Let me read you a bedtime story

Dad Reading book
Reading is a skill that most of us take for granted. We do it unconsciously everyday, often effortlessly, and it is only when we go to a foreign country and are bombarded with a foreign street sign or a strange alphabet that we remember we weren’t always able to read.

Looking back at our childhood, it is often hard to remember the first time we read a book, or even the first time we understood a written word, yet each and every one of us had to learn how to read at one point! Personally, I don’t remember the first book I read but I remember the first time I read to my best friend who was two years younger than my grand old age of 8. I felt confident and empowered as I understood and could easily follow the story of Dr. Seuss. My friend listened intently but only occasionally glanced at the book, more for the pictures than the words. Luckily, she soon caught up to me and is now an academic professor reading books about subjects I might struggle with!

Encouraging children to read at home is one of the easiest ways to help your child improve his or her reading skills. You may assume it is the job of a teacher to hone this skill, but often it is the environment at home which is most important. At school, there are 25 little distractions in your child’s class and if their best friend or neighbouring student doesn’t like reading, or even the picture on the cover of the book, suddenly your child also doesn’t want to read. The teachers often do all they can but if the child is not motivated internally then reading can be a struggle in class. Home is a child’s sanctuary, where he finds his family and fun space. If reading is encouraged at home then classroom time tends to be much better spent – practicing reading rather than learning everything for the first time.

As a parent, you can help your child in many ways but the most important one is by being positive. Don’t force your child to sit reading for an hour everyday while you check your emails or cook dinner. In fact don’t force them to do anything! Here are five great tips to encourage and help your kids improve their reading skills:

Model good behaviour

When you drink coffee in the morning, little one often wants some too. If a child sees that mummy is always reading, it is likely that he or she will want to do so as well.  As you drink coffee and read the newspaper offer your child some milk and the cartoons. Encourage a time where you read together and make sure to dive into children’s books, too.

Start a daily habit

Reading 15 minutes before bedtime has been proven to be beneficial not only for children’s sleep but also for gains in reading ability. Practice makes perfect and daily practice will help them learn new words, explore stories and descriptive ideas and also creates a desire to keep reading to find out what happens next! Let the child choose the book or read one that your were fond of to make it even more meaningful. Make it fun and practice changing your voice as it will keep them absorbed in the story. Hearing the rhythm of your voice will greatly help your child when he or she starts to read as later.

Go to the library

Trips to the library are always fun. Local community libraries are often great places for children because they tend to have special reading areas or bean bag seats, a wide variety of choices of story books for all levels and they offer the positive reinforcement of being surrounded by other young readers. Plus, it’s a day out so it might even be a little bit of an adventure! Little one found 20 books they want to read? Then borrow 5 with the promise that next week, after those have been read, you will come back and swap them for 5 more – perfect motivation!

Read, read and read some more

Having lots of books, magazines, comics around the house is a great way to encourage reading. In the car on a short journey, make sure there are books or magazines handy (this might not be a good idea on longer car journeys as reading in moving vehicles might make your child carsick). When you are making dinner, ask your child to read aloud to you. There are also lots of games that encourage children to read and spell words, such as the game Scrabble or technology-based games. This way, they can develop reading skills using materials other than books! My top tip is to make sure that the reading material is the appropriate level for your child. It’s no good asking a 6-year-old to read Tolstoy so be sure to find books that are age appropriate and stories that are in line with their interests to spark reading enjoyment.

Talk about the books

It’s one thing to read a book but it’s another thing to understand it, and therein lies the key component to improving reading comprehension. Before you open the book, talk about the title. Look at the pictures as you read and discuss the words – ‘What does this mean?’, ‘Have you ever seen daddy exhausted?, ‘Do you know what this is?’. De-construct the the book’s ideas and pause to discuss the story. Let your child make predictions about the endings and characters to allow them to think about the story deeper.

And finally it is never too early (or too late) to help improve your child’s reading skills. Read to them in the womb, read to them in the cot, read to them on the bus, in the park, at bedtimes. Keep reading to them when they are teenagers, buy them magazines or newspapers or even email them! Just never force it – reading is meant to be enjoyable and is a valuable skill to foster. Helping your little one discover how much fun reading can be is one of the joys of parenting!

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