How to grow a reader
Children who are read to have more sophisticated vocabularies, a better knowledge of speech sounds and patterns, are more engaged at school, and have a richer understanding of their world than children who are not read to.
From a very young age, our children have a clear sense of who is reading, what they are reading and whether reading is valued. As parents, we are our children’s first literacy teachers and the ways we engage with reading will fundamentally shape our children’s attitudes.
The benefits of being read to are well-researched and well-established. These benefits endure throughout life and have a powerful impact on your child’s well-being and success at school. For example:
- If you read with your child for 15 minutes a day, he will have had over 455 hours of reading ‘instruction’ before going to school (Weigel, Behal and Martin, 2001)
- Reading aloud exposes your child to rich vocabulary enabling them to understand more complex texts and concepts (Merga, 2019)
- Children who are read to are more motivated to read independently (Sargeant, Hill and Morrison 2007)
- Children who are read to read more than those who are not read-to (Snow et al 2001)
- Reading helps build relationships; spending time sharing stories is both pleasurable and helps create positive experiences (Anderson and Morrison 2007, McGillivray et al 2010)
- Reading with your child can ‘condition your child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure’ (Trelease, 2019).
Some tips to encourage reading:
Create a routine. While you can (and should!) make lots of opportunities to read, having a regular time for reading sets up powerful habits in children, making them think that reading is a non-negotiable thing that they do (like brushing their teeth or having a bath!).
Have a comfortable space. Whether it’s in bed, or in a comfy chair, having a cosy place to read helps children associate reading with pleasure.
Choose books that are age appropriate and interesting to them. Reading should never be a chore! Help your child find books they love and be prepared to reread the same stories over and over.
Talk about reading. When you’re reading you could make links to their world, or ask them to explain the story to you. Have a few laughs.
Make the effort to show them that you value books and reading. This might look like giving books as presents or talking about books that you read when you were a child. You could have regular library outings, or visit bookstores for a ‘treat’.
Model reading. Children imitate what we do. Do your children see you reading? Do you have books around the home? Do you talk positively about books and reading?
It’s important to note, that reading is about more than skills. Readers need to want to read, they need to know reading is valuable and pleasurable. There is currently an epidemic of children, particularly boys, who can read, but who choose not to. By prioritising reading in your home, you can help grow a reader.
Great books to read to your child
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Michael Rosen
The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson
Back on Country: Welcome to Our Country, Adam Goodes, Ellie Laing and David Hardy
Where is the Green Sheep, Mem Fox
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst,
Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy, Lynley Dodd
Prep – 2
The Seven Stories, Dr Ray Swann
I Want My Hat Back, Jon Scieszka
Outside, Inside LeUyen Pham
Llama Destroys the World, Jonathan Stutzman
Grades 3 – 4
Coraline, Neil Gaiman
The Twits, Roald Dahl
The Seven Stories, Dr Ray Swann
In My Blood it Runs, Dujuan Hoosan, Margaret Anderson, Carol Turner, Blak Douglas
This Book Thinks Ya Deadly! A Celebration of Blak Excellence, Corey Tutt, Molly Hunt
The Cat on the Mat is Flat, Andy Griffiths, Terry Denton
Eric, Shaun Tan
Grades 5 – 6
Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney
Paper Planes, Steve Worland
Boy Overboard, Morris Gleitzman
Wonder, R.J. Palacio
Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
Kristen Molloy is the Associate Head of the Crowther Centre, Literacy and Engagement at Brighton Grammar School, an all-boys school in Melbourne. She is the mother of two boys. This article is about Parenting
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