Claire here I am writing the blog today, I have worked for YogaBugs for over a year now, I am a Primary School teacher with over ten years experience and I also managed a Children’s Centre. I am also more importantly a mother of two very active and energetic boys, one 6 and one 3 years old.
I wanted to write about something that as a mum and a teacher I can sometimes find frustrating. I struggle sometimes with being enthusiastic when it comes to reading the school book every night (let’s face it, they are written for learning purposes not entertainment value) or getting my boys to turn off the telly, game console etc. and come and read a book.
We are all aware of the importance of reading and how when a child does engage, it is a magical moment to see them so emerged in a story and become so excited that they can’t wait to read more (and if like my 3 year old, turns the page before you have finish), but how do we get that to happen on a regular basis and make it part of our everyday life?
I have put together some ideas and tricks for you that I have learnt over that last 12 years, when trying to convince children that reading is the best fun ever. I hope you find it interesting and more importantly useful. I would love to hear your feedback and, also as I image many of you will have your own great ideas that you have tried and tested.
Make it a Game or a Challenge; try some positive reinforcement to kick-start the reading process. Make a list of five or ten books you and your kids can read at the same time, and create a chart to keep track of how far you’re both getting. Whether it’s two pages or 200, any progress is progress worth noting. You’re a reader, too, so make time for some reading of your own! We all know how much children love to repeat the things adults say and do, and if your kids see that you’re interested in your own book, they’ll be quick to follow suit.
What Gets your Child Excited? The incentive to read is different for every child. For anyone to be motivated to do anything, they have to believe two things: (1) They have to believe they can do it, and (2) they have to want to do it. Some kids may be motivated by a sticker on the chart, while others may need the promise of a more tangible prize, like a trip to the community pool or zoo, a trip to the book store to buy a book of their choice, to catch their attention. However, Thom Barthelmess, president of the Association of Library Service to Children, cautions parents against promising TV time in exchange for reading. “Kids are smart and they’re paying attention, and the message we want to give them is that reading is its own reward. When we [offer TV as a reward for reading], we show them that reading is what you do to get something really valuable, like watch TV,” Thom says.
Dinosaur Books vs. the Remote Be sure that your kids’ books are easy to access within your home. By making kids’ books more available than the remote, you’ll encourage them to turn a page rather than turn on the TV. Do you have a box that can be left in the living room will a few selected books? Spice racks (wooden shelf types, IKEA sell them for something silly like £1.99) are great and easy to put up, fix them low so that your kids access them at any time, you’ll be amazed at how much they will use this book rack.
With emerging readers—little ones who aren’t yet reading on their own, it’s especially important to be conscious of the emphasis you place on literacy. Young children are incredibly excited to learn how to read because it moves them up that ladder to being a big kid, so use this excitement to get them looking at books and telling you the story (even if it is nothing like the story).
Reading on the road Reception teacher Nancy Singer finds that the best time to practice early reading skills is when you’re in the car. After all, she says, you’ll have a captive audience! “Parents are so busy. There just isn’t a lot of extra time anymore. But everyone’s in the car, whether it is school runs, shopping, activities etc, we all spend time with our children in the car,” Nancy says.
Look for environmental print, words you see all around you on buildings and street signs. When you drive by a restaurant or store, call out the letters. When you roll up to a stop sign, say “Stop! S-T-O-P spells stop.” “Who can spot the Tesco sign?” Nancy says efforts like this help your kids make the connection between letters, sounds and reading.
Lighten Up Help your kids realise that reading lends itself to more than just books. Encourage them to get their hands on everything they can, including comics, game directions, cereal boxes and kid-friendly websites. “Even having them go online and search for things—it’s still reading. It’s still having them comprehend and synthesize the information from what they’ve read. This also highlights to them, just how important reading is. Just as you’d curl up with your favourite magazine, there are publications geared toward kids, as well. It can sometimes be more difficult to interest boys in reading than girls. Boys, typically aren’t interested in narratives, and most of the books available for younger kids are just that. This is no excuse to let your sons off the hook. For a lot of boys, it might Sports Illustrated, there are some good magazines and comics available now, that are designed to grab boys interest, but it doesn’t matter what they read as long as they read
Reading and writing go hand in hand at the early stages of literacy. Letting little boys write about topics they’re interested it is more productive than say, asking them to journal about their favourite memory.
Time to Read Out Loud When making dinner ask your child to sit in the kitchen with you and read to you, as for most parents/carers time is something we would all like more of, ask them to help you read the recipe that you are following. I often make mistakes when I’m reading, my son loves correcting me and it also shows them that we all make mistake and reading takes practice.
The Gift That Keeps on Giving For birthdays and holidays, give your children books, just as you would a toy. Everything is more exciting dressed in wrapping paper and a bow. Thom says, from a parenting perspective, it’s as crucial to show children the importance of reading as it is to tell them. “One way to show them is by making a book into a gift, which they already know is something of great value,” he says. “We know kids having access to things to read is critically important to kids loving [reading]. Surround them.”
The more enthusiasm you show about the book, the more they’ll appreciate the gift they’ve received. Think about the stories you loved as a child. Write a personal note on the inside cover so your children understand how much this book means to you. If you cherish it, they probably will too.
And when your kids do receive a book as a gift, keep the book in a special place. Especially at a young age, kids are interested in anything—and everything—that belongs to them alone. I have a few books that I keep for special reading time together and not one that they can have all the time and handle, my little loves these and always gets excited when I ask if he would like to read one of them- (It’s the Jolly Postman at the moment).
Slow and Steady Wins the Race All children learn to read at a different pace. Instead of asking your little ones to finish a certain number of pages, look at the picture, discuss favourite parts. It doesn’t matter what page they start on it’s the reading that is important.
As a parent or anyone who is around young children, you’ve probably noticed that many love to “read” their favourite books over and over again, essentially reciting the stories from memory. (If I have to read Mr Tickle again I may go insane!) As boring as this may be for us, this is actually an important early step in the reading process. Children learn sounds before they learn the letters that represent those sounds.
It’s counter-intuitive to us, as adults, because we associate the letter with the sound, but children learn that in the reverse order, you know for sure they’re beginning to understand and learn words when they read the same or similar words in a different context. They’re beginning to understand if they can take those skills and transfer them to a different book that they haven’t read before.”
The Monster under the Bed Leave your kids’ books next to their beds. If you encourage them to read for a few minutes each night, they’ll be polishing off books in no time. My three year who cannot read yet, insists that I leave one or two books with him, and I love to listen (outside the door) to his interpretation of the book.
Night time reading with your kids is a necessary activity (and should be an enjoyable one) this is a nice idea that can help this, create an “under the bed box.”
Take a shoe box and wrap it up with colourful paper and ribbon; make it special, and keep it in under your child’s bed. When she receives a book as a gift or brings one home from school, add it to the box and let her know she doesn’t have to share any of those specific books with her siblings or friends. At night, before your children go to sleep, go under the bed and pick out a book to read.
An Adventure of Its Own To kids of all ages, there’s nothing like a good adventure. Turn a trip to your library or local bookstore into an anticipated event, and you never know your little ones might even beat you to the car.
Help your kids sign up for a library card. Not only will they feel more grown up, but they’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and possession over their reading abilities. If, early on, you can instil in your children the value of print, they’ll carry it with them for years to come.
Choose a book for yourself while your kids make their own decision. If it is a first time visit, it make take a while, let them roam around and explore, show them where their sections are and guide their choice but ultimately give them the final choice. They may want a great big catalogue of fiction, and seemingly random books, they may just want to read about this one animal and then go back 30 pages and read about another animal, this is ok and should be encouraged.
I hope you have enjoyed this tips and that you find them useful, let’s get our children reading more.
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