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By James Clements, posted on 3rd April 2020

Learning at home: How to prioritise sharing a book

Most of us are at home all day with our children at the moment. There should be plenty of time to do everything we want to do. And yet, if your household is anything like mine, we still seem to run out of time.

While there’s a temptation to try and get everything done, perhaps we’d be better off concentrating on a few important things and giving them the time they deserve.

So, what should we prioritise? In this latest post in our learning at home series, I’d like to make a case for what I think is the most useful thing we can do to support our children’s education: reading aloud to them.

The benefits of reading aloud

Reading aloud to children is about the closest thing we have to an educational silver bullet. It is linked to a whole range of positive educational outcomes. Listening to books can:

  • Improve your child’s vocabulary by showing them how to use words and phrases they wouldn’t come across in books they can read themselves.
  • Boost their comprehension, helping them understand the language used in books and written texts (which is often so different to spoken language).
  • Give them an idea of what fluent reading should sound like – the rhythms of language, the pace and pauses, the emphasis given to a word here and there, the whispers and booms that an accomplished reader uses to bring a text to life.
  • Inspire children. If we want children to become enthusiastic readers themselves, we can set that in motion by sharing books with them now. We can show them that these papery things can be just as exciting and irresistible as the TV or console.
  • Broaden your child’s reading palate, introducing them to new books and helping them decide what they like and what they might want to read on their own.

Simply put, if we want our children to do well at school, reading to them is one of the easiest ways we can help. Handily, it’s also one of the most joyful – curling up on the sofa together and sharing a story might be the most pleasurable way to support your child’s learning at home.

Top tips for reading at home

Here are some practical ideas to think about:

  • Talk about books. Leave some time to talk about the book and encourage your child to share their ideas and opinions. ‘Booktalk’ can be just as important as the reading itself.
  • Don’t forget non-fiction! We often see reading aloud as the chance to share a story, but a fascinating informational text can be just as successful. Take a look at my tips on reading non-fiction with your child.
  • Read to older children. Just because the children are getting older, it doesn’t mean you have to stop reading to them. And if they’re not keen, take a look at my advice on sharing books with older readers.
  • Have fun with it! Try to read with expression, vary the pace, take lots of dramatic pauses – but above all else, take the plunge and do the voices!

Finally, aside from the many educational benefits, listening to a book allows you to travel, to escape the confines of reality. Reading can transport you to a different place or time. You can meet new people and have experiences you could never have in the real world. And with things the way they are at the moment, we could probably all do with a bit of that.