Spring. Nature and how it works allows difficult themes of cruelty and competition and survival to filter into children’s reading, and several of my books that had central animal stories brought me to tears.

Sadly I can’t bring you more photographs as I move on – the books themselves are now lost to me. Longer stories and novels that I remember clearly include the old but timeless Gobbolino: The Witch’s Cat by Ursula Moray Williams. I really identified with the struggles of the little kitten to find his true nature and identity. I clearly enjoyed all things Witchy (although many of the traditional fairy tales were a little too scary for me), because another book that I recall loving was The Witch’s Daughter by Nina Bawden. What young girl could resist a heroine with the name ‘Perdita’? Mythology and history were also strongly appealing – especially Mary Stewart’s series of books about about Merlin.

It’s hard to say what helped most to encourage me to read. Books that engaged both the eyes and the heart, and time spent with my mother who would read to us at bedtime. The sense that my mother also valued these books was important, and the gradual movement from illustrations with a few words to words with a few illustrations. In fact, the feeling that I was growing up and moving on and actually making ‘progress’ from one thing to another probably helped me to grow naturally into new reading challenges.

My mother would also make up stories for us. It felt magical and personal and gave me the knowledge that reading and writing was something that I myself could do, not just an unknown author scribbling away in the ubiquitous attic somewhere.

Not every child, though, has such a positive route to reading. My own son is dyslexic. He loved being read to as a child, but became resistant once he was given longer books to read himself. Once he was diagnosed the need to experiment with different formats became clearer, and for a while more visual-based materials like magazines and cartoons were a help. It was a minor miracle when we discovered Lemony Snicket and the A Series of Unfortunate Events books by Daniel Handler. They were quirky and fun and digestible, but more importantly they were printed with wide spacing onto cream coloured paper – much more readable for a dyslexic child. Briefly, my son loved reading again.

It is interesting that, much later in his life when he had reached adulthood, my son began reading again because he acquired a Kindle electronic reader. I was sceptical about how much use it would get when he asked me to buy him one to take away with him on his campervan adventures, but within weeks he had devoured several books. So: don’t make assumptions, experiment with format, and never forget that words can be shared verbally as well as on paper!
See the suggestions other writers have for encouraging reading in children:
Skye Taylor
Victoria Chatham
Dr. Bob Rich
Connie Vines
A.J. Maguire
Anne Stenhouse
Helena Fairfax
Fiona McGier
Rhobin L Courtright

© Anne de Gruchy

11 thoughts on “Championing Children’s Reading

  1. My eldest is Autistic and had subsequently has a severe learning delay! however early on he had a love of poetry, I gave him books to relax with in his hyper moments. The Gruffalo I read to him must have been fifty times, in the end I could read it word from word in my sleep as I told him it in the early hours when he struggled to sleep. When the animations came out I found all my children were engaged and enjoyed the wonderfully made films. However your children begin to understand a story, the book may be the first or last visual it is the opportunity to enjoy it whatever their learning ability!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for sharing your experiences of reading with your son. The joy of finding the right book or reading experience for each person is a wonderful thing.


      • It is not often I share! but I always feel whatever the medium they access stories, whether it is films or books (my preference!) as long as they can understand and discuss the narrative they are focussed on you are half way there!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Anne, You having possession of some of your earliest books surprised me. How wonderful even if they might be falling apart. Problems individuals have in reading is also a very important topic. Learning a Kindle made reading for your son understandable and enjoyable was another positive surprise.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t recall the first books read to me, but I know they were Golden Books as I had a vast collection of them. But I vividly recall reading and rereading Heidi and wishing with all my heart I could be her. Totally escaped what I considered to be an ordinary live into the beauty of the Swiss Alps every time I opened that book,

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Some of my kids’ favorite poems were written by Shel Silverstein. Who can ever forget “Hungry Mungry”? Or “Sarah Cynthia Stout, who would not take the garbage out?” They also enjoyed Jack Prelutsky’s poems, especially the ones about dinosaurs. Teaching kids to love reading is giving them a gift that will last a lifetime. And also, giving them a leg up on everyone else. Others might think of reading as a chore, but my kids know better!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Some wonderful person has anonymously sent me copies of ‘The Witch’s Daughter’ and ‘Gobbolino The Witch’s Cat’! You are brilliant and kind, whoever you are. It is a genuine puzzle – no post mark and I don’t recognise the handwriting though I probably should. Feel free to let me know who you are so I can say ‘thank you’ properly…


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