The unprecedented effects of COVID-19 are felt around the world today, perhaps most acutely by our children, who have now shifted from a face-to-face education system to a new online realm. This has not only affected their academic pursuits but also their reading habits.
Are you as a parent concerned your child is not reading enough with limited access to the school or local library? Children who are already reluctant to read now seem to have very few opportunities to pick up the habit.
Reading aids accelerate a child’s ability to pick up language skills. Not only does it stimulate curiosity in a child, but it also increases concentration, improves the attention span, and aids in memory retention. Here are our top five tips to take your child on a journey from ‘Learning to Read’ to ‘Reading to Learn’ and to help them grow as an engaged reader.
1. Provide easy access to a wide variety of books
Although we may not be able to go to our favourite neighbourhood physical libraries anymore, we can still access a wealth of books on the internet. Some digital libraries which are free to use include East of the Web, which has interesting short stories and vocabulary games, and Storyline Online, where your child can listen to books being read out by famous actors. Storyline Online also has activity guides with ideas for parents to engage their child further using the theme of the book and extend their learning.
Do visit the reading section of British Council’s LearnEnglish Kids websites to access free age-appropriate reading materials. Our digital library has a wide collection of books that are appropriate for quality and reading readiness, so, you as a parent can monitor your child’s reading choices and ensure their safety online.
2. Choose books wisely
It is important to allow your child to choose what they read, because each child has different interests. One child might like science fiction, whereas another may like fantasy. The best thing we can do is expose them to different genres, different authors and let them choose the book they like. Also, giving them the liberty to give up reading a book mid-way is okay too, because they might not enjoy it after reading a bit.
If your child is reluctant to read, you could select a humorous book or one with illustrations and diagrams. Comic books, graphic novels and audiobooks are also popular choices. Books by authors like A. A. Milne, David Walliams, Louie Stowell, Robert J Harris, Eric Carle, Julian Clary, Elli Woollard, to name a few, have proven to click with kids of all ages
3. Involve yourself in their reading experiences
Modelling a love of reading has an excellent influence on children. It sometimes seems unfair that we ask them to read when we don’t read ourselves! So modelling is essential. Reading books aloud is also a wonderful way for you to bond with your child while improving their language skills and showing them the joys of reading. If your child interrupts you when you are reading to them, engage them in conversation about the book. You can ask questions, use pictures or make up fun voices for different characters to pique their interest.
If you have older children, you could invite them to read to you or involve yourself in their reading experience by discussing the themes in the book with them.
4. Understand your child’s circumstances
It is important to understand the difficulties your child experiences while reading and, provide them with books appropriate to their reading abilities. Graded readers, especially of classic storybooks, are an excellent way of providing level-appropriate language as well as letting your child understand and enjoy a timeless classic.
Magazines, comics and graphic novels are good for children who are weak at reading or have learning disabilities. Being able to complete a page gives them a sense of accomplishment and a huge self-esteem booster which in turn leads to kids naturally wanting to read more.
Lastly, remember reading for pleasure is a leisurely activity! Sometimes, the reason your child seems to dislike reading is simply because it is a timetabled chore rather than something they choose to do in their free time to relax.
5. Extend the reading experience
Reading doesn’t have to stop at the last page of the book. Parents can exploit the reading text to improve their child’s language proficiency and increase their interest in reading. Get your child to do a task around what they have read, such as drawing characters from the story and describing them, recording new words they have picked up or video recording them narrating the story perhaps with an alternate ending to the story. You could also simply have a conversation around what they have read. If you have older children, you could also write letters back and forth about ideas and concepts in the books.
With these steps, you can help your child to start developing a love of reading. Try them out and let us know how they worked for you!