How to encourage children to a fun way

David Carey advises letting kids see you reading. It doesn’t matter what you read – from posters to newspapers

The greatest gift a parent or caregiver can give a child is the love of reading. Nothing opens the mind more to the world than reading books. Books stimulate the imagination, brighten the spirit and expand the child’s mind. Reading a book opens the door to the child’s inner life, giving them awareness of what can be seen and what cannot be seen.

Books are like magical illusions of a reality that is often unlike your own and sometimes like your own. Give a child a love of reading and you have enriched them for life.

Parents often ask how they can instil in children a love of books. The answer is relatively simple: let them see you reading. It doesn’t matter what you read. It can be a street sign, a poster on a shop window, a recipe, a newspaper, a comic book or a book. When a child lives with caregivers who read something regularly they observe and want to imitate. The child learns by watching that print material is something that is important to adults. All children want to imitate the adults around them.

The next step in helping children to read is to read to them. It can be the ritual of the bedtime story or it can be reading aloud from the sports page or recipe book. It doesn’t matter what you read but it is important to read to children from time to time. Read in front of, and to, your children and you will see them become more interested in reading themselves.


It is also important to let children read to you. This can be done even before children know how to read. How is that? Children can look at the pictures in a child’s book and make up stories to the pictures. All children love to tell stories. Have them hold a book, turn the pages, look carefully at the pictures and make up a story to go with them and tell it to you.

Books have a lovely smell. Ask your child to smell the book, feel the texture of the pages and to look at the cover. The cover of children’s books indicates what the story is about. Pictures are clues about what you can read.

From the age of three something wonderful happens in the child’s brain. Pathways are built, and begin to mature, that will be transformed into the brain skill we call reading. At this age, children are progressing from spoken language to a form of written language. Some children love to “scribble write”. Encourage your child to write notes to you or to others. Ask them to read what they have written. It doesn’t matter that there may be no real letters. Scribble writing is the beginning of real writing and real writing must eventually be read.

Don’t force or insist that children read. This may cause opposition or destroy the love of reading. It is best to be causal about reading, to read for enjoyment from time to time and not to formalise it too much. Placing reading demands on a child almost always leads to resistance and a feeling that reading is something teachers make you do and parents force you to do. Keep it casual and fun and the end result will be positive.

The obvious result is that children learn to read. There are far more benefits, however. Reading opens the child’s mind and heart to the world around them. Reading with parents cements the wonderful bond, calms the child and their guardian and soothes the difficulties the world often puts in our way. Reading stimulates the child’s imagination and imagination is the key to the inner life of the child. In a child’s imagination they create visions of their future and the future of the world around them. When children read their minds open, their spirit opens, their hearts open and their imaginations open. Give your child the best gift of all – the gift of reading.

Early childhood development expert David Carey is the spokesperson for the Bord Gáis Energy Little Readers campaign. The campaign, now in its third year, aims to inspire reading from an early age and this year there are 5,000 books for children all over Ireland to enjoy.

Little Readers books are free for under-fives whose parents or guardians are members of the Bord Gáis Energy Book Club. To register and apply for your free book, visit There is a maximum of two books per household.