Family life, Foundations for academic success, Literacy, Parenting, Pre-reading, Reading

Develop a culture of reading in your home.

Photo by Picsea on Unsplash

Experienced teachers share things parents should do to set their kids up for success – Part 3 of 10

Developing a culture of reading in your home is one of the greatest gifts that you can give your children. If a child develops a love of reading, everything from that point onwards, in terms of their education, is that much easier. Experienced teachers will tell you that those children who read daily, and who read for leisure, are usually academically stronger than their peers.

No book and no reading taking place!

As teachers, it is often reported to us by children that there are no books in their homes – none owned and none on loan from a library. In addition, they also report that no one in their family reads, and more importantly, that no one reads to them. It breaks my heart to hear this. Read! Read anything and everything you can lay your hands on and let your children see you do it. Even if you struggle to read – let them witness it – they will respect you more in the long run. By watching you face up to the challenge they will know that reading is something worth struggling over.

Foundations for a love of reading

The foundations for a love of reading and reading fluency are set when a significant adult regularly reads, or tells stories, to a very young child. This is why, in so many families, it is called a bedtime story as it forms part of a nightly routine for approximately 365 days of the year. See my article on ‘Why you CAN’T skip reading to your child for 20 minutes per day‘ click here.

If you have not been doing regular bedtime stories, do not fear, as research tells us that it is never too late to start. If you do not have a book in your home right now, start making up stories as part of your nightly routine.

I know of families who write and illustrate their own stories on paper, folding them into books. The whole family gets involved and the stories grow and evolve through the laughter, imagination, knowledge and creativity that is brought to the table after dinner or on a Sunday afternoon. They treasure these family creations along with the few books they have, re-reading them every so often.

Another activity which has proven to work well for generating stories is this game:

  • Each family member gets a scrap piece of paper to write on.
  • Each person writes down 10 words.
  • Of these 10 words at least one word must be a name, one a place, one an animal and 3 words can be objects. The rest can be random words.
  • I always try to introduce one made up word for a bit of fun e.g. Oligonk.
  • When the lists are complete, put them in a hat and take a draw.
  • You have 20 minutes to write a story based on the 10 words provided.
  • These stories can then be read aloud, passed on or read silently and provide a variety of reading material.
  • Young children can work together with a parent. Older children can work independently.
  • For a fun additional activity, each person can illustrate the main character of their story e.g. What do you think an Oligonk looks like?

Read by example

If South Africa is going to improve its literacy levels, as it needs to, we have to start introducing regular reading into our homes as a matter of urgency. With a family culture of reading, children will start to read by example. They won’t feel that reading is only a school activity or a homework chore.  I believe that reading is supposed to be fun, exiting, comforting and stress free. It should be one of a child’s favourite activities. Think of stories around a campfire in the old days.

In order to feel motivated to read for themselves, children should see adults reading around them on a daily basis. Things such as…

  • newspapers
  • magazines
  • non-fiction books
  • fiction books
  • recipes
  • pamphlets
  • newsletters
  • documents

A child who sees the adults around him / her reading will know that reading is important and that literacy is important. A child that never sees people reading will believe that reading is only a school activity and is only for children. Unfortunately, if none of the adults in your family are book worms, you’ll just have to fake it. The school curriculum of today does not allow as much time for reading in the classroom as my generation had growing up. Therefore, if you want your children to be literate and fluent in reading, you had better start playing your part.

South Africans spend twice as much on chocolate each year than they do on books.

Before you mention that books are unaffordable in South Africa, as a reason for why we lack a culture of reading, consider this: South Africans apparently spend twice as much money on chocolate each year than they do on books (see Further reading – Literacy: Once upon a time, parents taught their children to read). Based on this alone, I think we as South Africans can afford to start a culture of reading. Buy books, instead of sweets, and save money by not paying the dentist.

Libraries are an underutilised resource in South Africa

There is a library of some variety in every community in our country, which is practically free. I’ve looked up libraries across Johannesburg on Google Maps for my students, in an attempt to prove to them that there is a library on their doorstep.

As a child I visited the library every week, along with my mother and my two sisters. It was just something that we did and we never questioned it. The expectation that we would read was no different to the expectation that we’d would brush our teeth, take a bath or do our homework. My mother spent hours reading to us, until we could do so for ourselves. It paid off as we are all avid readers today. Our family culture of reading is stronger than ever. My retired parents read for a minimum of 6 hours a day on average, sometimes more.

Advantages of reading

Reading and a family culture of reading leads to…

  • a wider vocabulary
  • greater exposure to good grammar, spelling and punctuation
  • improved visual memory
  • improved writing skills
  • development of the imagination
  • improved analytical thinking
  • reduced stress
  • improved verbal skills
  • greater general knowledge
  • being able to educate yourself on any topic

What’s not to love about reading?

Advice:

  • No matter your own level of literacy, find things to read and read them in front of your children. Be the example!
  • Read with your children whenever you can.
  • Even if your own reading fluency isn’t perfect, never be shy to try reading to younger learners. You can use pictures and voice animation to tell the story. They’ll love every minute.
  • Reading pictures is part of the pre-reading strategies that need to be encouraged in young children.
  • When children see adults trying to do something that they are not good at or find difficult, they start to believe that it must be important and that they should also try. There is never any shame in trying and this is a life lesson that children should learn.
  • Ask older children in your family to read stories to the younger children or even to the whole family. It is good practice for them and they can play a part in developing your family’s culture of reading.
  • Join your local library and visit regularly, along with your children.
  • Teach your children how to take care of books. Have a special place in your home where library books are safely kept.
  • Collect free magazines from stands outside the shops and scatter them around your home.
  • Bring home the newspaper if possible.
  • Create a print rich environment.
  • Ask friends, family and work colleagues to collect old magazines for you.
  • If there is someone in your family who is unable to read, ask them if they would be willing to make up stories for the children – it will help to spark their imaginations and will go a long way is helping you to develop a culture of reading and storytelling in your home. Old people are usually very good at this and as such they are a great resources.

Further reading:

For Part 2 in this series and to read “Don’t badmouth your child’s teacher or school if you want your child to value education”, please click here.

To explore working with Lianne in Randburg and other areas in Johannesburg, contact her to discuss how she can meet your needs.

Literacy, Pre-reading

Why you CAN’T skip reading to your child for 20 minutes per day.

The idea for this article comes from a poster I came across on Pinterest that blew me away. Finally, I had come across an infographic that hammers home the point that reading to your child daily is NOT negotiable. It easily outlines the accumulative effect of reading to your child from early on, and highlights how disadvantaged your child could be if they are only read to for half – or less than half – of the time of their peers.

Take a look at the poster below and you’ll see what I mean. Click here to purchase posters or to download a PDF version from the creator.

Infographic: Why you CAN’T skip reading to your child for 20 minutes per day.

In this poster you can see that by the time James goes to nursery school he has been read to for 28,800 minutes, an accumulated 20 minutes per day 5 days a week. Travis, on the other hand, has only been read to for 5760 minutes before he goes to nursery school, an accumulated 4 minutes per day 5 days a week. The difference between 28,800 and 5760 minutes is significant.

The questions then posed by April Greer who created the poster are…

  • Which child would you expect to know more?
  • Which child would you expect to have a better vocabulary?
  • Which child would you expect to be better prepared for school?
  • Which child would you expect to be better prepared to learn to read?
  • Which child would you expect to be more successful in school?
  • How do you think each child will feel about himself as a new student?

These are profound questions.

They force us to consider the fact that doing something, that some consider irrelevant, such as reading a bedtime story to your child for a mere 20 minutes a night, can have such a significant impact on…

  • their exposure to words and vocabulary development,
  • school readiness,
  • knowledge,
  • self-image
  • and their ability to achieve success with greater ease.

While some children are still busy with the struggle of learning to read, your child could move on to reading to learn.

So the next time you consider putting your child straight to bed, without a bedtime story, you may want to reconsider.

Tips for bedtime reading:

  • Make bedtime stories part of your nightly routine.
  • Try to read in the same location if possible.
  • Cuddle while you read. It helps you to bond.
  • Toddlers love reading the same books over and over, which is appropriate for their developmental level.
  • Often they will only want to read the pictures – which is part of the pre-reading strategies they need to learn.
  • They will sometimes want to go back a page or two, or even back to the beginning of the book when you’re only half way through the story. Try not to get frustrated as this is also age appropriate and is perfectly fine.
  • NEVER take storytime away as punishment or as a form of discipline. You don’t want to sabotage your own efforts to turn your child into a lifelong reader.
  • Aim to keep reading time relaxed, calming, positive and enjoyable.

Reading aloud

Some adults take to reading aloud like a duck to water. However, there are those individuals that feel as awkward as a fish out of water, especially when reading in front of other adults. Here are some pointers to help you get on.

In the video clip below Michael Rosen, an English children’s novelist, poet, and author, gives some wonderful tips on how to engage your child more while reading.

Richard at AbeBooks.com gives us fantastic tips for reading to children.

Are you up to the challenge of reading nightly bedtime stories?

To explore working with Lianne in Johannesburg (Fourways, Strathavon & Bordeaux South), contact her to find out how she can meet your needs.