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By Mary Hamley, posted on 15th July 2020

Establishing a reading habit for the summer holidays and beyond

There are so many reasons to read with your children, this summer holiday and beyond. Research has shown that the amount of reading for pleasure that children do is the single most important factor in educational outcomes. But that’s not all – it can even increase empathy, improve relationships with others and improve well-being throughout life! (The Reading Agency 2015).

But even when you as a parent know all these benefits it can be frustratingly difficult to actually follow through and get your child to read more. Perhaps because they’re not interested, you don’t know where to start, you don’t have access to the books, time is limited, etc, etc. Whatever barriers you might have, here are a few tips that could help to establish some new routines or liven up some old ones this summer…

1. Set aside a realistic amount of time

Even as little as 10 minutes a day can make a big difference and the summer holidays is a good time to experiment with a new routine. Start with a modest ambition at a regular time in the day and you’re more likely to be able to commit to it. If your child isn’t keen, bill it as an opportunity for them to have you entirely to themselves for a few minutes. Even if you end up just talking at first it’s a great start!

2. Model reading to your child

Actions speak louder than words and if reading is supposed to be so great, your child might wonder why they never see you doing it! In busy households it’s difficult to find the time, but some people have had success with establishing a time when the whole family read their own books at the same time in the same physical space. If you can talk about what you’re all reading afterwards that’s even better.

3. Read to each other

Why not take turns in reading to each other? At the early stage of reading it’s important that children read to you to help develop their decoding and word recognition, but even as children become experienced, reading aloud will help with their fluency and in turn their comprehension. If you’re a good reader you can demonstrate what good expression sounds like; if you’re not you can let them enjoy the feeling of being better at something than you are!

4. Make it fun

If you can, make your readings lively – put on different voices, different accents (they’ll never be able to prove you don’t sound anything like a French waiter) and try reading with what might feel like exaggerated expression. Research has shown that modelling reading with expression and encouraging children to join in helps to support fluency, comprehension and vocabulary-building. (Institute of Effective Education, 2020).

And finally, remember to introduce variety.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what books will most appeal to your child and sometimes you do know but you’d like to broaden their tastes. Over the summer, you could have a go at ‘book bingo’ where you challenge your child to read six different types of book – a comic, a non-fiction, a newspaper article, a novel, some poetry and something they wouldn’t normally choose, for example. They could tick each one off with a stamp or folder to give them a sense of achievement. You, and they, might also learn what sort of reading they like to do.

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