Libraries, role models inspire children’s love of reading 

As National Book Week draws to a close, Griffith University literacy expert Professor Beryl Exley says the motivation to read is really important for children’s understanding of the written word.

“The local library can be really helpful to families as it gives them access to a wide range of books and allowing them to choose what they want to read helps them engage with those texts,’’ she says.

“It’s also very important for children to have a reading role model, as they benefit from having people around them who they admire and if that person makes regular time to read to them, the children are more likely to become interested in reading.”

She says even in the 21st century children’s picture books are still important in helping children engage with texts and promote learning.

“From black and white drawings which supplement the written word in a novel, to rich and colourful, sophisticated electronic formats, there is so much choice today for young readers.

“As well as beautifully illustrated hard copies, we’re also seeing a new breed of children’s picture books emerge with digital technology and this is where the interactive element arises.

“When a child moves through the picture book in e-book format they have to bring the characters alive, they do tasks to show they’ve actually connected to that character or understood something in that character’s world.

“Some of the e-books allow children to choose their own adventure, so there doesn’t have to be a linear way of reading these particular texts.”

She said when it comes to engaging children in reading practices, teachers in Australian schools were doing more scaffolding work with children to help them interact with texts.

“It’s a really exciting place to be teaching.”

The home environment is also an important place to instil a love of reading in children.

“We encourage the reading of books at home for pleasure and to allow conversations to happen about the experiences of the characters and life worlds that children can’t experience but they benefit from knowing about them.

“We also know that reading opportunities are richer when we’ve had the opportunity to talk to somebody about how we understood a text, some of the situations that happen to characters, and the environments in which a character appears.

Another reason children’s literature holds so much value is for reading pleasure. It’s always a pleasure reading something that’s been either written or illustrated in a sophisticated way and to be able to work through that text – whether written or visual.

Professor Beryl Exley is an international expert in English Curriculum and Literacy Education. She has published widely on her research on the teaching of reading. She is the National President of the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association.