Jax at Making it Up is running a reading carnival after a Twitter call out from people looking for hints and suggestions to encourage children to read. With four bookworms on my hands I have one or two ideas to share!
I could rant on about reading schemes (which I loathe), I could tell you all how reading is taught in schools, I could spout from teaching handbooks and teacher training manuals but none of this matters. That is the structure, the bones, the boring bit and it is not what turns children on to reading.
No matter how willing the teacher or how fabulous the classroom is, it is when they are home, curled up with a book or lying on their bellies in the park reading a magazine that they become Readers and it is this bit which is yours to encourage and nurture.
Create a literate environment with books as a part of the furniture from the day they are born. Buggy books, cloth books, board books, waterproof books in the bath, big picture books, book character mobiles – all encourage children to see books as things to be enjoyed.
As they get bigger, don’t stop reading with them and sharing stories. My children give me books to read which they have enjoyed and I read them so we can talk about them together.
Read throughout the day, whenever you can – the worst punishment for my children when they were small (and for Bonus Boy now) would be to miss out on a story. I have to ban books at the lunch and tea-table or we might stop talking to each other, but they are allowed at the breakfast table and everybody reads their way into the start of the day.
Let them see you enjoying reading for yourself. If they are reading curl up with your book and read too. It is not time wasted. It is a love shared.
We have a bookcase in the kitchen which I stock with ‘grab it books’ and magazines which people can dip in to for a quick read, there are overflowing bookcases in every bedroom, books piled up ready to be passed on to the next child, the sitting room has floor to ceiling bookcases and the playroom is stuffed to bursting with the papery things. There are books and magazines in every bathroom, there isn’t a room in the house without reading material. Books are part of the fabric of our lives.
We use our library regularly and we buy books as often as we can. The Book People, charity shops and school fairs have enabled us to surround our children with reading material without it costing the earth. The arrival of a Book People box full of shiny new reading material always causes a flurry of excitement and a wander down to the bookshop is a treat.
We also try to take them to meet as many authors and illustrators as we can. I took my eldest out of school for his ninth birthday and we went to a Terry Pratchett book signing, followed by lunch and a wander round Bath Abbey doing their quiz; he has never forgotten that day! We also go to the Bath Children’s Literature Festival every year, if you’re not lucky enough to have a Kids Lit Festival near you many of the ones aimed at grown ups have family friendly workshops and visiting children’s authors as part of their programmes.
There are no rights or wrongs with reading. Magazines and comics encourage engagement with the written word as much as picture books do, if they want to read – encourage it, share it! I had to guide Bonus Boy to school this morning as he had his nose stuck in a Spiderman magazine!
As far as working on the bones goes, make it fun. Do read their school reading book with them and if you find them as tedious as I do, try not to show it! Look for the good bits, talk about what’s happening in the pictures, what might happen next, what the next story in the series might be. Talk about the characters; about how they may be feeling, what they might be thinking, what they might do next, how they might solve their problem.Help them to use sounds to key into words and encourage them to look for picture clues. Don’t correct every mistake and stop the flow, if it makes sense, let them carry on in the early stages, we all scan read – it’s a really useful skill! Encourage them to read for meaning; does what they read makes sense or have they read it wrong? Read it back to them, with their mistake included, and see if they can spot it.
It doesn’t have to be just the school reading book which you share together. Read an old favourite and encourage your child to join in with the familiar words, pointing at them as you go or look at a non fiction book on your child’s current favourite topic (space here at the moment!) and help them to sound out some of the key words in that subject. Bonus Boy currently has a list of the planets which I wrote and printed out for him, on the wall next to his bed.
Play word games, look for words together in your home and your local environment, put labels on familiar objects in the house (door, window, loo etc…words they can have a go at), do letter jigsaw puzzles and talk about the sounds the letters make when they are in words, make shopping lists together and let your child be in charge of them when you shop…the possibilities are endless!
Reading is the greatest gift you can give a child. They can escape into a book, it is the key to learning about anything they are interested in, books will keep them company, stop them being bored, prop up plank shelves in their first homes. Make it fun without pressure, targets or levels – that is what you can do as a parent!
This weekend we will be visiting the library to return our enormous piles of books and choose new ones, what will you be up to?