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Reading is the most important skill you can help teach your child

Here are a few tips to help engage your child at home:

Talk to your children (a lot)

This is one that might not seem so obvious, but if children don’t hear the language, how on earth will they read it?! Start from a very young age! Talk about your eyes, nose, ears, mouth, and fingers. Talk about your family. Talk about whatever he/she did (yawning, sleeping, eating, burping). Talk so much that other parents think you are going crazy! Too many parents and guardians feel a bit silly talking to a baby or young child, but studies have shown that exposing your child to a variety of words helps in his/her development of literacy skills.

Read to your children

Why? Because all children deserve to hear a great story, especially using all the funny and silly voices! It really is a good idea! Even with Nursery aged children. If reading is an issue at home as there are difficulties with the English language, there are alternatives, such as using audiobooks; but for those who can, reading a book or story to a child is a great, easy way to advance literacy skills. Research shows benefits for children as young as 9-months-old, and it could be effective even earlier than that. Reading to children exposes them to richer vocabulary than they usually hear from the adults who speak to them, and can have positive impacts on their language, intelligence, and later literacy achievement. What should you read to them? There are so many wonderful children’s books. Ask me for recommendations and I will find them for you.

Have them tell you a “story”

One great way to introduce children to literacy is to take their dictation. Have them recount an experience or make up a story. A typical first story may be something like, “I like fish. I like my sister. I like grandpa.” Write it as it is being told, and then read it aloud. Point at the words when you read them, or point at them when your child is trying to read the story. Over time, with lots of re-reading, don’t be surprised if your child starts to recognise words such as “I” or “like.” A great idea would be to write down any new words that they learn. Maybe put them on the fridge, or on the back of their bedroom door! That way, you can revisit them easily and they will learn faster.

Listen to your child read

When your child starts bringing books home from school, have them read to you. If it doesn’t sound good (mistakes, choppy reading), have them read it again (in a positive way, obviously!) Or you could try reading it first, then ask them to repeat it. Studies show that this kind of repeated oral reading makes students better readers, even when it is done at home.

 Promote writing

Literacy involves reading and writing. Having books and magazines available for your child is a good idea, but it’s also helpful to have pencils, crayons, markers, and paper. Encourage your child to write. A great way to do this is to write notes or short letters to them. It may seem a bit old-fashioned, but it won’t be long before they are trying to write back to you!

 Ask questions

When your child reads, get them to retell the story or information. If it’s a story, ask who it was about and what happened. If it’s an informational text, have your child explain what it was about and how it worked, or what its parts were. Reading involves not just sounding out words but thinking about and remembering ideas and events. Simple things like this will help develop your child’s comprehension, which is a key skill not just for English, but for all curriculum subjects.

 Make reading a regular activity in your home

If children don’t see adults reading at home, they will not read at home. It really is as simple as that! Make reading a part of your daily life, and children will learn to love it. Take your child to the library to get books. Talk with them about what you are reading and ask them too. Set aside some time when everyone turns off their gadgets and does nothing but read. Make it fun, too. Read books that have been made into a film, then make popcorn and watch the movie together (it is a known fact that the books are always better than the films!) The point is to make reading a regular, enjoyable part of your family routine.

If you would like any further help and guidance, please feel free to ask!

Mr J. Parrish

Happy reading!