Reading and writing are the foundation of learning and doing well at school. They help lead to finding meaningful employment as adults and aid in establishing friendships and integrating into the wider community.
Family plays a key role in encouraging children to read; parents’ engagement in reading experiences will help to shape a child’s attitudes to books and their own identity as readers. Sharing books together is the first step in encouraging literacy. Engaging with books helps children broaden their understanding of the world and develop a wider vocabulary. Books provide endless opportunities to talk about actions, emotions, environments and characters. They are a source of information about the topics they are fascinated with (such as trucks, or ponies or dinosaurs) and can provide insights into people and places they would never meet in their day to day lives.
Reading comprehension is an important component of becoming literate. When sharing a book, give your child time to review the images and pictures before beginning the discussion. Their attention will initially be on what they can see rather than on what you are saying. Follow their eye movements and see what they are most interested in on the page—that will tell you what they want to talk about. Ask open ended questions to generate a discussion about what you can see. Ask what a character is doing, why they are showing a particular emotion, where they are going or why they are hiding. Encourage your child to think more deeply about the stories. These kinds of discussions help them prepare for school as these questions are regularly asked by teachers after a shared story.
When your child begins school and has learned to read by themselves continue to share books and stories together. This may be harder with older children! Here are some strategies to try with teenagers:
Find out what the reading requirements are at school and support your child with these. If they are reluctant readers, offer to share the book together and split up the read aloud responsibilities. Encourage them to talk about what they know of the story and support their understanding so they are more confident about the text when they return to school.
Provide access to a range of reading materials at home: books, magazines, newspapers and news sites on the internet.You want your child to be reading. It may not be texts that you would prefer they choose such as comic books or a topic that doesn’t appeal to you such as science fiction novels. That’s OK, just find out what they like about the reading materials as it can provide insights into how you can engage them with other texts.
Find books that are based around the interest and hobbies of your child. These might be stories about her favourite artists or bands, TV shows or sports. Go together to bookshops. Give them the opportunity to choose books or reading material they are interested in. This may help to foster more personal reading for pleasure.
Make a habit of reading aloud with the family at breakfast or during shared times. For example, share an interesting article from the newspaper or Twitter about social or political events. Gain your child’s attention by talking about why this article would be interesting for them by saying: “Ohh look your favourite band is playing on Saturday in our town…”, or if she is interested in sport you can read the news from the sports pages.
Do you have more ideas about how to share books and encourage children to read? Let us know in a comment below!
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