a boy and a girl reading in a forest

Immersing Kids in a Reading Culture

Reading culture is a point that experts constantly hammer on.

Yet it seems people neglect it just as often as it is talked about.

Perhaps this is because immersing kids in a reading culture is one of those things whose advantages you don’t really pay attention to – until you have become involved in it and seen its benefits for yourself.

In today’s Literary Renaissance post, I’m going to talk about:

  • What exactly a reading culture implies
  • How young people can benefit from it
  • Why you should get started with it right away
  • How you can promote reading culture in the classroom and beyond
  • Why you should encourage wide reading
  • How parents can immerse their kids in a reading culture


What is the Meaning of Reading Culture?

Reading culture refers to the regular and habitual reading of books and other information materials for pleasure as much as for information.

In a community where there is a culture of reading, reading is valued, promoted and actively encouraged. Kids read not just because they are looking for information, but because they find pleasure in books. They read in their leisure time.

Sometimes they play with toys. Some other times they watch television. But still some other times they pick up books and information materials and read because they find them interesting and they love to read them. They read of their own free will and on a regular basis because they see reading as a significant and enjoyable activity.

One day, a friend of mine asked me to go out together with him and have a good time. I told him I was having a good time already, and he said, “What, reading?”

I said, “Yes, reading!”

The next thing he said was, “You need to spend money on yourself.”

And I was puzzled – because I spent money on myself buying that book.

In an environment with no reading culture, people will be amazed and raise their eyebrows at you when you tell them that you read this or that because you found it enjoyable to do so – and that you read as a fun-time activity.

Having said that, why exactly is a reading culture important?


Children listening to the teacher reading a book to the class

How Can Young People Benefit from a Culture of Reading?

A reading culture allows young people to read more, and reading plays a vital role in the education of any young person. We already know that it improves literacy and vocabulary. But it can do so much more – trust me when I say this, a lot more.

I’ll give you the evidence.

As they grow up, your children will need high levels of literacy – reading and writing – in so many aspects of their lives. They will need to write, and writing is improved by reading.

From this moment when they’re kids and all through their adult lives, they will be confronted with a slew of information for them to read and digest – everywhere: at home, at school, in their career, on advertising hoardings, on toilet paper, you name it.

There is far more written information than there are videos or audio recordings. They will be confronted with far more materials to be consumed by reading. As a result, don’t you think being comfortable with reading will give your children a significant boost in life?

Videos are no doubt amazing learning resources. They are very useful for introducing difficult topics to learners, and they can be used to simplify complex topics. Reading, on the other hand, may not offer as much in these areas. So you should also introduce your kids to videos because they are important learning materials.

However, having said that, research shows that reading improves the brain far more.

One reason for this is that, while watching videos is a passive activity, reading is an active activity that requires more of our cognitive senses to carry out.

While we read, our brains jump right up and become fully alert in order to interpret the symbols that make up what we are reading. Our minds process every sentence as we read along so that we can understand, and our imagination comes alive to give us clear images of the text.

In other words, reading exercises your brain more and causes you to think more. Just imagine that your brain is your biceps and reading is push-ups.

That’s why it often seems as though people enjoy reading less than watching videos or playing games – because as a matter of fact reading is far heavier and gives us a lot more training!

Exposing children to this activity constantly in their early years will enable them to build up a very sound mind that can compete anywhere in the world.

It will help them improve themselves daily. It will help them succeed in their future careers. They will run their households better, and maintain healthier, more positive relationships with other people. All because they will be able to think and analyse situations better.

And the younger your kids are when you introduce them into a reading culture, the better.


Green apple on top of books


How to Promote Reading in the Classroom

Having looked at all the benefits of reading, we know it is very crucial to learning and development. But we also know that without the right atmosphere and culture it can feel like a burden.

But reading doesn’t have to be some boring or difficult thing you do!

It can be enjoyable. It can become an exciting lifestyle as long as we take the right approaches and learn how to promote a reading culture not just in schools but also in our homes with our own children.

Here’s how to improve reading culture among students.


1. Start DEAR


DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) is a school programme where some time – perhaps ten or fifteen minutes daily – is set aside for everybody in school to read any book of their choice.

Everybody, including the teachers and the caretakers, should drop everything they are doing and participate.

The reading done during DEAR is not seen as part of the school curriculum and the children are not going to be tested on it. It is entirely for pleasure.

If you’re unable to do it schoolwide, then perhaps you could start with one classroom, and if there are positive results after a period of time then you could extend it to the entire school.

Here’s more information about implementing DEAR. If you experience challenges such as a tiny percentage of children who always refuse to read, you could adopt the Read Aloud method.

This way you read the text yourself to the hearing of every child, and then you set time aside for questions and a discussion of the major points of the story at the end of the reading.

Before you select a story for Read Aloud, be sure to ask yourself a few questions such as:

  • Will students enjoy this story?
  • Is there a big idea or theme to explore?
  • Are there opportunities for thinking deeply?
  • Do students have necessary background knowledge?
  • What are the vocabulary demands?

Then while reading, be careful to read the text loud and clear – and fluently. Also, stop at intervals to ask the children questions you wrote down while you prepared for the reading. Allow students to express their views about these points. Encourage them to say as much about the story as they want to – but be careful not to push them too hard. The key is to try and arouse enough of their interest in the story to actually talk about it.

If your students respond very well to the general Read Aloud, then you could graduate to independent reading.


2. Let Your Reading Cover a Wide Area


Your reading doesn’t have to be confined to English class. Nor should it revolve around the same kinds of texts.

Expose the children to a variety of genres. Read a cookbook out loud to them during DEAR and explain how it guides them towards preparing the best meals. Read an interesting letter with a fun background story or read a (simple) article about a historical event. For instance, the history of football, when the first telephone was invented, the history of guns, the history of America or even that of the Roman Empire.

There are tons of websites such as this, this and this that contain great historical materials for kids. Read those to them while pointing out interesting trivia or showing them fascinating images.

Kids love interesting things, so once you are able to unite reading and excitement, they will adopt it to let the fun continue. If they keep at it, it will become a lifestyle.


3. Make Books Part of the School Culture


Let a book culture be at the heart of your school’s existence. Introduce books and reading into your school’s vision and mission statement. Learn how to create a good vision and mission statement for your school here.

Make sure you talk to the students about the mission statement and the importance of reading – and not just reading textbooks or complicated science manuals but also reading interesting storybooks and novels. Drive home this point with displays about reading all around the school.

Make the library a welcoming place for all students. Let it be serene and a haven from the bustle everywhere else within the school. If you can get the funding, provide as many books as possible in the library and encourage the kids to read them. Let them know when there are interesting additions.

To help them select which titles are at their level, try colour-coding the books. For instance, green could mean basic reading ability, with blue meaning intermediate and red meaning advanced.

Also, make interesting references to stories from books in the library from time to time in the school assembly. And never deny a student the opportunity to visit the library unless they have an ongoing class.

Let headteachers make reading a priority. The goal should be to make every student an independent, fluent and motivated reader. Regularly read out extracts of prose texts either in the assembly or in classes and allow students to step out in front of the class or assembly and share a story they find interesting.

Another strategy to use is to leave reminders of books all over the school. Have a look at this wall clock made of books:

wall clock made of books for reading


The interesting thing about it is that the book that represents each hour has that hour as part of the title of the book. So at 3 o’clock the book is The Third Mushroom, at 4 o’clock there is Fourth Grade Rats and so on.

You could also create a book recommendation board. It’s a place where students or teachers could leave recommendations about books. You could do it by classroom rather than the entire school to keep it from being rowdy.

Here’s an example of one:

White board with book recommendations

Make your improvements on the idea as you see fit.

From time to time a student could be called up to tell the class a few things about a book that he or she has suggested on the book recommendation board. They could even tell a short fun story about it to their classmates. I don’t know about you but this helped me massively as a child.


4. Be a Role Model


If you want to develop a reading culture around your students, then you must lead by example.

How often do they see you read? There might not be much time for independent reading during school hours, but you could read a bit at break times as well as participate actively in class or assembly reading and during DEAR.

Also making references to things in books you’ve read will help the students identify you as a reader. If you can often make them laugh about things you’ve pointed out from books you’ve read, they will come to associate those books with fun.

And children will do anything with you as long as they think it is fun.


Reading activity with children
These kids will do anything with you as long as they think it is fun.


Promoting a Culture of Reading As a Parent

These strategies we have listed above can also be employed for your kids at home.

As a parent, you can introduce your kids to DEAR. Let them see that you find it interesting. Encourage them to practise it, and remember to lead by example.

Plus, when they’ve read, invite them to tell you about something interesting they read in the book. Listen to them and laugh with them as they tell you about it.

Do not be reluctant even to introduce them to classic literature.

Also, when you read yourself, do not always read in solitude. Read near your kids. Let them see you curl up on the couch with a book that you love. Occasionally tell them something fun that you’ve observed in a book. Don’t keep all to yourself.

Essentially, infect them with your love for reading. We often underestimate the extent to which our kids use us as models.

Another important thing to do is to introduce group reading as a family. Once in a while, gather the kids and read a book together. You can read aloud yourself or invite anyone who is willing to do so. We know that reading can boost the bond between parents and children.

Remember that the keyword here is “interesting”. Be extra careful to pick interesting books while they’re still getting warmed up to the idea, and remember that if they enjoy it, you would not need to force them. Don’t forget our point above about how children will do anything so long as they find it exciting.

Immersing kids in a reading culture will take a bit of time – and some effort. However, the benefits are more than worth it.

Have you got any other ideas, or perhaps an experience you’d like others to learn from? Don’t forget to leave your comments (We’d be so pleased to hear from you) or express yourself on our social media channels.