This is a simple enough question but a very important one. If your answer is NO, than it’s not the right time for you to be reading with your child. Strategies to improve the reading process between you and your child requires you to make reading with your child a priority in your day. As a parent you are primarily the one who initiates this interaction. It should be a positive and enjoyable experience for all concerned. If you are feeling tired, angry, cranky or completely preoccupied, it’s not the right time to be trying to engage with your child. Children can sense when you’re not completely present with them. Remember too, you need to consider a suitable time for your child, taking into account their moods and willingness.
(1) Find a quiet spot to read with little to no distractions.
It’s a challenge to keep a child’s attention for even a short span of time so if you’re sitting in a room with the TV blaring you’re facing an uphill battle from the outset. If it’s a nice day, go outside and read in the garden. Wherever you are, make sure everyone is comfortable and distractions are kept to a minimum. If your child gets distracted easily and they are old enough to hold the book, let them hold the book. This brings their focus back to the book.
(2) Remember reading should always be FUN!
Children are excited when they are having fun and often they don’t want to stop whatever they are doing because it’s so much fun. Reading can be fun too. I urge you to get creative and make the process fun. You could experiment with different voices. If your child is old enough and is familiar with the story, you could act it out assuming the book lends itself to being acted out, like the picture book, We’re Going On a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen. Get your imagination fired up and working again.
(3) Quality not Quantity!
The time spent reading together should be quality time. Take cues from your child. If your child is losing interest and you haven’t finished the book, it’s best to stop completely or finish looking at the pictures and resume reading together at a different time. Always stop reading while the process is still enjoyable for all parties.
On the other hand, if your child wants to read book after book, it’s still important to stop while the going is good rather than continuing on and having the fun and joy of the process wane.
(4) Regular Reading.
Children thrive on routine. If you make reading a part of their day, they will accept it as so. The regularity also teaches them what’s important. You eat, drink, sleep, shower and clean your teeth daily. A child sees these things as important. If you read too, that will be important as well.
In many families, bedtime seems to be the routine time for reading stories. It’s a lovely way to end the day sharing a book with your child but from my personal experience, it’s not always the best part of the day to be reading together for obvious reasons.
(5) Repetition and Variation.
Your child probably has his or her own favourite books that they love to read. Reading these books over and over again, not only embeds the stories in your child’s mind but begins the process of word recognition and a familiarisation with language. Your child may even get curious about question marks, exclamation marks and punctuation in general.
A variation in books is also important. It obviously exposes your child to different stories and styles of language but also helps expand their vocabulary.
If your child is old enough, ask them what they would like to read. Maybe you have borrowed some books from the library. Asking them to choose a book makes them feel important and a part of the decision making process which is empowering.
(6) Breathe Deeply and be Patient.
This applies particularly if your child has started school and is reading more to you. My six year old daughter likes to read to me. If she doesn’t know a word I encourage her to sound out the word phonetically and to look at the pictures to see if they can help her. If after a little while she still doesn’t know the word, I tell her. She then proceeds to read the entire page over and over again until she can read it perfectly. Sometimes I am sitting there rolling my eyes wondering if we’ll ever finish the book while her bedtime gets later and later. I do find myself breathing deeply. I have to remind myself, she’s only six years old and that’s she’s empowering herself through repetition. Be patient with your child and the process, the rewards are great.
(7) Praise, Praise and Praise!
No matter what age or stage your child’s at on their way to learning how to read, make sure you praise their efforts. Children love to know they are progressing and doing well and it’s a good confidence booster. Learning to read can be challenging. It’s easy for some and harder for others. It was difficult for me. Regularity is the key. Do not criticise your child if they are reading to you and they are getting words you think they ought to know, wrong. Children can be very critical of themselves, especially if they lack confidence or have low self-esteem. It’s not beneficial in any way for a parent to be critical of their child. It’s also non-beneficial to be comparing one child against another. Every child is different. I strongly suggest if you’re concerned about your child’s reading ability that you seek advice from their teacher.
I hope this has been helpful to you and I would love to hear your thoughts.
Good Luck and Best Wishes,