Readers have a lot going for them: they tend to be more adventurous, inquisitive and more imaginative than their peers; they seem to show greater respect, not only for those around them, but also for themselves; they do better at both reading and writing at school. As a parent or caregiver, therefore, it’s important to participate in the development of your child’s literacy, and these roots are at home.
The following are various ideas for encouraging the positive development of your child’s good reading habits. Get involved, and make share in your child’s discovery and exploration of the written word.
Source information: Pick an activity – any activity that you can do with your child, such as making paper aeroplanes, telling jokes, or identifying a bug collected from the garden. Gather information for the activity from books, so that reading becomes a purposeful part of the activity’s process.
Reading games: Play games with your child that involve reading. Games like Junior Scrabble or other letter tile games are great, as are board games where the child has to read the spaces on the board and cards. Work through some children’s activity books that include crosswords or word-searches, or set up a treasure hunt that has written clues along the way.
Word games: Part of reading is becoming familiar with words and their building blocks. The classic game “I Spy” is a wonderful word game that gets children thinking about words, letters and phonetics, and it can be played anywhere (I recall playing this on long trips in the car). Charades is another classic that is very useful for developing the vocabulary and an understanding of the break-down of words. There are plenty of word games out there, or create your own.
Talk about it: Find moments (when you’re busy with other things usually works well) to discuss with your child the books they’re reading. What has happened? How do they feel about it? How did the book make them react? What do they hope will happen? Encourage them to talk about their reading experience. It can be really useful to read the books your child is reading at school, as you’ll have inside info enabling you to spur the conversation on.
Read aloud: Many adults still find comfort in listening to a loved one read to them. There is pleasure in listening to a story, pleasure that can offer a child’s enthusiasm for books and reading a huge boost. (My favourite and most magical children’s stories remain those my mother read to me.) Reverse the roles and let your child read to you, allowing your interest in what they’re reading to be their encouragement. The earlier you start reading to your child, the better. Even before they understand what you’re doing, they are enjoying the soothing sound of your voice, and you’re adding reading to their routine.
Listen: Listen to audio-books together. Play them in the car while driving, or listen to them before bed as an alternative to reading a book.
What do you call…? Part of a child’s acquisition of social norms is developing an understanding of humour and how to use. The upside of this is that most children will go through a phase (some to the point of obsession) of telling jokes. Pop into any library and – voila! – you will find numerous joke books filled with material waiting to be read and shared.
Read the book first: If your child is interested in watching a particular movie or TV show that is based on a book, suggest reading the book (together) first. This will allow them to develop their own imaginative version of the story first. Many movies release books as part of their merchandise now, too, so look out for books written after the movie.
Signposts, menus and brochures: There are opportunities for your child to practice reading everywhere, you just need to take them – and be patient as they stumble along. Give your child the chance to read the menu, to look through travel brochures, to the read the school newsletter to you, and to tell you what the signpost says. Let your child read your shopping list, read out a recipe as you cook or bake, or have them read the instructions to a game or craft project. Make their reading skills something you can’t do without.
Technology: If your child has access to an iPad or Kindle, let them select an e-book to enjoy. This is particularly good for children who want to spend time on the computer. Just ensure that you set whichever programme you’re using to a setting that is gentle on the eyes and not too glaring.
You may also find the following NZ Booklovers articles helpful: Read it, Write it, Play it, Build it: Ten Fun Creative Reading-Related Activities, Enjoying Books: Ten Ways You Can Encourage Your Child to Read, Why Kids Don’t Read.