When it comes to teaching your children from the get-go, there is nothing quite as important or effective as reading books… but why? As per Pearson UK, “Evidence suggests that children who read for enjoyment every day not only perform better in reading tests than those who don’t, but also develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures.”
When you have a preschooler who is constantly on-the-go, it may be easier said than done to get them to sit down to read with you and/or learn their phonics, but in doing so can make a HUGE impact, as taught by writer and teacher Elisabeth Straw.
Here are her tips for teaching/getting your young child to read:
How do I get my child into reading?
The recent changes to public exams require students to possess a very high level of reading ability. Not only is it important to be able to read very lengthy and detailed passages but they also demand a wide vocabulary and an ability to write creatively. This underlines more than ever, the importance of reading. To put it simply, you cannot expect to answer comprehensions or write your own creative writing pieces if you do not have experience of reading a wide variety of texts. If you want to achieve the higher grades then reading is the key to unlock potential in creative writing and language analysis.
So how do you encourage your child to read? What are the best ways to foster a love of reading?
I am asked these questions frequently and I know how frustrating it can be to try and encourage a child to read. Many parents might start by telling me that they have bought their child all the Harry Potter books and yet they still do not want to read. Others find it frustrating that children will spend hours on a tablet, but then refuse to pick up an actual book.
Find the hook
The key to encouraging a life-long love of reading though is far more personal and it is in exploiting the uniqueness of each child that we find the answer. The truth is that each child is different. What might work for one, will not necessarily work for another. However, once you have found that hook then you will find that the love of reading comes naturally.
The first step is to find something that your child really enjoys.
Don’t be afraid to try different mediums. For example; a child might really love cookery. Encourage them to look at recipe books and find things to make. This can then lead onto following recipes, – an excellent comprehension exercise- reading about unusual or different cuisines of different countries. They might invent their own recipes. My daughter loved singing. We used to buy karaoke videos for her, an unusual form of reading but it worked. She is now mad about making her own Youtube videos and so we have chosen books for her to read such as Girl Online by Zoella. This hook was her route into reading. My son had no interest in reading until he was much older. This came from his obsession with Dr Who going right back to the 1960s. We bought him a Dr Who comic each week and I used to read it with him. Eventually he started to learn to read in order that he could read it on his own. He also loves history and we would buy him Kings and Queens fact files.
In finding the hook, it is important that you consider other reading mediums rather than just fiction books. It is well known that boys tend to prefer non-fiction. Consider a wide range of reading material such as sticker albums, catalogues, comics and fact files. Even the Argos catalogue can be a useful comprehension tool. Some children prefer reading on their tablets rather than books. I teach a great deal of teenagers. With some teenagers the hook has come from their love of social media and reading books written by social media and reality stars. Reading online newspapers and magazines is equally valuable. It really does not always matter what they are reading at first as long as they are reading. I also introduced my children to audio books. These are a great hook for children as often a child will want to read the book themselves or others in a series.
Reading is a hobby
Children need to learn the joy of reading and see it as a hobby rather than a chore. Children also learn from their parents’ behaviour. If you want your child to read more than you should also read more and show them how reading is a great form of relaxation. Sharing books is a very enjoyable experience and a great way to improve the accuracy of your child’s reading. You can share the reading of a book page by page. Having a variety of books and other reading material in your home also encourages children to pick up material they would not necessarily read. I also enjoy sharing poems. Poems are usually very short and can be humorous.
Encourage by rewards
In all my years of teaching I have learnt how much children love being rewarded for their efforts. That could be in the form of a sticker chart or even, as I did with my own children, a financial reward. I used to give my daughter a pound a book and then she would use that money to buy even more books. It is down to the individual to decide what will work best for each child but I strongly encourage you to reward them as much as you can.
Finally and I think this is really important, let your child lead the way on his or her reading. Spend time finding the hook. Go with what makes them happy. This might mean trips to local or school libraries or bookshops or even a local charity shop. Just because you know one parent whose child is endlessly reading the classics of literature does not mean that your child has to do the same. There are now many places to buy cheap books whether online or in the High Street.
My name is Elisabeth Straw. I am a writer, a teacher and an examiner. I have been a teacher, as well as a member of senior management, in many schools both Independent and State, for over twenty-five years. I am also a Senior Examiner for GCSE exams at 16+. I am a writer and have recently finished my first novel, Control Alt Delete, a novel about an independent and intelligent woman who becomes a victim of coercion and control. I have two children. One of my children has autism and I advise parents on how to help their autistic child. I write for magazines on a range of educational and women's issues and I have blog https://writeonejaleigh.wordpress.com/