If I could convince you to do one thing this half term, it would be this; read a new book with your child. Why? According to a report by the National Literacy Trust, 6 out of 10 children have a favourite book or story. While this sounds positive, this means 4 out of 10 children don’t have a favourite book. I don’t believe that it is a coincidence that this figure is similar to the 10.1% of children who didn’t enjoy reading at all and 36.6% who only enjoyed reading a little bit in the same report. Considering the fact that reading is such an essential life skill and links closely with children’s achievement in writing, why not take on the challenge to help your child to find their favourite book?
Schools may be there to help teach your child how to read, but with so much to fit in to the hectic school day, there is limited time to just enjoy reading for the sake of reading. Trips to a book shop or library and story time at home are special moments. In fact, a Bookstart survey found that for 93% of participating parents, shared reading was the most popular way to enjoy quality time with their 0-5 year old and reading with your child doesn’t have to be one-sided. Sometimes you might want to read the whole story, or your child might want to read to you. If your child is less confident, try reading the words together at the same time – let them think of a sign to use when they want to have a go at reading alone, and when they want you to join in. Take turns to read sentences or pages; choose a character each to create a voice for; read the story to your child, then let them read it to you the second time. Find a reading routine that both of you can enjoy.
If your child doesn’t enjoy reading, this probably means they just haven’t discovered what they like reading yet. As an adult, I often prefer reading autobiographies to fiction. So many of the children I’ve taught have claimed they don’t like reading, but find themselves lost in a non-fiction book. Read anything and everything until you find something that your child enjoys and understand that reading isn’t just recognising the words on the page. It involves understanding the characters, how the writer wants you to feel and recognising that each word has been used for a reason. Reading between the lines is essential in getting the full meaning and enjoyment out of a text. It’s so easy to forget, as adults, that children are oblivious to many of the nuances of our language, the abstract turns of phrase that we use on a daily basis but are unfamiliar to children. Even the most fluent readers will encounter words that they do not understand. When reading alone, the temptation is to ignore the new words rather than work out what they mean. Regardless of how good your child is at reading, read together and discuss what you have read.
One of my proudest moments as a wife and mother was overhearing my dyslexic husband reading The Gruffalo to our baby girl after being adamant that story time would be my responsibility. She was fascinated. I guarantee that the fact that you are taking the time to read with your child is so much more important to them than whether you make a mistake. In fact, if they see you enjoying reading even though you are not confident, surely this is an even more valuable lesson for them? And if you’re not sure how to pronounce a word, or what it means, remember children love it when they see adults make an error or have to look up the meaning of a word. It teaches them that they don’t have to read perfectly to be good at reading.
At the end of the day, reading is an essential skill for your child. You have the privilege, and the challenge, of making it enjoyable.
Free Thought Research (2014) Family Reading Habits and the Impact of Bookstart. www.bookstart.org.uk
National Literacy Trust (2014) Children’s and Young People’s Reading in 2013: Findings from the 2013 National Literacy Trust’s annual survey. www.literacytrust.org.uk