Helping Children to Read
Encouraging and helping children to read is an important part of the parenting process. By supplementing their school work with some reading at home you can improve their reading ability, get them interested in new topics and expand their knowledge of the subjects they’re currently learning about at school. It can also be beneficial for kids who haven’t started school yet, or are currently at pre-school, as it could give them a head start on their reading & learning skills.
There are a number of things to take into account when it comes to reading with children. In this blog we’re going to examine the topic in plenty of detail, including plenty of tips, guidance and best practices for parents. At the end we will also include a list of further reading that you can check out should you wish to know more about it.
Helping vs Teaching Children to Read
Before proceeding it’s worth drawing a distinction between helping children to read and teaching children to read. The responsibility of teaching children to read does not fall entirely on your shoulders – we imagine you have enough to worry about already! At school, kids should learn the basics of reading and comprehension as well as gaining an understanding of the different sounds of the English language. This is obviously different if you choose home education for your children.
Throughout this blog we’re going to explain the idea of helping children to read. The advice here is intended to supplement the learning that your child is already doing at school rather than replacing it entirely. By reading at home with your children you can aid their ability to read and also their ability to learn new things. As parents, our responsibility is to encourage, help and support this process.
The Benefits of Reading With Your Children
Learn About New Topics
Non fiction books for children can introduce new topics for them to learn about that may not be covered in the school curriculum. These may be topics of personal, local or national interest that you may want to teach them about, but also other areas you may have noticed that they have already showed an interest in. If children have a well-rounded knowledge on a series of topics then not only do their academic skills improve, but they will also have a greater appreciation about the world as a whole.
Gain New Skills
One of the immediate advantages of reading with your kids will be the improvements in their reading ability, which in turn can mean heightened academic skills. You may find that encouraging your children to read independently will help even more with academia, as they will be forced to use logic and context to understand the meaning of words and phrases. Repeating this process is a valuable learning skill for children and could increase their problem-solving abilities in the classroom and beyond.
Reading is a Good Habit to Get Into
What’s more, reading is simply a good habit to get into. By establishing a regular reading routine with your child and ‘normalising’ the process, they will become more open to the idea of reading and learning. It shouldn’t be something that they only associate with the classroom.
Strengthening the Emotional Bond With Your Children
Reading with your children on a regular basis is a perfect chance to bond with them. Even if you only read together for a short period of time every week, you’re strengthening your emotional bond and interacting with them without the everyday distractions of a household.
How to Encourage Your Children to Read
Evidently there are a number of benefits to be had from reading with your children. Yet they count for nothing if your child lacks the motivation to read in the first place. In this section we’re going to look at some ways you can encourage your children to read more.
Read With Them From An Early Age
One key factor is to start reading with your kids from an early age. Routines are very important for young children and establishing reading as part of their routine will make them more receptive to the activity in future. And remember; even if they don’t seem entirely engaged at the time, young children and toddlers are like sponges and may well be taking in more than you think when you’re reading with them.
Do It On Their Terms
You shouldn’t try to force reading upon your kids. If you start and they’re not receptive to the idea then it might be worth trying again another day, possibly with a new topic or a new book. Then, once they are of the age where they can learn independently, allow them to choose the book you read together to give them a sense of freedom and control. You may have plenty of ideas for topics that you want to them to learn about, but ultimately giving them the freedom to choose will result in a much more positive reading experience for both of you. It’s also a way to find out which subjects interest your children the most.
Create Positive Associations With Reading
Some of the best ways to encourage your children to read are actually quite simple. For example, filling your house with books, magazines and newspapers can ignite your children’s interest in reading. Surrounding them with reading materials like this provokes a positive association between their home and reading whilst also encouraging independent reading – should they decide to pick up books themselves and start reading. You could even go one step further here and occasionally substitute the books on show to see which ones pique your child’s interest more.
Another positive association that you can reinforce is between gifts and reading. Kids are always going to enjoy opening presents to find new toys or treats, so by sometimes gifting them books you are linking the positive experience of opening a present with that of receiving a book. They will see a book as something positive, which reinforces the idea in their mind that reading is a fun activity. As a bonus, they will also have more reading material to read with you!
How to Read With Children
Now that we understand a little more about how to encourage your children to read, what are the best practices when it comes to the activity itself? It is perhaps not as straightforward as sitting down with your kids and reading a book cover to cover, especially when you consider that each child has their own preferred way of reading. Here are our top tips for reading with your children.
- Find a topic that interests them. By testing out a number of different topics and then discussing them with your kids, you can start to understand the areas that interest them the most. Zone in on these subjects and children are likely to be much more engaged in the reading process.
- Make reading fun and interactive. Even if your child seems engaged by the topic at hand, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make reading fun. You could consider purchasing interactive books for children to keep them interested or even make reading into a fun game between parent and child.
- Take regular breaks. Taking regular breaks during reading time will keep your child interested in the book for a longer period of time. If they’re showing signs of boredom or disinterest then take a short break and resume afterwards.
- Remove distractions whilst you’re reading together. That means no TV in the background, no radio, no mobile device and ideally no other people in the room. The best chance you have of making reading a fruitful experience for the two of you is by ensuring they are fully focused on the task at hand.
- Ask your child about the book you’re reading. Whilst you’re reading together it’s a good idea to keep them engaged by asking them about the book you’re going through: who the main characters are, what the storyline is, what they think might happen next in the story. This also shows that they are understanding the book and not simply flicking through the book without appreciating the wider context of it.
- Creative activities based on your reading sessions. Outside of your reading sessions with your kids you can still promote the activity. Try creating fun, interactive activities based on what you have been reading together in order to strengthen their comprehension and enjoyment of the text.
- Show them that you read as well. Role models are incredibly important for children, and this also applies in the realm of reading. Show your kids that you’re also a regular reader by visibly reading around them and leaving reading materials around the house. This could help to eliminate any reticence your kids have towards the activity.
Finally, encourage your child to read independently when you feel that they are ready. This is one of the best ways to improve their reading skills. They will have to ascertain the meaning of the book and individual words themselves, which will improve their independence skills, problem-solving abilities and expand their vocabulary.
Further Reading & Resources
If that wasn’t enough for you then we’ve also gone and collected a number of useful resources from around the web. These links will help you to expand on the topics we’ve discussed as well as get more ideas on the best ways of helping children to read.
- BBC Bitesize – Top tips to support your child’s reading at home
- Penguin – How to help your child learn to read
- Mumsnet – How to teach your child to read
- Education.com – Routines: Why They Matter and How to Get Started
- Kumon – The benefits of developing reading skills from a young age
- Healthline – Reading to Children: Why It’s So Important and How to Start
- FirstCry – 15 Interesting Reading Games and Activities for Children