Sharing stories with your child is a wonderful way to take them to new worlds, to share the pleasure of reading, and positively impact their educational outcomes.
Reading aloud to your child, even once they can read fluently themselves, is a key way to encourage independent reading. Research shows that the more often children are read to, the greater the likelihood of them choosing to read for pleasure themselves. And as children get into the habit of reading for pleasure, their educational outcomes (in all subjects) are positively impacted, too. Reading also benefits children’s wellbeing more generally, helping them develop empathy and understand how others view the world.
We asked some of our parent friends on Instagram how they share books with their children and encourage them to read for pleasure at home. Their ideas included building snuggly reading dens, acting out stories with a cast of toys and lots more! Here are their top tips:
To help with reading for school during lockdown, the girls sit with a blanket and read and then I get them to talk to me about what they’ve read after, so I know they’ve really taken it in. We then talk about what they think might happen next, to really get their imagination going! Sometimes I’ll ask them to draw a picture of their favourite part of the book, and sometimes I’ll get them to write the next chapter themselves as a creative writing exercise!
The girls love reading, but it has always been part of our bedtime routine from when they were babies. The books have progressed now obviously, but they love snuggling in bed with the lights low whilst I read a chapter from the most current book we are on. It’s a lovely bonding time for us and helps them to wind down before sleep.
In our house, we place story time at the centre of our daily routine. Having this special time before bed each day to share books, whilst they sit on our laps, has provided our family with the time to bond and learn about life together.
When sharing books, we try to model ourselves as readers as much as possible in order to show our children that it is an enjoyable activity! Now our five-year-old is beginning to decode stories herself, we celebrate everything and anything she reads; it is the greatest joy to see her now reading stories to her baby brother.
Top tips for promoting reading for pleasure:
1. Give children choice. Go to the library or swap books with friends to give them a variety of stories to explore.
2. Create a reading den or a ‘book nook’ in your house. A couple of cushions and a basket of books in a corner is all it needs to be!
3. Create reading rituals. My daughter expects at least three stories a night and it has become as routine as brushing her teeth.
4. Even when your children can decode and read stories themselves, don’t stop reading to them and keep enjoying stories together!
5. Talk about what you read together. For example, discuss your thoughts about the plot, the characters’ feelings, the meaning of new vocabulary and predictions about what might happen next.
I encourage the kids to read by finding stories that really spark their interest, that they can relate to, and that really push their imaginations to the limit. Every morning throughout lockdown we have made a reading den in the playroom, filled with blankets and cushions and their favourite teddies, and they sit and read (often in their pyjamas!) to themselves and each other.
Reading is a huge part of our family and we try to make it as fun and exciting as possible.
The girls love all different types of books (from fairies to pirates, funny books and fact books) and we encourage lots of play around the reading we do.
Using toys as the characters and acting out the scenes helps to cement the stories in the girls’ minds, develops their confidence, helps them to show emotion, and allows them to act out their interpretation of what they have read.
There are lots of ways that sharing books with a child can inspire, bring to life and create meaningful learning opportunities through play and discussion:
- Be dramatic: Make up voices, act out the narrative, dress up as the characters and ask your little one to ‘read’ (retell) the story to you.
- Play inspiration: Use books to inspire play e.g. a book character who loves music could inspire you to experiment with homemade musical instruments and encourage little ones to explore sound and music through play.
- Small-world play: Create small-world play scenarios to encourage children to use their own storytelling skills. It enhances their vocabulary and their imagination, as well as gives children the confidence in the power of their own voice.
- Discussion: Sharing stories alongside book-centred play encourages children to open up and learn about challenging topics, ask questions and talk about their thoughts and feelings.