10 Ideas on How You Make Reading for Children a Family Priority
The old adage that “children learn by example” comes true as each child soaks up the habits and attitudes of those around him or her. This is just as true of reading for children as it is of every other aspect of a child’s learning.
In today’s world, many families find it challenging to make the time to allow reading to take a place of priority in the ever-increasing list of activities in which parents and children can be involved but it is vital that families consider reading important enough to give it the time it deserves and to promote it in the home.
Here are 10 ways to assist you in making reading for children a family priority :
- Make books available – Making books available does not need to be an expensive exercise. Certainly purchase books for your home or as gifts for one another, if you are able, but make extensive use of your local school or community library. If you live in a remote area access a regional library through which you and your family may borrow books. If possible, make family visits to a local library and spend time there together browsing and reading with your children.
- Focus on different types of books – Ensure your children realise the value of both fiction and non-fiction books. As well as ‘stories’ encourage them to access books and magazines about their favourite sports, hobbies or topics in the natural and manmade world so they are encouraged to read to extend their knowledge in areas of interest.
- Model the practice of reading and sharing – Let your children see you as a reader – someone who enjoys a favourite newspaper, magazine or books. Read some of the books that they are reading as well so that you can talk with them about what they are reading as well as what you are reading. Talk with them about the different purposes you have for reading – to relax and enjoy a good story or a favourite author, or to gain information eg a parent who reads a rural, medical or financial newspaper or magazine associated with employment; or a magazine to support an interest, sport or hobby. Encourage visitors to your home to read to your children.
- Schedule a family reading time – Many schools have programs such as DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) and you can establish something similar by scheduling a time each day, or week, during which all family members read something of their own choosing. This could be for half an hour after dinner or an hour every Sunday afternoon etc. While this is not the only time that family members read it places an emphasis on reading together.
- Access literature through different media – Novels, stories and factual books are available in the traditional book form but also as audio books, or ebooks available to be read online or downloaded to computer, tablet, telephone or other electronic device. These provide variety and enhance the reading experience for adults and children.
- Books and movies– Many stories in books have been made into movies. Choose a book that the whole family can read together then watch the movie. This provides the basis for good family discussion about the plot and the characters and how these are presented in the book and the movie.
- Swap books with others – Encourage the adults and children in your life to swap and share books with each other and with their friends or relatives.
- Reading as relaxation – Encourage family members to relax and read in a variety of pleasant places around the home and social environment – in a favourite part the house, under a tree in the garden, in the park together, as part of a family outing such as a picnic etc
- Read and respond – Critical literacy is an important skill. This involves more than simply reading a book to remember the story or the facts. Being critically literate includes understanding what is read and being able to analyse, interpret and evaluate the contents of a book – how a character is presented, what opinion or point of view is presented, do I agree with the way the author has written the book or the opinions expressed? etc. Spending time discussing children’s understanding of what they have read is important.
- Use technology – If your children have grandparents or other family members and friends who live at a distance from them make use of a range of technologies available eg connect via Skype so that a grandparent can read a book to the children; or read and record a story using computer software and save it to a CD or USB drive (thumb drive) then mail to someone else so they can listen to it too.
View our Guide for Parents to help you increase your learners’ literacy skills.
She holds a Public Service Medal for her contributions to education.
Shirley has written a comprehensive Guide for Parents to help support children’s literacy in the home and social environment.