Why is reading important for children?
Reading can reduce stress and promote mental well-being. The world within a book is a place where children can go to escape real life for a while, relax and think about other things.
Reading encourages comprehension and imagination – children need to visualize the characters and settings, and predict what will happen next.
Reading improves concentration – children need to focus on what they are reading so that they know what is happening in the story.
Reading increases vocabulary – over the course of reading a book, children are likely to come across words that are unfamiliar to them. They can ask an adult, use a dictionary, or infer the meaning for themselves – either way, they are learning new words and skills.
Reading gives children a deeper understanding of the world around them. A book can show them people, places and events that they would never otherwise experience.
Reading develops empathy – the ability to understand and be sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others. Through reading about characters who are in different situations and experiencing a range of emotions, children become more perceptive of how those around them might be feeling and why.
Although it may look passive, reading is very much an active pastime! Children can learn and develop so many different skills through the simple act of reading. As the eleven Harvard president, Charles W. Eliot, said:
Ideas for National Read A Book Day
Whether it is fiction or fact-based, a new book or an old favourite, every reading experience is a valuable one.
If a child is not yet of reading age, it doesn’t mean they can’t participate – you can read to them! As well as sharing the joy of reading a book together, it will help them to develop listening and concentration skills. Take a look at our 10 Storytelling Tips blog for some help and advice.
Wordless picture books are also excellent for developing children’s storytelling skills, and helping to foster a love of books. Check out PlanBee’s list of our favorite wordless books here.
Listening to audio books can also be a valuable experience for younger readers.
Reluctant and developing readers
Pair them up with a friend and let them share a book (they could take it in turns to pick). Encourage them to read together, and talk about what is happening in the story or their opinion about characters or events.
Books with short chapters are great for building up a developing reader’s stamina and keeping them engaged. JK Rowling’s The Ickabog, (which was originally released online at an average of two short chapters per day over 34 days, gaining a huge following) is a great example of a book with many cliff-hangers.
Mystery is a powerful tool – describe a selection of books to children using only three words or phrases related to each story (eg George’s Marvelous Medicine by Roald Dahl could be ‘grandma’, ‘potion’, and ‘giant chicken’,) and then let them decide which book they want to hear/read. You could also wrap the books up and write the three words on the front, then place them on the bookshelf.
Children could be encouraged to ask a friend for a book recommendation, and then give one themselves in return. For use in the classroom, PlanBee’s Foldable Review Bookmark is a fun and quick way to note down what the book is about and leave advice for the next potential reader.
Organize a book swap. The owner of each book could be encouraged to write a brief description of the story, who they think might like it and why, and attach it to the book, to help others decide which one to pick.
Hold a ‘book tasting’ session. Set up a table with a tablecloth, plates, drinks and menus. Place a different book on each plate, and in the menu, write a brief description of each one. Children are seated, then spend 5-10 minutes reading the book on the plate in front of them before moving around the table to ‘taste’ the next book. They could have a score card and rate how interested they are in each book, or how likely they are to continue reading it afterwards.
Start a book club. Make it appealing by including drinks and snacks! Make sure children know that the book club is a place where they can share their opinions and ask questions about what they have read without any judgment.
Diversity: books to keep it real
Rocket’s enthusiasm brings neighbors and family together to witness a once-in-a-lifetime sighting of a comet.
Super Duper You by Sophy Henn
This rhyming picture book celebrates all the different, extraordinary and sometimes contradictory things we are.
The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad
This story is about two sisters first day of school and one’s first day wearing the hijab.
Coming to England: An Inspiring True Story Celebrating the Windrush Generation by Baroness Floella Benjamin
When she was ten years old, Floella Benjamin, and her older sister and two younger brothers, set sail from Trinidad to London. Coming to England wasn’t at all what Floella had expected. This is a true story with the powerful message that courage and determination can always overcome adversity.
A girl inventor whose primary carer is her grandpa. It shows the character trying again and again.
Through My Window by Tony Bradman, Eileen Brown
Life on the child’s street as they wait for their mum to come home from work.
This is a powerful, moving picture book about colorism, self-esteem, and learning that true beauty comes from within made to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.
Your name is a song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
Frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronouncing her beautiful name, a little girl tells her mother she never wants to go back to school. So her mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names on their lyrical walk home through the city.
Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Browne
Handa, who’s part of the Luo tribe in southwest Kenya, decides to take seven pieces of delicious fruit to her friend, Akeyo, who lives in the neighboring village.
The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen by Thelma Lynne Godin
Set in New York, this is all about a girl who loves hula hooping.
Hair Love by Matthew Cherry
Tender and empowering, Hair Love is an ode to loving your natural hair—and a celebration of daddies and daughters everywhere.
There is also a Hair Love animation available to watch.
Like a girl by Lori Degman
24 women who took risks, acted up, broke barriers, and transformed the world.
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
Grace loves stories, whether they’re from books, movies, or the kind her grandmother tells. When her school of her decides to perform Peter Pan, Grace longs to play the lead, but her classmates of her point out that Peter was a boy and he was n’t black.
The Boy At the Back of the Class by Onjali Rauf
Aa child’s perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense.
Windrush Child by Benjamin Zephaniah
Leonard is shocked when he arrives with his mother in the port of Southampton. His father is a stranger to him, it’s cold and the Jamaican food does not taste the same as at home. Leonard does his best not to complain, to make new friends, to do well at school – even when people hurt him with their words and with their fists. (Due to be released Nov 5th 2020)
Fly Me Home by Polly Ho-Yen
Feeling lost and alone in a strange new city, Leelu wishes she could fly away back home – her real home where her dad is, thousands of miles away.
How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons
It’s 1944, and in a small, Southern, segregated town, eleven-year-old Ella spends her summers running wild with her cousins and friends. Ella visits Boston and sees what life outside of segregation is like, and begins to dream of a very different future. But her happiness de ella is shattered when she returns home to the news that her classmate has been arrested for the murder of two white girls