Reading regularly with children can dramatically reduce disruptive behaviour (according to a previous study carried out at eight primary schools in the London borough of Lambeth by the Institute of Psychiatry). The key to the scheme wasn’t reading in itself, but the amount of time parents spent with children and how they related to them.
Parents taking part in the study were invited to attend a parenting skills programme, in which they learnt how to relate to children, using techniques such as focussing on the positive behaviour of a child rather than the negative. More than 100 five-to six-year-olds took part in the ten-week study, and noticeable improvements were shown in their behaviour.
They also gave advice on how to share books with their children, for instance, by switching off mobile phones and taking time to look at pictures, highlighting new vocabulary, discussing the book before the child started to read the words, and avoiding the temptation to correct words.
How to help your child to read – and enjoy it!
Keep it simple with babies
Choose books with simple images and text – remember you are buying the book for your baby, not for yourself. Point to objects and say their names slowly, repeating several times. At the end, Go through it again – as often as your baby wants.
Tap into your child’s interests
Whether it’s football, horses, dinosaurs, fairies or witches, seek out books on their favourite subjects.
Don’t feel embarrassed by your reading style
Children don’t care if you’re not a good reader, they just want to hear your voice.
Swap reading duties
The same story can be a new experience, depending on who is reading it. Remember the value of having grandparents in the home to read, too.
Make books accessible for children
Keep a number of books on low tables and ledges. Or, stacked in a basket or box on the floor.
Make it rewarding
Give books as a reward or a treat, rather than forcing your child to read, as this will help to make them appear worthwhile, exciting and something to look forward to.
Sit down together
Your baby will love sitting on your knee, pointing at pictures and making animal noises. Find a book that interests you both. If your child is old enough to read, take turns to read a favourite book to each other.
Don’t forget nursery rhymes
Rhymes should bubble out of your child’s mouth, and once they are entrenched, you will hear how his flow of language has improved.
Your child might be ready to read a storybook, but sometimes he’ll want to go back to a book he liked as a baby, so be sensitive to that.
Continue to read to your child
Your child’s attention to a story will be much greater than his reading ability and encourage his appetite to reach new goals in his own reading.
Let your child read what he wants
Comics, magazines – it all helps to consolidate reading skills. Books like Where’s Wally? may not seem like reading but they can encourage concentration.
Don’t underestimate your child
You don’t have to tell children what the jokes are. Don’t patronise a budding reader, as children know when they are being conned. Great stories happen when you turn over some strangely shaped rocks and see what’s underneath them. Children can cope with unexpected plot twists.
Set aside a quiet time when the television or computer is switched off. This will highlight reading as an enjoyable alternative option.
Be a good role model
The best way to encourage reading is to let your child see you reading to show her that it is useful, fun and a pleasurable way to spend their time.