A night time bed time story is more than just a cosy way to end the day; it also helps with your child's speech development.
But recent research has discovered that busy parents no longer have time to read bedtime stories to their children. Sixty per cent said they had stories read to them when they were young, but nearly half of all mums and dads now just turn off the lights and close the door.
Encourage a life-long love of books with your children with our easy tips on how to squeeze more reading time into your child's day...
Work out a schedule - and stick to it
Set a time that is 'story time' for you and your child. Whether it's before dinner or before bed time. Make sure it's a consistent time when your child will expect to have reading time and stick to it!
Talk and write with your kids
Talk to your child about what he is learning about in school, what's going on around the house and other significant events. Include words that your child may not be as familiar with to help build their vocabulary. Also ask your child to help you write things down, such as a grocery list or a thank-you note, on a regular basis.
Involve the whole family
Who said you have to be the one to do all the reading work? It's actually beneficial to have multiple readers in the family. This allows your child to have various reading experiences. 'If you have more than one child, read together and encourage older children to read with their younger siblings. And take it in turns to read a book together with your child – you can split the characters or read a line each,' says Sally Death from the charity Volunteering Reading Help.
Choose picture books
It will save a lot of time and your child can anticipate the upcoming story. This prepares them to begin predicting, an important reading skill for early readers. 'Talk about the pictures before you read a book – try and predict what is going to happen in the story, then go back and read it to see how close you were,' suggests Sally.
Break a story into bite-size chunks
'Reading to your child is a real treat for them and means they can access books that are above their own current reading ability – aim for a chapter a day,' says Sally.
Your child might even prefer small doses so that they enjoy the experience and look forward to the next one instead of getting frustrated being asked to sit still for too long.
Make it a habit
If you don't read regularly with your child now, don't try to make it a daily thing right away – a bit like promising yourself to go to the gym every day, it's unlikely to happen! Instead, if you currently read with your child once or twice a week, add another day. Then, week by week, bump it up another day. That way it'll gradually become a daily habit.
Limit TV Time
TV and other screen-related distractions, such as video games and DVDs, will significantly reduce the amount of time your child spends reading. Set a limit to the amount of time spent on screen based activities.
Look for real-life reading
Says Sally: 'Signs, billboards, recipes, notes, catalogues – encourage your child to read anything and everything. Ask what's on the cereal packet over breakfast or get your child to look up something in the Argos catalogue rather than doing it yourself. This will ensure your child gets a daily dose of practical reading which fits into today's family schedules. '
Try audio books
'Reading' audio books via your ears rather than your eyes is a great way to ensure you can fit in reading at times when you may not have otherwise had the opportunity to read a book with your child, such as on car journeys or on the bus with headphones.
Get into the habit of bringing a book or magazine along with you any time you need to take your child somewhere that you may have a wait, such as on journeys, restaurants or in the doctor's surgery. Think ahead for small opportunities where you can fit some reading in.
Play word games
'Improving your child's reading doesn't have to mean sitting down with a book,' says Sally. 'Playing word-based games such as eye-spy can be a great way to encourage a very reluctant reader – and games are fantastic for communication as well.'
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