We live in a time of unprecedented technological advancement. We have access to an infinite amount of information in the palm of our hand and, in a matter of seconds, can access ancient history, a forgotten language or, forgive me, cute cats doing the funniest things! In a time when children are surrounded by, and sometimes dependent on, screens it can be very difficult to develop good reading habits. Reading requires time, patience and imagination- it is more work than watching TV or a film, playing a video game or streaming content on the iPad. Children are passively engaged in a fast and furious way as the screen fills their senses with information, directing them to see, hear and feel whatever the screen wants them to see, hear and feel. Children often tell me that reading is ‘long’ and ‘boring’ – of course it is when you compare it to watching a movie or playing an Xbox game!
Reading is a process, a journey, an investment. Reading requires you to decode and infer – to read between the lines. Reading requires you to suspend your disbelief and to use your imagination. Reading asks more of you but it does reward your efforts. Reading as an activity is a calming one; it focuses the mind, reduces anxiety and lowers blood pressure.
Reading improves literacy skills. Reading teaches us how to spell, how to construct a sentence, how to punctuate. It teaches us about syntax and what sounds pleasing to the ear, it teaches us synonyms and antonyms and broadens our vocabulary. These skills are essential as they are the basis of all the tests and exams our children will take throughout their academic careers.
Regular reading is a habit and, like all good habits, the best advice is to start early. We’re all guilty of sticking our kids in front of the telly from time to time to get through the day but, in my family, we have also tried to nurture and encourage a love of reading from an early age.
How to develop good reading habits in children:
- Start early! As parents, we need to develop good reading habits too as, until our children are independent readers, we’re the ones doing the reading!
- Take babies to Story Time and Baby Rhyme Time activities at the local library
- Make time for a 1:1 story every day – even if it’s 5 minutes each!
- Looking at the pictures in books, ask little ones what they think is going on. Can they predict what might happen?
- Take children to the library, charity shop and book sales and let them browse. Let them choose the books they like the look of – make sure you have space for the ever-growing, burgeoning bookcase!
- Create space in the day for reading, make it a part of your daily routine.
- Create a physical space – a book nook or reading corner, a favourite armchair or cushion- a space to get away from it all and get lost in a good book
- Make reading (and story time for younger children) a thoroughly positive activity. Always praise your child’s efforts – you want them to become confident readers, not anxious about their literacy.
- It can become more of a challenge as children get older but encourage (or negotiate, or bribe) at least 30 minutes quality reading every day.
- Read a variety of books – fill your home with a diverse range of fiction and non-fiction. There really is something for everyone!
- Encourage children to write stories, make up plays or put on puppet shows (and ensure you are a willing and enthusiastic audience). Give them time and space to use their imagination and be creative.
Literacy is an essential life skill; research done by the National Literacy Trust shows that literacy, happiness and success are directly related. Encourage your child’s love of reading and stories with days out to ignite their imagination! These are our current faves (for a 4 and 5 year old).
- The Gruffalo at Chessington World of Adventures
- Peter Rabbit at Willows Activity Farm
- The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Buckinghamshire
- Winnie the Pooh at Ashdown Forest and Aldenham Country Park
- The Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford
So, go on, get reading! Amy x😊 📚