Updated: Jan 7
Reading at home with your child can make a huge, massive, significant difference. But with our increasingly busy lifestyles it is often the first thing that goes, especially if it isn't a particularly enjoyable experience.
As parents, it can be hard to know how to make it fun or what your role is beyond listening to your child read then asking a few questions. But there is so much more you can do to get the most out of this time, and the good news is it isn't going to need lots of your time or resources to make it happen.
Here are my 5 top tips:
Tip 1 - Context, context, context.
Before you open a book, begin by asking yourself questions such as: What do you need to know to understand this text? What vocabulary might be tricky to read? Does my child understand what these words mean? Then you can ask your child questions about the front cover and the blurb on the back to make sure they know the book's context.
Finding out what your child already knows makes a significant difference. You can then fill in any gaps and provide knowledge that might be a barrier for your child decoding or understanding the book. Knowing the book's context means your child can have an informed guess if they can't read a word (this is a great reading strategy). Or you might have noticed that sometimes your child can fluently read a few pages but struggles to recall events and has little understanding about what happened. This is because they don't have the life experience or knowledge needed. Your job is to give them this information.
Tip 2 - Decide what you want to get from a book.
When focused on how a text can further reading skills rather than hearing your child read and asking some questions, you will see more progress. Be clear about how you can maximise learning and enjoyment and decide what you want to get from a book. You could ask yourself some of the following questions:
Is it a book your child has been asked to read from school or a free choice?
Is your child interested in the book?
Is it a book they will get a lot from, or is it a quick read?
Is it a comfort read they can read independently and build up independence or develop fluency and stamina?
Is it a challenging text where you need to take the lead by reading to your child, reading paragraphs together, discussing the events and vocabulary?
Do you need to discuss the characters' feelings and actions?
Will your child need to talk events through so it makes sense?
Do you need to make links to stories they have read before?
Tip 3 - When to read.
Make sure your child is reading at the right time of the day for them. When to read is not set in stone. When your child can focus and be receptive will vary from child to child and change over time. If screens are a barrier, it is essential that reading is not directly after screen time.
The best time of the day depends on your routines and whether your child is an early riser, up with the joys of spring, or an evening - night owl. We often think about reading as a before-bed activity, but it can be a great start to the day if your child is fresher in the morning or a good straight after school activity with a snack and a drink.
A routine where your child reads at a set time each day can help if your child needs to know what is happening and when. Over time, a set reading time can also help eliminate discussion and debate about your child reading with you.
And remember if your child is focused, five minutes of reading a day is far more effective and enjoyable than ten minutes of cajoling, bribing and pleading. Stamina builds over time and has to happen at least three to four times a week for your child to make progress.
Tip 4 - Finding the right place to read.
Again it will differ from child to child and day-to-day as readers must be comfy and content. It needs to be somewhere quiet and away from distractions, such as the TV or siblings playing.
Some children like to be sat at a table, others on the sofa or in bed. It doesn't matter as long as reading is a relaxed and positive experience. Building a Reading Den can be a great way to encourage reading and create something exciting and different. Have a look at my blog Comfy Reading for more ideas.
Tip 5 - Mix it up
A healthy reading diet for your child needs to be led by them, so they enjoy reading. Your job is to provide a range of carefully chosen books based on what your child can read and enjoy and be enthusiastic about their book choices. Sometimes it might be a re-read ( we know how they can love the same book over and over again) or a book their teacher has provided. Also, the library can be an excellent place to take a chance on a book without the cost.
I hope you have found these tips useful. I would love to hear how you are getting on reading at home. If you want to find out more please check out the workshops on knowyourkids.co.uk.