The issue of parents reading with children has been in the news quite a bit in the last week.
The Daily Mail published an article which bemoans the failure of parents to read with their children at bed time and what a negative impact that could have on a child’s own ability to read. A recent survey by the National Literacy Trust of 1000 children aged 6-11 shows that 44% of children no longer get read to at home by their parents.
When I was a child my mother or father read to my brother and I every night. I never questioned that it might be different in anyone else’s house. It was just what happened after you had had your bath and before you put your light out to go to sleep. As I got older, and began to read for myself, I still wanted my bed time story from either my mum or my dad for a while.
I loved the way my mum did the voices for the different characters, and the fact that she picked books to read to us that I might not have picked myself – books that stretched me, books that pushed the bounds of my imagination, books that I probably wasn’t entirely ready yet to read to myself. My dad’s speciality was stories he made up himself.
With three children of my own it never occurred to me not to carry on the tradition of the bedtime story for all my children. In fact, in a house as full of books as ours, story time can be any time of the day, and even though my oldest daughter is now fourteen, and a voracious reader in her own right, she still manages to slope into the room whenever story time is happening and lingers about in the background, getting her fix.
The Mail shows the results of some surveys which say that many parents claim that their lives are too busy to read to their children, or that their children are not interested in having stories read to them.
As a busy parent of three children, I can appreciate how full adult lives are, but we have children because we want children, and presumably we want our children to be happy and bright and stimulated by their environment, and if we have to take ten minutes out of our day to read to them, both to give them pleasure, and knowing that this will help them with their daily schooling, it’s not a big ask.
Ten minutes might sound too little, but the National Literacy trust states that just ten minutes a night can make a huge difference to how children perform in tests and to their reading age. That’s ten minutes of you, reading to them.
As for children’s lack of interest, I truly believe you have to find the book that works for you, and it’s not as if there are a shortage. Somewhere out there is the right book for everyone, and there are very few children that really would hate to spend ten minutes at the end of the day snuggled up with a parent, sharing a story.
My tips for getting children to engage with you at story time:
- Make it a pleasurable ritual rather than a rushed inconvenience.
- Choose books that are appropriate for your child. Get them to help you choose the book you will read if at all possible.
- Read in a quiet environment with no external distractions. If you read in a room where the telly or the computer is on, of course the child’s eye will be drawn to what is on the screen. Bedtime stories work best when the child is in bed, or we sometimes have ours while the children are having their bath.
- On a really busy day remember that a bed time story doesn’t have to actually be at bed time. Any time of day can be story time.
- Enjoy the story yourself, and if you’re not enjoying it, then fake it. If a child thinks you are bored, irritated or distracted by the fact that you’re reading to them, why should they feel any different than you?
What do you think?
Do you still read stories to your children?