As you may know from my previous two posts, I recently got the chance to chat with childcare expert Jo Wiltshire (from Childcare.co.uk) about all things parenting, including how to get children to read. Jo has a wealth of experience and knowledge, so I was thrilled to be able to talk to her and ask her all sorts of parenting related questions. She’s written three books on parenting and co-authored lots more and regularly features in newspaper columns, magazines and on TV shows.
Childcare.co.uk is a fab online service that brings childminders and parents together. If you’re looking for childcare, you should take a look.
During our conversation we got talking about reading and how some children love to read, while others really struggle. I know many parents have difficulty in getting their children (age 4-7years) to read at home. This is what Jo had to say on the subject…
How can we get reluctant children to read?
Studies have shown that enjoying reading at an early age has a real effect on a child’s future intelligence. But how do you get your child to practice reading at home – when they have so many other things they’d rather be doing?
Firstly, make sure your home is a book-friendly one. Books should be a part of their everyday life, from birth. Have books out in your house, visible. Read board books when they’re babies and let them have cloth books to hold. Put bookshelves in your child’s room. Join the local library, and take them to storytelling sessions. If you go out, tuck a couple of books in your bag and offer them when you stop for a drink or a meal. Show them your favourite childhood books, and read with them – every night if you possibly can. Make it a special time, where they get your whole attention and feel close to you. Reading to your child helps them learn the cadences of the written word, and your voice brings the contents to life for them. This also helps them to see that reading can be an escape to another world rather than a dry, difficult process.
Once they get to school, they will probably start with books containing pictures and no words. Get them to describe the pictures to you, what’s happening on this page? What is the story now? You can do this with your own picture books at home, too. Then, as they move on to simple books, sit with them and do just a few pages at a time, so frustration and boredom doesn’t set in. Some children like the ‘I’ll do one page, then you do one page’ approach, with you alternating with them – this combines their own practice with the perceived ‘treat’ of you reading to them, and has the added benefit of moving the story along at a faster pace and keeping them interested.
Finally, don’t worry too much about what they are reading – graphic books in cartoon strip style, such as TinTin or Asterix, can be appealing. Comics or magazines are fine. Find books with lots of illustrations to break things up. If they have a particular interest or hobby – dinosaurs or ballet or football – find books about that topic, both fiction and non-fiction. Try film tie-ins – if they’ve seen the film and know the story, chances are they will be more willing to give the book a go, and won’t feel apprehensive about understanding the storyline. Get them to read instructions to you, or a cake recipe, or road signs, or a shopping list, or even the back of the cereal packet. Make words part of every day. And finally, one day, you will catch them picking up a book of their own accord, and become lost in it, and you will know you have created a reader for life!