As well as being a source of joy, escapism and discovery, reading for pleasure is a key factor in academic success. A 2013 study by 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!
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.
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) 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.
9) 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.
10) Keep up the reading momentum. Throughout the long summer holidays avoid the ‘summer reading dip’. Use this time to consolidate your child’s efforts and encourage reading for pleasure.
Red Bay Primary School is a great example of how regularly reading with kids can make a real difference. The school started a ‘Paired Reading’ programme in partnership with KPMG in 2012, in order to provide struggling readers with positive examples of fluent reading. The volunteers give Year Three students at Red Bay Primary School one-to-one assistance in reading for half an hour each week of the school year. Miss Tamara Dixon, who manages the programme at Red Bay, says “the school has seen a real improvement in the participating students’ overall reading achievement”.
Kevin Brett, one of the KPMG volunteers, is a big believer in the programme: “The kids really enjoy it! They are excited to engage with their reader every week, which allows them to develop a trusted relationship and assists in improving their reading skills. It is about creating an environment that allows the children to read in a very pleasurable way, using positive techniques that praise their performance and never criticise mistakes, only correct.” A student in the programme, Aryan Ramsammy, says: “I enjoy reading with the KPMG volunteer because we talk about the events in the story; I also learn new words and have a lot of fun!”
Story time at the local libraries is another good way to prompt a love of reading – click here for times.
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