Parent engagementReading

Raising readers in the age of digital distraction

There’s something magical about seeing a child curled up in a quiet space, lost in the pages of a compelling book. But in the age of digital distraction, encouraging a love of literature in children is becoming increasingly challenging.

Award-wining Brisbane teacher librarian Megan Daley has spent the past 20 years cultivating her own unique form of FOMO – FOMOOR: Fear of Missing Out on Reading.

Megan is a humble, but deeply passionate lover of literature who has been sharing the joy of reading with primary and high school students since her first teaching position at West Moreton Anglican College, in Ipswich, in 1998.

In 2013, she created an online blog, Children’s Books Daily, to help parents “make reading memories for their own children”. Today, Megan has a following of more than 15,000 people on Facebook and more than 10,000 on Instagram.

During her career she has earned a range of accolades including Queensland Teacher Librarian of the Year and the national Dromkeen Librarian’s Award.

This year Megan is publishing her first book, Raising Readers: How to Nurture a Child’s Love of Books. Well-known Brisbane author Rebecca Sparrow describes the book as “a magic key which will unlock a love of stories and reading within your child”.

     

The official launch is on 4 April at St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School, at Corinda in Brisbane’s south-west, where Megan has been the literary custodian and chief story teller for the past 12 years.

Parents, Megan says, have a vital role to play in not only supporting their children to read in the early years, but more critically, encouraging them to find and maintain their reading rhythm throughout their entire time at school.

“One of the most common things parents do is assume that when their child has learnt to read their job is done,” she says.

“If you take your eye off your child’s reading, they just stop because life is so busy.”

Megan encourages parents to view “bite-size” reading or incidental reading as opportunities to engage their children with text. It could be as simple as asking them to read out the recipe for an evening meal or the introduction of an age-appropriate YouTube clip.

“All of the reading that children do contribute to their view of themselves as readers. Bite-size chunks of reading are fantastic because they’re like incidental exercise,” she says.

Where some parents struggle is engaging their children in more sustained and focused reading.

Megan is passionate about bringing “reading alive” for young people and has some great tips on how parents can do this:

  • Find a topic your child is interested in – talk to your teacher-librarian, follow children’s book review blogs or talk with your local independent book store for recommendations. It could be a book that ties into a TV show your child likes to watch or one that has been written by or about a sporting or other personality your child admires.
  • Take your child to an author reading – if a child has been read part of a book at a book launch, they’re more likely to go home and finish reading the book.
  • Encourage your child to join a school or local children’s book club – sometimes these may be joint events that parents/carers can attend. If so, you can both enjoy reading and talking about a book together. Book clubs are also a place for children to talk about reading with their peers and friends. Girls, in particular, respond well to social reading opportunities.
  • Take your child to a writing or reading workshop at your local library or independent book store – create a buzz about the event and the other young people attending.

Megan encourages her students and her own children to “read mindfully” by switching off all devices around them to avoid interruption or distraction.

“It’s about being present with the book. Once children get into the flow they’ll often end up reading for much longer than what you or they may have anticipated.”

Megan also has a range of advice for parents who need inspiration to engage reluctant readers or with book recommendations to keep children reading.

Reluctant readers

Megan encourages parents with children who stonewall any discussion about reading, or who have difficulty engaging with text, to read to them, whether they’re in primary or high school.

“Read them the first two chapters of a book. By that stage they’re engaged with the story. Don’t put any pressure on them to finish it. But if you just leave it there they’ll often pick it up and finish it themselves.”

She is also a big fan of audio books and graphic novels – full-length stories published as a book in a comic-strip format.

“These are not a second-class reading choices. It’s about children and young people accessing story and being engaged and entertained by what they see, hear and read.”

Age-based reading recommendations

Finding a genre of books or author your child clicks with can make all the difference. Megan has identified some common reading themes to help parents maintain their child’s reading appetite from primary school through to high school and beyond.

Lower to middle primary

It starts with fostering a love of reading.

According to Megan, the most powerful thing parents can do in these early years is to supplement home readers with books that inspire and enthral children and make them want to read more.

“A lot of parents come unstuck in lower primary when they think their kids are doing lots of reading because their children are doing school readers,” she says.

“Those readers serve an absolutely important function, but they’re an educational text. You have to supplement readers with books that foster reading for pleasure.”

Middle to upper primary

It’s all about the “series”.

“As kids get busier with after-school activities and homework, it’s about finding those pockets of time where they can enjoy reading and see it as something they want to fit into their week,” Megan says.

“At this age the ‘series’ is where it’s at because it keeps them engaged in a story.”

Years 7 and above

It’s all about the author.

Megan says when young people connect with an author they often want to go on and read all the books published by that writer.

“For tweens and teens, it’s about the author themselves. They can follow and connect with them on social media which makes it real and personally impactful. It’s wonderful to see young people able to talk with the authors whose writing or style of story-telling resonates with them.”