As well as being a source of joy, escapism and discovery, reading for pleasure is a key factor in academic success. A study by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research showed that youngsters of four to five years old whose parents read to them between three and five times a week were at least six months ahead of their peers in terms of overall literacy skills. Those who read every day were a full year ahead!
Here are some handy tips for how you can inspire a love of reading in your kids:
1) Let your children see you reading – and enjoying it. Children look up to their parents and relatives, and seeing grown-ups reading for fun has a profoundly lasting effect. Make reading an everyday part of your life and your child will want to make it a part of theirs too.
2) Encourage reading at every opportunity. From cereal packets, road signs and menus to shopping lists, brochures and newspapers. Not only does this introduce new vocabulary, but it also encourages fun learning outside the school environment.
3) Visit the library. There is a wonderful children’s selection in the George Town library with quiet places to sit and read together, providing little ones the opportunity to explore and find what interests them. Choice and interest are highly intertwined, so follow their lead and bring home a variety of books to enjoy. Library cards for children are absolutely free!
4) Visit the Humane Society Book Loft. They have a dedicated section for children and you can pick up a handful of books for a couple of dollars. You can also visit Next Chapter in Camana Bay, which has an amazingly extensive selection of kids books.
5) Introduce prompts. Before you read, ask younger children questions to get them thinking about the text and topic; this will aid early comprehension. Look at the cover and ask whether they think it will be fiction or non-fiction (made-up story or real-life story for the little ones). This will also help develop an idea of favourite genres.
6) Interact and talk to children about what they are reading. Discuss the title and examine what the story might be about. When reading together, point to each word on the page as it is being read and ask questions about what is happening to the characters or how the storyline is progressing. This helps in understanding how books work.
7) Read regularly and praise regularly. Consistency and confidence is key when learning to read. Celebrate small achievements and big ones will follow.
8) Experiment with different genres. Try everything from autobiographies, graphic novels and poetry to comics, recipe books and reference books.
9) Let children see the association between stories and movies. Encourage them to read the original text after they have enjoyed the film and talk about differences and similarities in the plot or characters. And remember, it’s not just about books; comics appeal hugely to younger children and these are often made into films, an excellent way to make reading accessible.
10) Give book vouchers as rewards and gifts. They are a great way to encourage literacy, a love of books and offer children the freedom to pick what they want to read.
11) Keep up the reading momentum. Throughout the long summer holidays avoid the ‘Summer Slide’. The Summer Slide is no joke! The lengthy summer break can result in reading level regression for many students. Help children keep their literacy skills strong with 20 to 40 minutes of reading per day.
12) Switch off devices, put down phones. Be fully present and participate actively in conversations, taking time to listen and respond to your child’s interests.
LIFE Cayman – Paired Reading Programme
Literacy is for Everyone (LIFE) Cayman is an independent charitable organisation whose Paired Reading Programme is a great example of how reading with children regularly can make a real difference. Their programme is staffed by volunteers and provides one-to-one assistance in reading each week to students in Cayman’s government schools. LIFE also accepts donations of new and gently used books with which they develop classroom libraries in each public school.
There are currently over 150 volunteers who participate in the programme and offer positive examples of fluent reading to struggling readers. “The smiles on the children’s faces as we walk into the library says it all – it makes 30 minutes of my week very special indeed”, shares one committed LIFE volunteer.
Teachers are very grateful for the additional support and the students love having time with their ‘reading buddies’ each week. Through the programme, LIFE also offers basic training in reading support strategies to maximise benefits for students. If you would like to apply to become a LIFE Paired Reading volunteer, please visit www.life.org.ky for more information.