Beginning to read: Ways to stimulate interest in reading for life

By | April 14, 2009

When a child begins learning to read it’s very important to show him or her that they can use the skill not only to learn new things but for entertainment. Their first books should be just challenging enough to make them learn more words but not hard enough to discourage them.

Choose appropriate books

Beginning readers need to be able to identify with books in order to develop a love for reading. A kindergartner would not likely be interested in a beginner’s book about world leaders but would be very entertained to read what a child his own age does all day in a different country. This type of book would serve to introduce him or her to different customs, types of dress and even exotic foods.

Capture their imagination!

Beginner’s books should capture a child’s imagination and make them want to find out more about the subject of the book. If a child has never seen the seashore, a simple book illustrated with pictures of the ocean and all the things he could find on a beach would fascinate him. Naturally, the child would want to find out more about all the beautiful shells that wash up on the shore, the funny little crabs that wander the beach and the birds that thrive in that environment.

Animals are Popular

Almost all children love animals, particularly baby animals. A simple book about animal babies teaches a child about nature, camouflage, and might introduce an animal she’s never seen before. Books about gardens and flowers, different types of fish or the adventures of common household pets will hold a child’s interest and pique her curiosity.

People and their jobs

You may want to choose books about different careers as first books. There are very few children who aren’t interested in firefighters, policemen, airline pilots and even teachers. In addition to giving them interesting ideas about these professions, books like these can give a child ambition and goals.

Different Viewpoints

There are some very inventive books that teach children more than one or two things. A book that uses food to illustrate the alphabet, for example, is colorful and interesting. It teaches a child about food and prompts him to ask questions as well as reinforcing his knowledge of letters. Or you might want to choose a book about dinosaurs to introduce history to the child as well as let him read about a subject nearly all children find fascinating.

Some basic things to remember

Above all, first books should be readable. That means that the font and type should be easy for the child to read and there should not be too many sentences on a page. One paragraph per page is plenty for young eyes to deal with. There should be colorful illustrations or photographs so that he can see what he is reading about, especially if it’s a subject he’s unfamiliar with. Following these guidelines, you should be able to instill a love of reading in a child by choosing good books (for more tips on choosing great books, read Reading for Kids.

Kenneth is a teacher with many years of experience in ESL at Dickson’s English School in Tamsui, Taiwan. You can visit the school blog at to find out more about what students are doing, how important fluency is, and how much fun we’re having. For other advice and help, check out his column at




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