As parents it can sometimes feel like the school holidays go on forever. Long holidays can lead to bored kids, which in turn can cause headaches for the adults in their lives! So what better way to keep the kids entertained (and keep you sane) than prioritising reading. In fact, studies show that kids who read through the holidays often make most progress in school. Reading is a perfect way to connect with your child and make memories that last a lifetime, but what if the kids are dragging their heels, claiming books are for school not the holidays? Read on for our eleven engaging tips to elevate reading and make reading time fun and enjoyable for all.
It’s all too easy to realise the day before school goes back that you haven’t squeezed in any reading (we’ve all been there), then attempt to tackle the whole box set of Harry Potter in a day. But like most things, little and often is best. Just ten minutes a day will keep kid’s reading skills ticking over and maintain that passion for reading that you’ve worked so hard to foster.
Who doesn’t love a book recommendation? Suggestions from others can be a great way to expand your reading choices. But what if instead of suggesting a book, your colleague made it compulsory to read that one novel you have no interest in? You’d dread reading it. And children are no different. So make holiday reading feel less of a chore and let children be the guide. Allowing them to select their own books, not only provides them autonomy over their reading, it’s also a great motivator. And as an added bonus you’ll be provided with an additional insight into your kid’s world, through learning about their preferences.
While it’s important to let children choose, perhaps War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, may not be quite the right choice for your kindy child (or maybe it is, depending on your child!). Following our tips on challenge level will help you to determine just the right type of books for your child to select from. Books shouldn’t be too tricky or too easy, in fact you’re looking for something known as a ‘just right’ book. But how do we spot them? Well, there are a few things to look out for. Ask your child to read you a page or two and see if you can spot where the book sits in their current reading level, using the hints below.
Uphill or too hard books might feature five or more unfamiliar words on a page, when your child reads them aloud it might sound bumpy and they may find the book a little hard to understand. Just right books usually feature two or three words on a page unknown to kids, reading sounds mostly smooth and children can easily understand the content. Downhill or too easy books often feature zero to one unknown words for a child, reading is completely smooth and the reader understands everything in the book. That’s not to say that readers cannot enjoy books from each level. It’s just important to know which type of book is right for different reading requirements. An uphill book can be a good choice for adults to read to the child. A just right book is great for independent reading, to challenge reading ability and aid progress. A downhill book can be a ‘just for fun’ read.
Visit your local library and settle in for some special reading time. Locate a cosy corner, grab a selection of books and take time flicking through their pages until you create the ultimate shortlist of super awesome books you’d love to borrow.
Don’t have time to dedicate to reading one-on-one on a particular day, no problem. Our world is so text rich, there’s plenty to keep children busy. Have them read the shopping list, the directions, the instructions on how to assemble something or a recipe. Invite students to read the info under displays in an exhibition or to read the names of the stations when travelling on a train. You’ll find there’s lots to keep them practising reading as you go about your daily lives.
It’s been a while since us adults have been at school, (no need to say quite how long!) and it’s not uncommon to feel out of the loop with reading strategies. So buffing up on approaches to reading (that’s what we’re here for) will prepare you for supporting you little person on their reading journey.
Sounding out the sounds each letter makes, rather than using the letter names, is a great strategy for attempting unfamiliar words. So, ay-tu for ate. Separating the words into sounds, or chunks, also helps with reading, so ha-ppy for happy. If you notice your child has made an error as they read, prompting them to think if the word sounds right, or reading on to understand the rest of the sentence may be all that’s needed to encourage them to check that one word. Suggesting other cues, such as does the word look like any others you are familiar with, for example highlighting the -ing in swimming. Checking the pictures can also help. And don’t be afraid to ignore that one error if you feel raising each misread word with your child might be impacting on their reading confidence.
Ever watched a movie based on a book you’ve read? It can be fun to spot the similarities and differences. Search for a movie based on a book familiar to your child. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is always a good one. Then settle in for some serious comparison. Discuss where the movie deviates from the book and invite children to share which version they preferred.
Everyone knows popcorn is for movies. And what better way to enjoy the cinema than with a choc-top. But what about book snacks? Well, here at Cleverbean we think they could become the next big thing. And how about matching them to the text, so hosting a tea party with chamomile tea and cake when reading The Tiger Who Came to Tea, by Judith Kerr, or a tasty fruit platter for snuggling up with Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas, by Aaron Blabey. Associating a snack with book time can make it feel more of a leisure activity.
Ramp up the fun by role-playing elements from the books you read. Hide a stuffed bear around your home then tell children you’re going to search for it, after reading the much loved book, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen. Use material or old clothing to be the swishy grass, stomp through mud in the park to hear the squelchy sound or splash in the bath, pretending you’re in the river. Even better if you can involve children in creating the role-play, inviting them to recreate a part of the story for you to experience or for their younger sibling or friend.
Host a book sharing playdate, inviting your child’s friends to bring along their favourite books to share. Put up a tent, grab some flashlights and scatter cushions and make it a daytime sleep over. The kids can summarise the books or read their favourite sections and your child can do the same. Be prepared for an impromptu book exchange and for discussions to run right up to bedtime.
Those in Australia are probably familiar with the Premier’s Reading Challenge. The challenge runs over different dates depending on which state you are in. The challenge has already begun in most participating states. This year it runs to 20th August in New South Wales, up to the 3rd September in South Australia, and up to the 18th September in Victoria. In Queensland it opens on the 27th April and runs until 27th August. In Tasmania, a ten books in ten weeks challenge runs from 26th April until 2nd July. Children are required to read a certain number of books from the predetermined list and are rewarded with a certificate for their efforts. In the ACT the Chief Minister’s Challenge runs until the 20th August and there is no set list of books for students to select from. Participating in an official challenge is a great way of motivating children to read. No challenge in your area? No problem. Search for others, or create your own. A simple chart with a set number of books that can be ticked off provides a visual that will surely motivate your kids to keep reading.