World Book Day: The benefits of reading for children

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To celebrate World Book Day, we popped in to Octavia’s Bookshop in Cirencester to discuss the magical powers of books and the importance of nurturing a love of reading in younger (and older) children.

As an adult, curling up with a good book can be sheer joy and a much-needed way of escaping the pressures of everyday life. For children, a love of reading from a young age can bring about many fantastic benefits including improved vocabulary and language skills, a better understanding of the world, greater concentration and focus, a positive impact on emotional and intellectual wellbeing and a wider and brighter imagination.

In a world where screens can often take precedence over books, it can sometimes feel like an uphill struggle to entice children (particularly teenagers!) away from their devices. But by encouraging reading from an early age, children can develop a healthy love of books which will carry on throughout the rest of their lives, bringing with it a plethora of positive emotions and extended knowledge.

Here Octavia shares her experience of the written word and provides some top tips on how to encourage children to read from an early age…

When did you first get into reading and what inspired you to read?

I was into books from a very young age. My family brought us up to love books. My mother would take me to a bookshop nearly every weekend to choose a new one. I would save up all my pocket money for more and more books. I loved the book illustrations but also the magic of escaping into another world.

At what age can children start to look at books, and what kind of books are ideal for younger children?

Even newborn babies can experience books. Some mums read to their bumps before their babies are born, as the reading soothes them. A young child can have cloth books, then touchy-feely board books, followed by illustrated stories from the age of one. The best age is seven when they are free readers and can enjoy a book for themselves, although you are never too old to have a story read to you.

What tips would you give to parents of young children to help nurture a love of reading?

To help nurture a love of reading, you can read them stories from a very young age and make it fun and part of a daily routine. Reading should only be a joy, not a chore like homework. There is a book for everyone, fiction or fact, illustrated or interactive.

How can parents make reading time fun for their children?

To make reading time fun, never put too much pressure on children to enjoy a book that isn’t being enjoyed, and never rush them or push them to read something harder. A love of reading and confidence in reading is more important than reading harder, longer books.

How do young children benefit from their parents reading to them?

It is so important to start reading to children from a young age. Their attention span will be better as they will be used to sitting still and focusing on something, especially something that’s not a screen. This means school work will become easier as they will be used to concentrating.

What books would you recommend for pre-schoolers, primary school-aged children and teenagers?

Our favourite preschool book is Listen, Listen illustrated by Alison Jay. This is a beautiful board book, with things to spot in nature, about the changing of the seasons with wonderful illustrations and onomatopoeic words.

  • For five to eight-year-olds one of our favourites is The Bolds by Julian Clary which is hysterically funny.
  • For eight to 12-year-olds one of the best books is The Explorer by Katherine Rundell. A wonderful, beautifully written Amazon adventure story.
  • For teens, I love historical fiction and also Laura Wood who wrote A Sky Painted Gold. This resonates with me as it so echoes The Great Gatsby mixed with Little Women and I Capture the Castle but set in Cornwall. So pretty perfect really.

As children get older (and phones come into their lives!) reading can take a back seat. What tips do you have to encourage teenagers to keep reading?

To keep teens reading bring them to Octavia’s Bookshop - we have a fantastic range of young adult fiction! NB: You’ll find Octavia’s wonderful Bookshop at 24 Black Jack Street, Cirencester. GL7 2AA.

How do children benefit from reading?

When the world is a challenging place, with the pandemic and too much use of screens, books more than ever provide pure escapism.

For more information and reading tips for children head to the World Book Day website https://www.worldbookday.com/families/