September 25th, 2014
Guest Blog by Clio Whittaker of Ampersand Learning and presenter of the 'Easy to Read' Workshop
I find it hard to imagine what my life would be like if I couldn’t read English easily. The nearest I can get is when I try to read in French, a language I speak reasonably competently.
Reading a whole book in French is really hard and slow work for me. I rarely attempt to do so and - guess what – I’m not getting any better at it! We all know that being able to read fluently is the key to children’s success at school, and a love of reading provides a lifelong source of information and pleasure.
Helping our children so that they WANT to practise this important and difficult skill and develop a real passion for and fluency in reading, is one of the best things we can do for them as parents.
And it’s good for us too! Sharing a book should be something that we both look forward to, a special and enjoyable time when we can focus on one another and share a good experience.
Unfortunately, too often and for too many children and too many parents, reading becomes a painful chore, associated with tension and unhappiness. So what can be done?
1. Read often and not for too long
Reading is a skill and, like any skill, you need to practise in order to become good at doing it. If you read with your child often, both of you will become better at reading and enjoy it more. Ten minutes every day is much better than an hour once a week.
2. Talk about what you read
When children hear you talking about what they read, they see that reading is an important part of everyday life for adults. If you don’t often read books yourself, talk about what you read in newspapers, magazines or online. If reading English is difficult for you, start by talking about the pictures either in English or in the language you usually use with your child. Find another person who would enjoy reading regularly with your child – it’s a great way for a friend, sibling or grandparent to build their relationship.
3. Read things that interest your child
No one looks forward to doing something they are not interested in. Read what your child wants to read, rather than what you think they ought to read. There are so many fantastic books for children nowadays, there is bound to be something out there that appeals to your child. If you don’t know how find those books, ask a teacher or librarian for ideas and help. The Booktrust charity is a great source of information about children’s books and their authors and illustrators.
4. Create opportunities to read
Get books, newspapers and magazines into your home so that opportunities to read are always there. Join the local library. Give your child books as presents. Tell the school that you would like to read more books and ask to borrow from their library.
5. Make reading as easy as you can for your child
Read a book aloud first so your child knows the story before they try to read the words on their own. Children often don’t need you to tell them when they get a word wrong, because they soon realise it doesn’t make sense. Give them the chance to correct their mistakes. Praise them for trying and don’t leave them to struggle too long over words that are too difficult.
To understand more about what is involved in learning to read, and learn techniques and ways to make a real difference, come along to the ‘Easy to Read’ workshop on Thursday 2nd October! Click HERE for details (click on the workshop tab). Click HERE to Book
September 19th, 2014
At the start of the school year parents are usually very focused on how to help their children do well but sometimes this can backfire. Sometimes our attempts to help can create pressure that puts children off and nowhere is this more so than with reading.
Reading is the gateway to the world of information and creativity and is of course a necessary first step in school-based learning so it’s not surprising we feel under pressure to help our children succeed at mastering this important tool.
What doesn’t work:
What does work:
There are many ways we can help our children develop a love of reading right from the beginning, and to keep their interest as they progress. There are also many things we can do to encourage and motivate children who have started reading, but are struggling to improve or enjoy it. Most research on reading agrees that the most important part is how the child FEELS about reading, and positive reinforcement and association really helps.
Start any reading session with positive comments and enthusiasm. Talk about the story read last time and ask the child what they enjoyed about it. When you praise your child’s efforts don’t say “well done” or “clever boy” but praise something in the way she read last time. Perhaps how she persevered with difficult words, and tried hard to sound out each word clearly, or how she observed the punctuation marks, or used expression . You could also praise how promptly they came to do their reading, or how consistently they have been remembering to bring their story home, or simply how much you love spending time with them.
When it’s getting tough, try to keep positive. Empathise with your child just how hard it can be to read in the beginning, particularly if everyone else seems to be finding it easy. Take a break, get a glass of water, run around the garden, jump up and down, and come back again a little later. You may find it easier to keep calm and be patient if you have something to do with your hands, like knitting….
It can also help a struggling reader to have some privacy, particularly from annoying or smug siblings. And even if they are finding reading hard, there is always something they are doing right. Look for small things that they are succeeding at, and point them out to the child.
Here are a few practical ideas that you may find helpful.
What do you do that makes reading fun?
If you’ve found these ideas useful share them! And get more great ideas by subscribing to our newsletter here. You may also be interested in a workshop by Ampersand Learning, Easy to Read: Encourage a love of reading in your child on Thurs 2nd Oct 2014, 10am-12:30pm, Clapham
Melissa and Elaine
May 28th, 2014
At the Hay Reading Festival last week, the children’s laureate Michael Rosen announced the start of a campaign to get children to read for pleasure. “READ FOR PLEASURE” – of course children should read for pleasure we all cry, but clearly there is something very amiss with our educational system if the energy and focus from government is a fixation on phonics and spelling and grammar. Parents regularly tell us that reading set by schools is about completing a set number of pages and it can quickly become a chore. Without realising it our children quickly start to lose a natural love of stories and we create a society of reluctant readers. The memories many of us have of losing ourselves in a childhood story has been replaced with the drudgery of parents having to force children to read set pieces and a prescribed number of pages. There is little enjoyment, little understanding of the story and no emotional connection for the child.
So here are some top tips to ensure reading is a pleasure in your family:
1. Make reading comfortable and special.
Try to make sure the place you read in is quiet, and warm, well lit, and generally comfortable.
Create a special place for your child’s books – decorate a box, or shelf – or a personalised nameplate for their own books. Some families recreate a library space with books presented on shelves with covers facing you.
2. Bring reading and stories into everyday life.
As well as reading books to them read books yourself in front of them and talk about what you have read recently, or stories you remember from your childhood. Tell them what you like about your books and ask their thoughts or opinions about the stories they are reading. Discuss the ideas or themes within the stories. Sometimes you can pause as they’re reading to ask what they think will happen next or why the characters acted as they did or what they would have done in that situation. You want to encourage interest in the story rather than just focusing on the mechanics of reading.
Encourage them to read road signs, games manuals, instructions, recipes, menus, magazines, backs of cereal packets, even internet pages on a topic that interests them.
Look out for topical stories – at Christmas or Easter time, or about the seaside in the summer, or places you have been or are going, or to do with particular events, such as the World Cup or the Olympics.
3. Make reading interesting and fun.
Try having a Story Tea or Story Bath, or make a Reading Den or try reading in your bed on Sunday morning, as a special treat.
Take a book to the park, read with a torch, or read as a family with each member taking turns or parts. (Remember, children can ‘read’ more complex stories in groups, than they can on their own.) Let yourself go when you are reading out loud – use lots of expression, in your voice and in your face and body too. Try some sound effects – they will either love it or tell you to calm down. You could even go for costumes….
Make up quizzes, crosswords, word searches or anagrams of characters, or places, in familiar and favourite stories.
Personalize the stories using their names.
4. Encourage their creativity and imagination.
When reading familiar stories, leave gaps for them to fill in or make up alternative silly versions.
Help them write their own stories, with spaces for pictures, using a laptop and printer to ‘publish’ copies and distribute to family members.
5. Encourage love of story without books
Don’t forget the oral tradition of telling stories to give them a reason to want to read.
You don’t have to be a very creative story teller –just talk to them about when you were a child or re-create familiar fairy tales with different characters or settings. Children love familiarity. Make up stories together. Play story games on long journeys where everyone has a go at a sentence in the story. (You may need some rules about not killing off their siblings’ characters! Yes, you can tell there’s a story there.)
Ask them to draw a picture that tells a story and get them to tell you the sotry when its done.
6. Get lots of books.
Use the library – most libraries let children take out many books at a time, and often there are no late return fees. Books can be renewed on-line and particular stories ordered for collection. Schedule a regular library trip, and let them choose some of their own stories, as well as those you think they will like, and try talking to the librarian to find out what’s new or particularly popular. Take out books for yourself too.
Give a book allowance –it doesn’t have to be big and can be part of, or additional to, any pocket money.
Give subscriptions to a magazine as a birthday present or special treat – there are so many to choose from. Receiving a named copy of a magazine in the post is exciting for children!
I recently gave my god child a magazine subscription to the National Geographic for children and it was a huge success. The only issue was her twin sister wanted to read as well at the same time as her….. Great news that the girls wanted to read but did I just add to sibling rivalry I wonder? Watch out for next blog on siblings and how to promote harmony