One of the things that Michael Rosen advocates that children do, that will really help boost their reading and their confidence in reading is to get children to browse through as wide a variety of books as possible.
Browsing may seem like a bit of a waste of time, but there are millions of books out there, fact and fiction, on every topic under the sun. A child who is struggling to read may simply not be finding the right kinds of books for them. Once they find something that lights up their mind and fires their imagination it may be a lot easier to teach them and guide them in their reading journey, than forcing them to read what they think are dull and boring books every day.
The key to being a successful reader, and a successful learner, is helping a child discover reading for pleasure. We need children in school who actively want to read. The school day is very busy. It would be lovely to allow each child to browse in the library and discover books of all types until they find something they love to read, but it is not terribly realistic, given the demands of the rest of the curriculum.
While your children are encouraged every step of the way to engage in reading both for learning and for pleasure, it is not always possible to give them the time we know they need.
Children spend on average only 15% of their lives at school. The rest of the time they spend in a home environment. Schools really need the support of parents and carers if children are to become brilliant readers and learners.
Here are a few things you can do to help them.
Regular trips to the library are a brilliant way to allow them to explore books they would otherwise not come into contact with. Libraries often have reading sessions and interest groups which could be worth attending to give your child a taster of something new.
Have books in your home and make them freely available to your children. Books may be a lot tidier arranged in alphabetical order on a high shelf, but they may also be unreachable for the child. If you can, make a bookshelf or space for books in your child’s room and allow them to have their own books, which they can read whenever they like.
If you see your child with a book, be positive and encouraging. Talk to them about it. Engage in conversation with them. If they feel that having and reading books is a ‘good’ thing to do, they will do it more often.
Take regular trips to book shops. Many book shops these days have areas in the children’s section where the children are actively encouraged to stay. There are activities and toys, and of course, books. Bookshop staff will not mind if you try out a few books by reading them in store.
Buy books for your children. You do not have to buy them directly from bookshops if you don’t have the budget. Amazon are able to undercut most high street book sellers and offer free postage. They also offer a second hand book service where you can pick books up for a couple of pounds each. Discount book sites like The Book People and Red House, offer excellent deals on children’s books, and if you order enough, will give free postage and customer loyalty points which make it even easier and cheaper to buy books. You can also buy books very cheaply from charity shops, particularly children’s books.
Allow your children to read more than one book at once. A lot of the time children are simply learning the mechanics of reading. They are learning how to hold a book properly, how to read from left to right, how to turn the pages and what goes where. The more they are allowed to handle books, the more proficient they will become.
Children are not overwhelmed by having a proliferation of books. They read what they are interested in, and abandon what they are not interested in. Having choice over what they read, and the illusion that they can read anything and everything, even when they can’t, often leads to the confidence that means that illusion becomes a reality in very short order.
Allow your child to read things which may seem too difficult for them. As long as they are also able to access things which they actually can read at the same time, having material which stretches them is no bad thing. If it is too hard they will abandon it eventually. Having things that they think are adult or dangerous or hard often makes the books seem way more appealing to the child than they actually are. Refusing them access to these books obviously means they become way more appealing. Giving them the book destroys the illusion of excitement in short order, and generally they will slip them back on the shelves without much fuss and get on with more enjoyable texts.
Read books yourself. If you are not a great reader, read newspapers or magazines or on line material. Allow you child to see you reading, and to see that you make time for reading. If you can possibly show them that you enjoy reading too, so much the better.
Have a wide variety of reading formats available to your child. Newspapers, magazines, comics, graphic novels, factual books, fiction books, e-books, pamphlets, it’s all good. Anything with words on it that they are required to read and comprehend is going to help.
Audio books can be a fantastic tool for firing your child’s enthusiasm for a book. We have found that sometimes allowing a child to listen to an audio book that they enjoy leads to them going on to request the book to read at a later date. It also allows children who have a poor reading age but a higher level of intelligence and comprehension than their reading age allows them to engage with in text form, to have access to material that fires their imagination. Audio books can be borrowed from the library for a small fee, and for free for younger readers. They can also be downloaded as mp3s for phones and iPads from Amazon and other book sellers.
If your child loves film and television or computer games, try to find books that tie in with those films and programmes. Quite often a film will have started life as a book, and with so much spin off merchandise these days a wide variety of printed material is usually readily available.
Find every opportunity you can to encourage your child to read as often as possible and as many things as possible.