Reading at home. Q&A

Reading to/with your child

As parents and carers, we all want the best for our children. We’re probably all aware that it’s important to make sure they are confident, fluent readers who enjoy reading, but often it’s hard to know where to start. Hopefully, this guide will help answer some of your questions, as well as give you some advice and inspiration on how to help your child enjoy reading.

Why is reading so important?

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. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that reading for pleasure is more likely to determine whether a child does well at school than their social or economic background.

What difference could I make as a parent?

  • The short answer is: a lot! Parents are by far the most important teachers in a child’s life and it’s never too young (or old!) for a child to start enjoying sharing books with family members, even if you’re only reading with your child for a few minutes a day.
  • Learning to read is about listening and understanding as well as working out what the words on the page say. Through hearing stories, children are exposed to a rich and wide vocabulary. This helps them build their own vocabulary and improve their understanding when they listen. It’s important for them to understand how stories work as well. Even if your child doesn’t understand every word, they’ll hear new sounds, words and phrases which they can then try out, copying what they have heard.
  • As children continue to read at school, you can play an important role in helping to keep them interested in books, finding out what interests them and helping them to find books that will be engaging and fun for them. Give time to helping them practise reading the books they will bring home from school.

How should I read to/with my child?

  • As you read to your child, bring the characters to life – talk about the characters, the drawings and the events so that the story starts to come alive.Don’t be afraid to try different voices or try out your acting skills. While you may not win an Oscar, your child will enjoy your performance and appreciate the story even more.
  • Emphasise repeated words and phrases (‘the big bad wolf ’; ‘… blew, and blew, and blew the house down’). In this way, your child starts to learn the language used in books.
  • Encourage your child to say the words with you. Turn off the television and concentrate on enjoying the book.
  • Try audio books that children can listen to on the car stereo, on computers or phones – this is a great way to build a child’s understanding of stories and improve their listening.

How often should I read to/with my child, and how long for?

• Be guided by how long they will listen. For younger children this may be quite short periods of time, while slightly older children may be readier to listen for longer.
• As for how often, we ask that children read to adults at least three times a week. There is no right answer for how often you should read to your child but many experts suggest a routine helps. For school-age children, a bedtime story can be a nice way for you to spend a small amount of time together and wind down after a busy day. For EYFS children, shorter bursts of reading throughout the day may be a good idea but, again, be guided by how long your child will listen.

Choosing what to read

  • When it comes to instilling a love of reading, it doesn’t really matter what you read to them . The important thing is that we all help to inspire our children to feel confident and comfortable reading.
  • Ask yourself what type of reading the book is for. Is it a book they have got from school to help practise reading and build fluency? Is it a book that they find easy to read that helps them build confidence? Is it a book for you to read for pleasure to your child?
  • With hundreds of books in your local library, school or bookshop, it can be hard to know where to start when choosing a book for your child. Remember that as adults we like to re-read favourite books, relax with a magazine or tackle something challenging. Children are the same, so encourage choices – maybe a familiar book for re-reading as well as something new. Don’t show disapproval if your child returns to favourites.
  • At Craven Primary Academy, we have a colour-coded system for home reading books which ensures your child is matched to the right level of reading book. But, of course, your child can read any other book they choose in addition to this, or you can read to them!
    Remember – all reading is good! Don’t discount non-fiction, comics, graphic novels, magazines and leaflets

 What do I do if my child doesn’t enjoy reading?

• Make sure your child isn’t tired, hungry or desperate to watch their favourite TV programme when you read to them. Sit with them for a short time every day and read a book with them on a subject that interests them, whether that’s cars, animals or sports etc.  Don’t expect them to read it for themselves. Just show them how interesting it is to be able to read so that they want to do it for themselves.
• For many children, especially boys as they get older, non-fiction books are more interesting than fiction, so it may be as simple as changing the type of books you are reading together. Talk to your teacher  to see what books are available that match your child’s interests.
• Give plenty of praise. Let your child know how pleased you are when he or she looks at a book. Show interest in what they have chosen. Children really do develop at their own rates when it comes to reading.
• Role models are also important. Make sure children see their parents and carers or other family members reading, even if it’s a newspaper, so that it seems familiar and they can copy their reading behaviour.