Last week I was saddened to hear recent statistics from the National Literacy Trust about the state of reading amongst children.
They found that not only are fewer children reading books for pleasure in their spare time but that more children than ever feel embarrassed to carry books or read in front of their friends for fear of being labelled 'geeks'.
The main cause? Well according to the research it's parents failing to motivate their children to read with many taking the "not bothered" approach if their sons and daughters pick up a book in their spare time. Now this is something that I feel very passionately about. Being a working parent myself, I understand precisely the difficulties that come with struggling to maintain a healthy and happy work-life balance. It is tough - and many will see other things as a priority but for me, and for many adults who grew up loving books, a passion for reading is so important.
By encouraging your child to love reading, you are inviting them into worlds far, far away from their own. You are helping them build on their imagination and feel empathy and antipathy - as they put themselves into the shoes of the characters they begin to love - and dislike.
Not only that but you are inadvertently helping them develop their linguistic skills as they read more widely and learn words in context. They will undoubtedly become more creative in their descriptive language as their knowledge of, and love for, the English language grows.
It isn't just fiction. Reading provides our children with an opportunity to become an independent learner. If they want to find out about Dinosaurs, for example, you are giving them to tools to investigate a topic for themselves, develop an opinion and ask questions about it.
At Explore Learning we are all about encouraging children to enjoy reading, writing, maths and learning. Here are a few of my tips as a parent and as Head of Curriculum at Explore, on how parents, older brothers and sisters, friends, grandparents and relatives can help children to remove any inhibitions they may have to read aloud and walk proud with a book in hand:
• A library at home. Have a large selection of books available at home for your children to choose from. Variety is the spice of life and our digital children are definitely used to choice. The local library is great for keeping fresh material coming into your home. If you'd like to have reading material to keep in line with school you could use a service such as www.readingchest.co.uk and receive new books regularly through the post for a small monthly fee.
• Read together. One of the most important times in my household is when my children are snuggled up in bed and my husband and I are reading them a story - or they're reading to us. If you make reading an integral part of family time, something that you do together and part of a routine, then your children are much more likely to enjoy it themselves.
• Make a fool of yourself. A pirate needs to say 'Ah Ha me Hearties!' with gusto and Tiger has to roar loudly and scarily. Action brings our characters to life and expression in your voice demonstrates to children that reading aloud and acting it out is fun. Drama schools such as Stage Coach are great for developing children's confidence in this area. If you're concerned then why not try a free session in a local drama class.
• Start young. Even if they're too young to read themselves, read to your child so they are introduced to the joy of reading and the habit of a bedtime story.
• Family read time. As children get older and are reading independently then set aside half an hour each day where everyone - including Mum and Dad - sits and reads. Ipads, TVs, games consoles off. Not only does this demonstrate your love for reading, it sends a message that reading is for life. It also brings a moment of calm and quiet to busy family households. Discuss the books you are reading and the characters. By showing off your passion for books you will undoubtedly rub off on them, and make them curious.
• Read on the go. If you are going to the park or beach take some books and read outdoors. If you have a long journey, suggest bringing their book along to read in the car or on the train.
• Book clubs. Look out for book clubs in the local library or in centres such as Explore Learning that often run through the summer holidays. These are great for getting a group of children together to share their thoughts on books and make recommendations to their peers.
• Books are a treat. All families will reward their children in their own way. If you choose to reward them with books this will not only encourage them to behave well but also to see a book as something to strive for and when reading it they will feel special having received it as a result of their good work and something to be proud of.
These are all very simple tips that can be integrated into your daily life that I hope parents find helpful. Yes some books are hard to get into, and we all acknowledge that but we should never be ashamed of reading, and our children need to know that!
For any help supporting your child to read contact us at www.explorelearning.co.uk