Book now for a great start in life

Sophie Stainthorpe and her son, Finley, escape to the Neverland while reading Peter Pan.

Sophie Stainthorpe and her son, Finley, escape to the Neverland while reading Peter Pan. - Credit: Archant

As children across the country are encouraged to get lost in a book this week for Children's Book Week, we discover why reading doesn't just make you better at reading.

The right book is always the book that a child actually wants to read.

The right book is always the book that a child actually wants to read. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

I am reading Peter Pan to my five-year-old son, Finley, at the moment. We're just about to leave the nursery and fly off to the Neverland.

It's a welcome break from Biff, Chip and Kipper, and truly falls under the 'reading for pleasure' banner. And I'm happy to hear that, if Finley continues his love of books as he grows, it will help him in all aspects of educational attainment.

There has been a lot of research focused on reading for pleasure and how it's one of the biggest indicators of achievement in secondary schools.

Coventry University's Centre for Research in Psychology, Achievement and Behaviour produced a 2015-16 literature review on the subject, which focuses on existing empirical and theoretical evidence of factors influencing reading for pleasure for secondary school students.

Key findings reveal that:

• Currently there is a large gap in achievement between secondary school students who read books for pleasure and those who do not.

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• Reading for pleasure has been associated not only with increases in reading attainment but also with writing ability, text comprehension, grammar, breadth of vocabulary, attitudes, self-confidence as a reader, pleasure in reading in later life, general knowledge, a better understanding of other cultures, community participation, a greater insight into human nature and decision-making.

Norfolk Library Service puts a big emphasis on stocking the right titles to get children excited about reading and instil a life-long love of literature.

'Typically, reading starts to drop off between the ages of eight and 10, and we try to combat this by holding a large diversity in stock,' says Beth Southard, book schemes coordinator and service support for children and young people at Norfolk Library Service.

'Not every child will want to read a chapter book; there's non-fiction and we've also invested in graphic novels, comics and Japanese Manga.

'The 'choose your own adventure' books that were popular in the 80s are experiencing a resurgence, and are particularly good for boys because they have their roots in game theory.'

Within modern society, the way in which teenagers access reading material has also changed. They now read via tablets, i Phones, Kindles, magazines and websites, as well as traditional print materials. In response, the library has also been growing its collection of eBooks, which currently includes 1,106 children's and 1,079 young adult titles on its Norfolk OverDrive site – Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling is the top issuing children's eBook, with 378 issues last year.

These resources are all free, and Beth highlighted two simple things that parents and carers can do to support children with their reading.

'It's all about promoting the right home environment for reading,' she says. 'The most important thing is to make sure that there are books in the home, and for children to see their parent or carer reading.

'It's one thing to tell children that they need to read, but you also need to be modelling that.'

The library also runs campaigns which aim to encourage children to enjoy reading over the summer. There are two age categories: the Summer Reading Challenge is for children from birth-10, and the ImagiNation project is for 10-16 year olds.

'These projects are great because they give children the freedom over the summer to read whatever they want to read at a time when there are typically less restrictions on their time with school and homework,' says Beth.

'The market for teenage books in particular changes so quickly, so we also have a facility on our website where children can request books that we don't have in stock. We're buying new books every month, and asking the children themselves what they want to read is a great way to keep up with what's popular.'


Every November, BookTrust - the UK's largest children's reading charity - organises Children's Book Week, joining up with schools, libraries, children, parents and carers to celebrate books and reading for fun.

This year's campaign begins today, and to celebrate, BookTrust has unveiled its 2017 Great Books Guide, highlighting 60 of the brilliant books that have been published in the past year that will help families along their reading journey.

For the first time, the Great Books Guide includes book recommendations for 0-5s and 12 plus, so all children have access to and can find the fun in stories.

Diana Gerald, CEO of BookTrust, said: 'Our aim with Children's Book Week is simple – to help children love books and stories. We believe that the right book is always the book that a child actually wants to read, and we hope that within the pages of our guide you'll find the 'right' book for your child.'