PARENTS

Only One Third Of Parents Read To Their Children Every Day. Zoe Ball On Why Reading Together Is A Time For Calm And Intimacy

05/10/2012 14:11 | Updated 22 May 2015

Only one in three UK parents read to their children every day, a new survey has found.

The reason? Not because we don't know how vital it is to introduce children to reading, but because we're too busy and distracted.

Two thirds of parents feel that modern technology in the home, like computers and games consoles, is taking away from potential story-time with children, according to the survey commissioned by Disney of 1000 parents with children under six.

And two thirds of parents feel too tired to tell stories when they get home in the evening, or get home from work too late.

Lack of experience in storytelling is another inhibition for many - especially younger people. 81 of 18-24 year olds.

What's more, dads are lagging behind when it comes to telling stories - they are half as likely as mums to be found book-in-hand at bedtime, and are less confident as storytellers.

Interestingly, most of us favour reading aloud stories which we were read as children; usually preferring classic stories to making up our own.

Disney launched its Winnie the Pooh Storytelling Academy this week; a website aiming to become an online resource to help parents become better storytellers.

The website offers expert tips on making time for stories at home, on the move and when you're travelling (for instance using multimedia technology like audiobooks, Skype or FaceTime - or just the good old fashioned telephone).

There is also advice on how to feel less self-conscious when reading aloud and how to read in a way your children will find anything but dull.

Celebrity broadcaster and mum-of-two Zoe Ball is one of the advisers for the Storytelling Academy.

She told Parentdish why she feels so strongly about reading to her children, Woody, 11, and Nelly, two.

She said:

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Sticking them in front of a DVD, you don't get the same feeling of intimacy. It is hard to have the energy at the end of the day; you can be thinking about the shopping list and work - but then you start telling a story and doing silly voices and you slow right down. It's a really lovely calm moment.

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Zoe vividly recalls her father, the TV presenter and maths boffin Jonny Ball, telling her stories when she was a child. "When he told his own stories they were great - he had his own versions of Three Billy Goats Gruff; he would never tell the same one twice."

Her number one book from childhood, she said, is Frog and Toad - "it's such a lovely book about friendship and reminds me of my dad telling it to me."

She also loved him reading aloud to her from Richard Scarry (especially Busy Busy World, Winnie the Pooh, Where The Wild Things Are and The Wind in the Willows, all of which she has read with her children.

As for Zoe's children's modern favourites, she said Woody, who is dyslexic, is 'really into Michael Morpurgo' and used to love the Mr Gum books ('really funny crazy fun to read as a parent').

And little Nelly loves Stuck by Oliver Jeffers, Good Little Wolf by Nadia Shireen and The Day Louis Got Eaten by John Fardell.

Child Psychologist Emma Kenny, another Storytelling Academy advisor, called on parents to read more to their children to help develop their imagination and attention spans - and also just to spend quality time together.

She says:

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Sitting down to read a story with your child is effectively a direct message that says 'I really like your company, I value you and I want to share time with you'.

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10 top tips for storytelling from the Storytelling Academy

1. Put some theatre into it. Animate your voice, be funny and add humour - it's the easiest way to get a child to interact. You can also use things that are close by to make sound effects, like arm movements for trees blowing in the wind.

2. Have a routine - put aside 15-30 minutes for story-time before bed. This is a wind-down time that can help with bedtime stress.

3. Encourage your child to interact by asking them questions like 'What do you think Winnie-the-Pooh did next?' to develop their imagination and help them to think stories through.

4. Repetition of words and rhythms works well for younger children.

5. Keep audio-books in the car to develop children's listening skills - or tell a story you know well while you're driving.

6. Take an iPad, e-Reader or mobile DVD player on holiday to provide a never-ending supply of stories.

7. There are storybook apps that allow you to record your voice reading the story even if you can't read aloud in person every night.

8. Invite your child to make up their own story - maybe give them a prop like a doll or a picture as a jumping off point.

9. Video your child telling their story and play it back to them, or write a story book together all about them.

10. Don't see story-time as a chore - use it as your time to switch off too. And don't feel self-conscious. There's no one else watching you and if you can make a child laugh, that's the best audience you can have.

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