Reading Time? Tell Me a Story!

Reading Time? Tell Me a Story!

Today’s busy parent and family lifestyle doesn’t leave much time for reading with your child. Recent studies show up to 40% of children do not receive any encouragement to read at home with their families despite evidence demonstrating that supporting children at home with their reading is one of the most effective ways a parent can aid their child’s learning.

In an attempt to remedy this, many schools operate ‘reading at home’ policies to support, encourage and enhance reading experiences for children at home, such as using a reading ‘diary’. This scheme, for example, enables a child to pick one book a week from the school library (suitable to his or her age/ability) to read at home with their family. A family member must then sign the ‘diary’ once the book is finished and include comments on how the child has read, if the book was too easy or difficult and if they have any concerns which they want to express/share with their teacher (and vice versa from teacher to parents). If your child’s school does not operate a scheme or if you are unaware of one currently being used, why not suggest this one?

Dedicating some time during the week or weekend for quality family reading time (whether it’s together, in pairs or individually) has numerous benefits. It helps:

  • Create a bond between parent and child using quality time;
  • Build a child’s vocabulary and develop pronunciation;
  • Encourage the family to learn new things together;
  • Improve communication skills;
  • Children acquire a greater knowledge;
  • Develop hand-eye coordination and motor skills; and
  • Improve their ability and understanding of following a story from beginning to end.

According to recent surveys conducted by the National Literacy Trust, just over a quarter of 35,000 children from 188 schools in the UK said that they read outside of school and approximately the same number said they did not think their parents cared if they read or not.  The surveys showed that fewer children across the UK are reading in their own time, with daily reading levels dropping again in 2016 to levels last seen in 2012, decreasing from 43.0% in 2015 to 32.0% in 2016.

The study however also demonstrated that approximately 6 out of 10 participants said they enjoyed reading either “very much” or “quite a lot” and a high proportion (four out of five) agreed with the statement “the more I read, the better I become”.

As a parent, you are your child’s most influential teacher. This means you have a very important part to play in helping your child build and develop reading skills.

There are a variety of ways you can support and encourage your child to read at home. To start with, it is essential to create a calm and relaxed environment to ensure reading is enjoyed by all involved. It’s also a great idea to have a simple dictionary and thesaurus readily available for young readers to look up and check the meaning of any words they are unsure of. If you’ve been put off reading with your child because of the expense of books, why not take regular trips to the library as a weekly family outing?

These Top T.I.P.S can help to make reading at home a fun and enjoyable learning time for you and your child:

  • Right time, right place:
    To settle down and read you need a quiet time and place with no interruptions or distractions. If you notice your child starting to feel stressed during reading time, ask them if they would like to take a break or take it in turn to read or for you to read the rest of the story aloud to them. When reading to your child ensure to use excitement in your tone and different character voices to make them laugh and enjoy the experience. Maybe even suggest that your child reads to a younger or older sibling for practice.
  • Use age and/or ability appropriate reading materials;
    It is important to choose the correct book level/difficulty for your child’s ability. If a book is too advanced for a child, it can cause a negative reading experience as they struggle with unknown words and concepts which will halt their reading flow. This can knock the child’s confidence and could make them more reluctant to read. Let them stretch to the best of their ability, but be ready to help if they get disheartened.
  • Make reading a choice, not a chore;
    Reading time should be enjoyable so try to find a place or a room where your child is comfortable to help create a relaxed environment. If they are a reluctant reader, take the time to try again later as their mind may be distracted by other things. Maybe even try a different book genre to capture their interest and guide their reading choices using a topic they are interested in or learning about at school.
  • Practice makes perfect;
    Read with your child as often as you can and boost their confidence with constant praise for even the smallest achievement, especially when they are tackling more difficult words. Read ‘little and often’ and try to praise your child’s efforts not just their successes to ensure they persevere with reading and don’t give up out of fear of ‘failure’. Another way to help motivate your child could be to use a visible record of achievement such as a homemade chart which marks the number of chapters they have read. This can help give them a sense of accomplishment.
  • Sound it out;
    If at any point your child pronounces a word incorrectly, try not to interrupt their reading immediately. Point to the word, ask them what the word is again, if they struggle to pronounce it, sound it out together. Remember to praise your child’s efforts even if they can’t work it out themselves.
  • Talk it out;
    Keep your child involved with the book and engage with them to aid their understanding. Ask them to share their opinions about the plot, their favourite characters, how they think the story will end and what their favourite part has been so far. You could also create activities relating to the story you’re reading. Does the story relate to an aspect of their life?
  • Communication is key;
    Try to communicate as often as you can with your child’s school using their school reading ‘diary’. Use the diary to note positive comments and any concerns you have, and to show your child you are interested in their progress and that you value reading with them.
  • Create variety;
    It’s important to expose your child to a wide variety of reading genres for them to explore. Keep track of the genres you have read using a Bingo or Passport card to stamp once the genre has been read. Once the card is complete, reward your child for their achievement to show them you’re proud of their accomplishment. If your child has a preferred genre or a favourite author, find more books that they have published for your child to read.
  • Be a role model;
    Be a reader yourself! Let your child see you reading as this will encourage them to read too. You can also look for more opportunities for your child to read by reading junk mail, newspapers, advertising boards and signs. As your child gets older, you can also read the same book as them so you can share ideas and opinions. Sit down together and read a few pages or chapters a day!
  • Make your home reader-friendly;
    It’s a great idea to have a variety of reading materials available in your house for your child to read at any time, whether it’s books, comics, cooking recipes, catalogues, instructions, maps or magazines. This spontaneous reading can help grow your child’s love to read.

As every child is different, there is no right or wrong way to support their learning. As a parent you may find that some of these ideas work better than others, whilst others don’t work for you at all. Find what works for you and your child!

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*figures sourced from multiple surveys conducted by The National Literacy Trust (2010-2016)
**information sourced from ‘Better Behaviour Through Home-School Relations’ by Gill Ellis, Nicola S Morgan and Ken Reid (2013)