Most parents can admit that watching their child discover the joy of reading is a truly rewarding experience. Developing a love, understanding and appreciation for books is an important part of any child’s growth and naturally all parents have high hopes for their kids. When it comes to helping your child fulfil their reading potential, it’s all about getting the balance right. It’s important to know when to step in with a little guidance and when to let your little one figure it out all on their own.
How can you help your child excel in reading? Here are some do's and don'ts:
- Encourage Kids to Read What They Enjoy
There’s no denying that kids are more likely to develop a passion for page turning if they enjoy what they’re reading. Humorous books are always a safe bet. It’s no coincidence authors like Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton constantly top Dymocks’ favourite children’s book lists. If your child gravitates towards one style or series, continue to explore that path. It’s a good way to build the foundations of a solid reader.
- Establish a Calm Reading Environment
Did you know that the physical environment can make a huge difference to how reading is perceived by children? Reading is meant to be an enjoyable experience – make sure the space and atmosphere reflects that. Instead of reading to your children at the homework table or in the kitchen, take it outside and read in the garden. Avoid places that have a lot of background noise and choose an environment that’s relaxed, quiet and warm.
- Read Aloud to Children
One of the most crucial ways a parent can aid in development is by making reading an interactive experience. One of the key findings in the 2015 Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report found that 86% of Australian kids aged 6-17 enjoy being read aloud to. The main reason for this is because it’s a special time with parents. It’s clear that if a child feels that reading is a shared experience with a parent, they’re more likely to engage on a deeper level.
- Don’t Put Too Much Pressure On the Task
We were all kids once and if you cast your mind back to your childhood, you can probably recall that parental nagging is not the best way to get the desired result. Reading is important, but constantly reinforcing how crucial it is may simply put pressure on the experience. Make it a time to enjoy, a special moment for you and your child. As cherished Australian author Mem Fox suggests, don’t teach the book – enjoy it!
- Don’t Give Away the Answers Too Quickly
No matter how tempting it may be to offer an answer when you see your child struggling, sometimes mistakes are the best way for them to learn. If they’re stumbling over a word, allow them time to try again rather than reading it correctly for them. Children need to know that it is okay to not read “word perfect” all of the time. Simple prompts for parents, such as “what would make sense here?” or “let’s read on for more information”, give the reader a strategy to figure out what they are reading.
- Don't Limit Choice
Tradition can be a tricky thing to break and if you were raised on the classics – think Roald Dahl or C.S. Lewis – it can be hard to wrap your head around anything new. These days it’s not unusual for kids to enjoy graphic novels, comic books or casual texts like magazines. Don’t limit your child’s choice and instead try to expand their horizons and realise that anything they read and enjoy is bound to have a benefit.
ABOUT THE EXPERT
Ryan Spencer is a Dymocks Literacy Expert.