With my background as a primary school teacher and the usual high hopes any parent has when their children start school, it was a bit of a shock when my own child struggled with learning to read.
Some children learn to read effortlessly and love every step of the journey, whilst others find it really hard work and will dislike it.
As a teacher, I had often told the parents of young reluctant readers: “Children learn to read at different times… don’t worry, it will come in the end.” There does come a point however, when those children who don’t like reading do have to knuckle down and put in a bit more effort. With encouragement and support from parents and teachers, all children will eventually learn to read, although for some it will be more of an uphill climb.
As a working parent myself, I am only too aware of the challenges busy working families face every day to fit in the multitude of activities present in our children’s lives; from homework to extra-curricular activities and of course a little bit of all-important down time. But there are many ways in which we can all help our reluctant readers achieve the recommended 10 minutes of reading time each day, however limited our own time may be and here are my tips:
- Make reading part of your routine – children respond well to routine and will quickly overcome any initial grumbles about reading for 5-10 minutes in the morning once it becomes a normal part of their day, like getting dressed or brushing their teeth. Children are often a lot more alert and able to concentrate at the start of the day than the end of the day. Use lots of praise and if necessary reward incentives to make reading a positive experience.
- While you’re busy preparing breakfast for the family, why not challenge your children to read what’s on the back of the cereal box, (there are often fun child-themed promotions and activities on them) or delegate the fetching of the post, and ask your child to read who each letter is for and give it out.
- Use time spent sitting in traffic on the way to school to read shop or road signs. Make a game of it, by asking children to spot things you can see, ensuring they need to use their reading skills a little.
- Play audio books in the car on the way to and from school – while this isn’t reading per se, it is a nice way to keep children engaged with the concept of story-telling and following a story for pleasure.
- Use down time while waiting for swimming/sports lessons to begin to do a bit of school reading, so that children can then have some free time when they get home and may be worn out. Equally these can be good opportunities for reading with a sibling that isn’t taking part in the activity itself.
- Make reading part of your children’s fun time by reading a play and acting it out together. Bug Club has a great range of plays at different reading levels, such as ‘Rap-Punzel.’
- Let your children see you reading, and in particular try to convey the pleasure you gain from it. Many young children equate reading themselves with doing homework and they need a helping hand to transition across to the idea of reading for pleasure. Discuss books you enjoyed as a child and let them choose some age-appropriate reading material of their own.
- Make time to read to your child even when they might not need your help any more – many parents stop reading with their children from the age of 7, and research shows that spending this time can have huge benefits to their educational achievements.
‘Ensuring that the enjoyment of literature takes precedence, particularly in the early years, over the learning of the rules literacy, important though they are. Children have to be motivated to want to learn to read. Reading must not be taught simply as a school exercise.’ Michael Morpurgo, children’s author.
The ultimate challenge for reluctant readers is getting them to read for their own pleasure rather than to please their parents or teacher. It is up to us to not only help children to develop the skills to read, but also more importantly the desire to want to do it. The best way in which we can do this is to ensure that it has a strong presence in their lives, and that they have access to enough inspiring content to keep them interested, engaged and entertained.
Liz Walker, Founder of Reading Chest
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About Reading Chest
For more reading advice and access to a wide range of books for young readers, visit www.readingchest.co.uk.
Reading Chest is the UK’s only through-the-post book rental service for reading scheme books aimed at 4-9 year olds. The books supplied correspond to the coloured book bands, which are being used in schools. They provide children with a greater variety of reading material to support and inspire their home reading. Parents can choose from gold, silver or bronze level subscriptions, which offer a different number of books swaps for their children each month.
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