Some parents believe teachers are the best placed people to teach their children how to read, but studies have shown that the foundation for literacy is laid at home. Children who are read to by a parent at least three times a week are nearly twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading abilities, compared to those who are read to less.
Failing to get your child involved in the process of reading is doing them a great disservice, especially since all it requires is giving a little bit of time, a pinch of patience and your own, genuine enthusiasm towards books. After a few turns of the page, you’ll be on your way to raising an inquisitive, literate child!
Firstly, introduce books into your child’s routine. Stock up on age-appropriate reading material and work some time into your day that is reserved for storytime.
Read to younger children for a few minutes, each day at different times – as their attention span is short – increasing to 15, 20 and 30 minutes as they grow older.
With all due respect
Practise what you preach by investing in a book collection of your own and demand that it be respected. That means no scribbling, no tearing and no grubby fingers allowed! You need to really reinforce the idea that books are something special.
Encourage your children to look after their books. Who knows? You could have a lovingly pawed-over heirloom in the making.
Keep kids interested by creating fun, too
- Storybooks for toddlers need to be slightly more advanced than those aimed at babies. Look out for picture books that have a storyline included. Make the reading sessions as fun and lively as possible, so that they become something to look forward to. Putting on funny voices or choosing books with a ‘pop-up’ or noise element will make the stories memorable and encourage laughs all round.
- Choosing books that include rhymes, poems or songs that you and your child can say or sing together is another way to up the group participation and help to familiarise your child with particular words and phrases. Point to objects, shapes and colours in the book – do this if you see these things in your daily life, too – and discuss with your child what is going on in the picture, repeating the names for the things you pick out.
- Getting your toddler into the habit of calming down at bedtime and focusing on a book also promotes a good sleep-time routine, as playing with toys or watching TV will only stimulate their brain and make it harder for them to get some much needed shut-eye. Your toddler will love listening to the sound of your voice. Engage her in a bedtime story to help her drift off to sleep or try making up stories instead of reading.
Nursery/reception (ages four to five)
Now that they have reached school age, your children will need books that are a little more complex. Start to ask questions about what they are reading, such as what they think will happen next in the story.
Stop to point out and explain the meanings of new words. Ensure they notice the letters of the word and how it is spelt so that they can recognise it the next time it pops up.
Fledgling readers (ages six to seven)
As your children’s reading ability starts to improve, encourage them to read out loud. Make sure they’re in a quiet, comfortable environment so that they don’t have to feel shy if they make a mistake.
Encourage them when they get stuck on a word, but let them battle it out rather than correcting them straightaway. Take them to your local library to choose their own books, and try online reading games or activities, too.
Keep your kids quiet on long car rides with an ebook on your tablet. Use the location to point out birds, buses and anything else from outside the car, that they read in their story. You can download favourites before the journey and give them the option of picking which one to read.
Oxford Owl (www.oxfordowl.co.uk) is a free website that has over 260 ebooks and plenty of advice to help parents support their young learners with their reading and maths.
'Literacy is of the utmost importance, we all have a responsibility to encourage our children. So get busy reading and talk to them about the stories. Ask who their favourite character is? How will it end?
Ready and willing
If your little reader has special needs, select books that cater for their abilities. Book suppliers such as IQ Books (www.kidsiqbooks.com) provide detailed information on different needs, along with reading lists for children with conditions such as Autism, ADHD, and more.
Get reading for free
To help babies develop an early love for books, Bookstart (www.bookstart.org.uk) has come to the rescue of bedtime stories across the UK. Bookstart is a programme run by independent charity, Booktrust, that supports and encourages parents to enjoy reading with their child from as early as possible. It provides free book packs to every child in England that is below primary school age. Each pack comes with tips and guidance.
With language and reading both crucial life skills, giving your kids the best foundation in these areas will help set them in good stead for later life – especially when the time comes for them to find their first job.
You can help your children prepare for exams, such as the 11+, in core subjects (English, maths and science) by working through textbooks with them.
Specialist publisher, Galore Park (www.galorepark.co.uk) has an array of textbooks, tests and exam papers that will aid their studies.
As many as one in four children cannot read well by the time they leave primary school.