The National Literacy Trust: How to Keep Older Children Interested in Reading

The National Literacy Trust: How to Keep Older Children Interested in Reading

However, while more than half of the 34,000 children surveyed said they enjoyed reading very much or quite a lot, 10% said they did not enjoy reading at all. In addition, while almost half of girls said they read outside class on a daily basis, this was true for just over a third of boys. Also, nearly one child in four said that their parents didn’t care if they read, rising to almost one in three among pupils from less advantaged backgrounds.

Parental engagement with a child’s literacy development is a key contributor to their success. Once children are able to read for themselves, it can be tempting to think that your work in supporting their reading is done, but it is important to keep encouraging your child to read whatever their age. Children and young people who are encouraged to read by their parents achieve higher reading levels at school, and young people who read below the expected level for their age are four times more likely to say that their father does not encourage them to read at all. We also know that children who see their parents reading think more positively about reading than those who don’t, so parents and older family members can be powerful reading role models.

Helping children to become enthusiastic readers can also help them in other school subjects– a recent Institute of Education study found that “Children who read for pleasure made more progress in maths, vocabulary and spelling between the ages of 10 and 16 than those who rarely read.” In addition, being a keen reader as a child is associated with better career progression in later life. Research in 2011 found that “16-year-olds who read books at least once a month were significantly more likely to be in a managerial or professional job at 33 than those who did not read books at all.” Interestingly, no other activities examined in the study (e.g. sports, socialising, going to museums or the cinema, hobbies etc.) were found to have any impact on children’s future careers.

As children grow up, it is likely that there will be more competition for their leisure time. In addition, school assessments and exams may make some children more likely to associate reading with ‘work’ so you may need to be quite creative about encouraging reading for enjoyment. Here are some ideas for keeping children reading:

  1. Find out their interests
    Interest is the key word here! If your child seems to be ‘going off’ reading, it might sound obvious, but parents may not think to ask their child about what they are currently interested in, and therefore might like to read about. You can often find great books about hobbies and interests such as loom bands, popular bands, Lego or superheroes. At the moment, Minecraft is a very popular game for many children, and there are lots of handbooks available to help develop skills for beginners and more experienced players.

  2. Take them on a reading journey
    If you have established an interest, don’t just stop at one book – take your child on a reading journey! For example, if you have a dinosaur fan, along with all the great fiction and non-fiction available, you can find and read recipes for ‘Dinosaur Egg’ cakes on the internet. If you have a football fan in the family, they can read match reports in newspapers or on team websites, read football skills books, read fiction by footballers such as Frank Lampard or, for older children, footballers’ biographies.

  3. Let them choose
    Support your child to choose a book for themselves. Research shows that “…even struggling readers will show effort and persistence when reading self-selected texts… ” and in our surveys, when asked what would motivate them to read more, ‘being able to choose what I want to read’ appears consistently as a top answer. An easy tip for helping children to find a book that not only matches their interests, but is at a suitable reading level for them, is to suggest they open a book at a random page. After a few lines, can they read it comfortably? Do they want to read on?

  4. Let them obsess
    Many children just need to find that special author, series or genre that will spark their interest. David Walliams’ and the Wimpy Kid series are popular with primary-aged children, and young adult fiction such as Percy Jackson, Hunger Games and Divergent are popular with older age groups.

  5. Take them to the library
    A library is a great place to explore reading interests, as if you make a bad choice of book you can just give it back! You may be lucky enough to have a good children’s librarian who can offer specialist advice too. Some libraries also offer additional services such as homework clubs, free IT, book clubs and so on.

  6. Search for recommendations
    There are lots of other great places to explore and get book recommendations, from friends and family to the local Public Library or bookshop (if you have one! Most High Streets have a WHSmith) Websites such as Lovereading4kids and Booktrust can also provide inspiration, or you can download popular booklists from the National Literacy Trust’s Young Readers Programme.

  7. Try different formats
    Don’t forget reading can come in many formats. Along with books, comics and magazines, there are some great reading apps for younger children such as Cbeebies Storytime and Me Books. You can even get audiobooks though QR codes printed in Nosy Crow’s Stories Aloud series. Technology can support literacy in other ways too – you can use Skype or Facetime to share a story with a family member for example.

  8. Get an eReader
    Older children might like to read on an ereader such as a Kobo, and ebooks may also be accessed on smartphones and tablets. Some may prefer reading graphic novels or listening to an audiobook on their phone.

  9. Find real people to read about
    Many young people enjoy reading ‘real life’ books as they begin to think about their place in the world. They might like to read about successful businesspeople or favourite celebrities, including popular online figures such as Zoe Sugg and Alfie Deyes. Sports fans may enjoy reading biographies of footballers, cyclists or boxers. Music fans may enjoy reading lyrics and biographies too.

  10. Read for a purpose
    Other young people may prefer reading for purpose. Budding chefs might enjoy reading recipes from magazines and cookbooks. Film fans might like a subscription to a review magazine (you could also look out for popular books that have been made into films, or novelisations of popular films or TV programmes). Read instructions to make something together, or learn a new skill – it could be anything from knitting to computer programming!

  11. Find books to tackle real life issues
    Popular fiction for teens and Young Adults often features dystopian themes (e.g. Divergent, Maze Runner, the ‘Gone’ series of books by Michael Grant) or young people with terminal illnesses (e.g. The Fault in our Stars, If I Stay), but there are also lots of titles exploring other issues that some young people may be interested in, such as sexuality or suicide. Other genres that can be popular in this age group include romance, horror, crime and fantasy.


The National Literacy Trust offers a wealth of helpful advice for parents and children who need help with literacy.

You can find information about their campaigns and projects, as well as research and advice on The National Literacy Trust website.

There is also lots of useful information on their Words for Life website, segmented by age range to help parents find the most relevant advice.