How to support your child with their reading

Supporting your child with their reading is one of the best things you can do for their education and long term development. Reading is the bedrock of learning and is used in every single subject. You might have a natural ability in maths, but if you can’t read the question or understand that tricky worded problem then you’re stuck. 

Even outside of the classroom, reading is one of the best things for children’s all-round development. It helps to develop imagination, communication skills and empathy. When you read, you enter a new world of characters who don’t necessarily act or think like you. They might be from a foreign country or have magical powers – you learn to understand how others think and can explore alternative perspectives to your own. If you want your child to grow up to be an engaged citizen, imaginative and caring then it’s time to start reading to them. 

So, how do you get your child to look away from the TV and open the book?


Role modelling 


The first and most important thing is to practice what you preach. Be honest with yourself: how often does your child see you read? How many books are visible to them in your house? How do you talk about reading with them? If you talk about reading as something fun, and they see you doing it as well – then it will become something they love, not a chore. If you use negative language about it, then they’ll pick up on that. Most children come home with a reading book; if you’re saying ‘come on, let’s get this over with’, or checking your phone while they’re reading – then you’re sending a message that reading is a bore, a chore and something you can ignore. Nothing could be further from the truth! It’s best established from day one, but it’s never too late to try and turn things around. If you have lots of books in the house and talk about it with excitement – they will mirror the behaviour that you role model to them. 

Listen to them 


Listen to your children about what they like and find exciting. Please don’t try and force them to read what you think they should be reading. If you have a very sporty child, then find books about sporting superheroes and mix it up with reading from magazines. They don’t need to be reciting Shakespeare – they need to be developing their fluency reading aloud, developing their vocabulary and learning to absorb other characters perspectives. If you have a child that finds it hard to sit still for any length of time, then listen to that as a reason they don’t want to read. Learning that sometimes you have to sit and listen is certainly very important, and I’d always support developing a structure – but you can also mix it up for them a little. For example, you could print out or buy a play script and act that out with them, rather than just sitting and reading quietly. 


Visit your local library 


Go and get some books out! Books are sadly becoming more and more expensive, but getting them cheaply from charity shops or borrowing them for free at your local library are great alternatives. When it comes to books, it really is true: the more the merrier. Trips to the local library can be a magical part of someone’s childhood, if you nurture that sense of fun and love of learning. Why not try a Saturday morning visit and curl up with a hot chocolate to explore all the new world’s you’ve just gained access to. 


Invest the time 


Outside schools you sometimes see signs saying: ‘Take ten to read with your child every day.’ That’s a great start. However, you ideally want to be aiming for a good 20-40 minutes, depending on the age of your child. That is obviously not always possible; we all live very busy lives and you certainly shouldn’t berate yourself if you miss a few nights. Reading is an important part of the bed time routine, it helps to calm your child and enables them to sleep better. It also develops structure, which is equally important for learning. Your child won’t become a confident reader overnight, you have to invest the time and be patient with their progress. 


Encourage drawing and writing 


Drawing and writing are heavily interconnected with reading skills, and really important for the development of creativity and self-expression. Especially at a young age, it’s really important to praise effort and overlook small SPAG (spelling and grammar) errors. Of course, it’s important to gently correct children’s work at a certain age, but it’s also important to give them space for free-flow writing so they learn to love it, not dread being pulled up on a bunch of mistakes. No one loves seeing their work covered in red pen. Giving them a chance to write helps them cement their skills, and develop new ones. It’s one of the most important parts of developing communication skills – something that all of us need in later life.


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