How to Develop a Child’s Interest in Books and Reading
Research suggests that children who enjoy books are more likely to want to learn to read and will keep trying even when they find it hard. Therefore, it is important to keep their interaction around books a positive one.
Books come in all shapes and sizes and are made from various materials.
- Have a few bath books. even if most of the time your baby or toddler just chews on them, they will be handling a book and possibly turning the pages. Giving you the opportunity to talk about the pictures with them.
- Try to have a range of cloth, hard books and suitable picture books around the house and in your child’s play area so they can pick them up at any time. This way they can explore them for themselves, (even if it is to give them a quick chew on) not as an adult sharing activity.
Through Drawing & Writing
Drawing and making your own simple story book can be a great way of getting your child interested in books and reading. Children love to hear stories about them. Simple homemade books about them can be a great way of introducing children to books and reading. This can be a very effective approach to encourage reluctant readers.
- Draw simple pictures with, or for, your child and talk through what you are drawing, for example; a picture of a house with matchstick people. The pictures could be telling the events of the day for example going to the park or walking the dog.
- If drawing is not your thing (like me) use fuzzy felt instead to make a picture to share the story of their day.
Through Songs and Nursery Rhymes
Children’s songs and nursery rhymes cover a wide range of concepts such as going through every day sequences in the nursery rhyme ‘Here we go Round the Mulberry Bush’ which uses the phrase ‘This is the way we…’ to order the event of getting up in the morning. Some introduce concept such as size, numbers, colours and shapes. While others tell stories for example ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ or ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt’ by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury.
Sharing books that enable you and your child to sing along (retell) their favourite songs and nursery rhymes means that the child knows what to expect and that they are going to have fun and enjoy the experience. Over time you will then be able to introduce books with new songs and nursery rhymes, building on your child’s positive experience of other book sharing sessions with you. Remember you may have to revert back to the old favourite time and time again, but stick with it.
Through Book Sharing
What books should you choose?
- Pick children’s books you enjoy
- Pick books your child enjoys
- Give your child time to choose and look at books (your local library is a great place for this).
- Follow your child’s interests
- Use ‘true’ books and stories (not those specifically written for developing phonics knowledge or rigidly structured reading scheme books for teaching and learning to read, these will come from school and serve a different purpose).
Book Sharing Tips
- Remember that a child’s age personality, mood and stage of development will affect how they interact with the book.
- Keep the interaction around the book positive and fun, if you are not enjoying it your child will pick up on this.
- Keep your child involved, remember you do not have to read the book word for word, it is the positive sharing experience that is important.
- If your child does not seem interested in reading or sharing books, start slowly by sharing /reading one or two pages at a time. Keep the interaction positive and over time their interest will grow.
- If your child is showing no interest then try again another time.
- When reading a book with your child that you really like then tell them that you like the book or story. Your child may not agree with you and insist on their favourite book which after reading for the 500th time you may be bored with but keep with it, there will be another favourite book!
- Try to share books throughout the day not just at nap and bed times. I found having a couple of books in my bag really useful as I could then share a book with one of my girl’s while the other was swimming or with them both while waiting for the bus or sharing tea and cake in a café.
- Read with your child every day. There are some days where this just seems impossible to manage. Remember one minute is better than no minutes and it does not have to be a book you are reading, there are lots of environment reading matter you could use such as painting/pictures, posters, advertisement, road signs and maps.
The importance of reading to, and with, your child can’t be overemphasized. The more your child is exposed to words and enjoys the reading experience the quicker they will learn to read for themselves.
Reading with your child enables you to introduce them to new words and language structures which they will not come across in their everyday interaction. You can explain these words, through reading with your child, and help them to develop an understanding of their meaning. If a child likes the sound and rhythm of these new words or language structures they will, overtime, start to use them in conversations with others and during imaginative play.
Reading to, and with, your child is such an important activity, however knowing how to keep it fun and to get the most out of the experiences is not always clear, which is why we are re-running our popular six-week series on ‘Developing and Supporting Your Child’s Reading Journey’
Each week we will look at a different reading skill element, giving example games and activities you can use to support and develop your child through:
- Book Sharing
- Talk & Song
‘Developing and Supporting Your Child’s Reading Journey’ Series:
- Week 1. How to develop a child’s interest in books and reading.
- Week 2. Phonological awareness skills required for reading.
- Week 3. Vocabulary development for comprehension.
- Week 4. Print awareness to develop understanding of reading conventions.
- Week 5. Narrative skills to support the understanding of different writing styles.
- Week 6. Letter knowledge.
The term ‘Simple View of Reading’ used by schools may seem strange as there is nothing simple about learning to read.
The Simple View of Reading was adopted by the Government in 2007 and now underpins the English National Curriculum’s programmes of study for reading at Key Stage 1 and 2.
Even though reading, the ability to decode the word and extract the correct meaning of the words, is a complex set of skills; the Simple View of Reading conceptual framework (Stuart et al. 2008, cited Hoover and Gough, 1986) reduces it down to two key components:
- Word recognition – the ability to decode unknown words and recognise printed words.
- Language comprehension – the ability to understand the spoken words and use this process to understand the written text.
|Reading Comprehension = Decoding x Linguistic Comprehension
So in theory a child’s reading comprehension ability can be predicted by looking at their decoding and linguistic (spoken language) comprehension abilities (Johnston & Watson, 2007).
When using the Simple View of Reading as the basis for teaching reading it becomes clearer as to why:
- A high quality phonics scheme is required, which the Rose Report (2006) explains ‘…is not a ‘strategy’ so much as a body of knowledge, skills and understanding that has to be learned.’ (page 20) [This teaches children how to decode.]
- A language rich environment to develop and encourage linguistic comprehension is vital.
For a pdf copy of this diagram: https://www.teachphonics.co.uk/The%20simple%20view%20of%20Reading%20diagram.pdf
Johnston.R. and Watson.J. ‘Teaching Synthetic Phonics’, 2007, Pub: Learning Matters, Sage Publication Ltd.
Rose.J. ’Independent review of the teaching of early reading: final report March 2006’ Pub: DfES Publications
‘The simple view of reading and evidence based practice’ Rhona Stainthorp Institute of Education, Reading University, Morag Stuart, Institute of Education, University of London (2008) Pdf downloaded from internet
Reading is the ability to first decode the letter sequence of the word (phonics) and then to place meaning to it in relation to the context in which it is being used.
We ask children who are learning to read to ‘read out aloud’, but forget to tell them why. It is not just so we can hear they have decoded a word correctly. The important point is to encourage them to actively listen to what they are saying. The idea is that if they hear the words they will, if it is part of their vocabulary, understand their meaning and therefore fully comprehend the text they have read.
Unfortunately many children just decode, speak and do not actively listen to what they have said, so they do not gain meaning from the words they are reading (poor reading comprehension skills).
Poor reading comprehension skills may also occur because a child has a limited vocabulary usage and /or understanding. A language rich environment is vital to help support and develop a child’s vocabulary and linguistic comprehension which in turn will support their reading comprehension skills.
Good spatial awareness enables us to be aware of the space around us and our position in that space, as well the relationship between ourselves and objects. This also includes our ability to see and understand the spacing of text and pictures on a page, to distinguish between paragraphs, sentences, words and individual letters.
Spatial awareness difficulties can have a dramatic effect on a child’s ability to read fluently and with ease due to the fact that they do not see the print in the same way as people with good spatial awareness skills.
Typical problems due to poor spatial awareness skills:
- They lose their place, skip lines and words or transpose them
- They use a finger to help keep their place.
- Comprehension can be difficult as text is mis-read.
Eye tracking is the ability to control and coordinate the fine eye movements that allows us to:
- Read a line of print by moving our eyes from left to right, without moving the head.
- To focus and move the eyes to follow an object, without moving the head, in all directions
- To track/follow objects near and far
- To focus on one object without moving the eyes.
Eye tracking difficulties can have a dramatic effect on a child’s ability to read fluently and with ease due to the fact that they do not see the print in the same way as people with good eye tracking skills.
Typical problems due to poor eye tracking skills:
- They lose their place, skips words or transposes them
- They use a finger to help keep their place
- Some will turn their head sideways to read or write
- Others may cover one eye to read
- They hold their head close to the table when looking at things, reading, writing and drawing
For more information on how to identify spatial awareness and eye tracking difficulties as well as activities to help support and develop these skills use these links:
Children will often be unaware that what they see and experience may be different to what we or their friends are seeing. As parents it can be a real shock when your child says “isn’t that what you see?”, as unless the difference is extreme and has an obvious impact on them we can think everything is ok.
Visual difficulties not only affect a child’s ability to read but also their handwriting skills.
If you are not sure about your child’s vision then book an eyesight test, it could be your child is struggling because they need glasses, and they are now cool and don’t carry the stigma they used to.
Some children may not have a problem with their eyesight but find reading print difficult because it seems to move around on the page as they try to read.
When reading a book with your child it is worth talking to them about what they see. Try to be matter of fact, so that they do not feel you are looking for a particular answer. Using a book with a good print size and not too crammed with words (so a school reading book is a good idea) you are looking to find out:
- Can they identify each row of text (try asking them to count how many lines on the page or to point to each line of print) or do they jump or miss out lines.
- Can they identify words in the line of text or do they sometimes blur together.
- Can they see each letter in words or do they sometimes swap them around so “was” becomes “saw” for instance (this does happen occasionally when a child is first learning to read but is more of a concern if it becomes a regular reading error for a number of words).
- Does the print do funny things, such as move or wiggle about?
Book an eye test for your child if they are having some, or all, of these difficulties. Also try placing different coloured overlays (coloured plastic wallets are good) over the text to see if your child finds it easier to read or see the print. For many children, struggling with the issues above, coloured overlays or specially tinted glasses can make an amazing difference. We found the impact for our two dyslexic daughters quite dramatic, improving their skills, confidence and self-esteem. It does not work for all children but it is really worth trying.
Some opticians who have an Optometrist or Orthoptist can perform a coloured overlay test (http://www.eyecaretrust.org.uk/view.php?item_id=125) for your child to assess whether coloured lenses would be beneficial. The test can be difficult for children under the age of 8 as they may choose their preferred fashion colour rather than the one best suited for them.
Letter knowledge is understanding;
- That the same letter can look different, for example, a lower case letter ‘b’ looks different from a capital letter ‘B’. Letters will also look different depending on which font type is being used or if it is handwritten, for example, an Arial font letter ‘g’ looks different from a Calibri font ‘g’.
- That letters have names and the same name is used for that letter even when they look different, so the lower case letter ‘a’ and its capital letter form ‘A’ are both called ‘ay’.
- That letters (graphemes) are used to represent sounds (phonemes) in words. Teaching the unique letter names of the alphabet is an important pre-phonics skill. A letter or combination of letters can represent more than one sound and so the only way of identifying alphabet letters when we talk about them is to use their unique names.
Developing Letter Knowledge:
- Sorting and Matching Games – use plastic or wooden letters, alphabet letter flash cards; can they group all the lower case letters together, or all the capital letters or all the different letter ‘ay’s together.
- Kim’s Games – use plastic or wooden letters, alphabet letter flash cards use a few letters at a time, place 5 to 10 on a tray and let your child look at them and talk through which letters are there. Cover with a tea towel and ask your child to look away, then remove 1 or 2 of the letters. Then ask your child to look back and remove the tea towel. Can they spot which letters are missing.
- Detective Games – focus on identifying individual letters of the alphabet and naming them, this can be played at home or when out and about.
- Leap Frog – use the letters of the alphabet on home-made paper lily pads. Use the letter names to identify the target lily pad for your child to either jump onto or to throw a bean bag/soft toy on to.
- Skittles and Throwing Games – use letters of the alphabet on the targets and use the letter names as a way of identifying which of the targets your child is aiming for.
- Making lists of things to do, or a shopping list. Their version of the list may be just squiggles and dots (so don’t rely on this for your shopping trip) but it is the beginning. I would keep the list and get them to tick off things done or items purchased as part of the experience so that it has a genuine purpose (children really like this).
- Making and drawing their own story book.
- Learning to writing letters correctly – see our Teach handwriting Website: http://bit.ly/1dqBYFm
Through Songs/Nursery Rhymes:
- Singing Alphabet Song, try singing it to different tunes.
- Make up Your Own Rap – point to the letters as the rap is said.
- Talk about letters as being shapes made up of straight, curves and diagonal lines.
- Look at the letters in your child’s name, talk about the fact that the first letter in their name is always a capital letter and that normally the other letters are lower case letters.
- Point out especially for slightly older children that lower case letters are about half the size of the capital letters.
- Compare letters looking at what is the same and different about them.
- When taking about letters use the letter name as well as the sound it is making in the word, remember a letter is often used to represent more than one sound. The letter ‘a’ can be used to represent different sounds in the following words: ant, apron, was, and any (just 4 of the eight sounds it is used to represent).
Through Book Sharing:
What Books to choose?
- Books with shapes
- Books where you have to find things (like I spy)
- Alphabet books
- Books which use different font styles in the pictures and text.
Book Sharing Tips:
- Alphabet books do not need to be read from cover to cover. Let your child choose which letters they want to look at.
- Trace the letters with your finger or let your child trace it (make sure you trace the letter using the correct formation orientation, encourage your child to do the same).
- Talk about the pictures in alphabet books before focusing on the letter, its name and the sound it can make.
- Show your child the first letter in their name and then look for that letter in the book.
- Show and talk about how some letters are in their capital form and others in their lower case form. Can they find other examples of the letters?
- Choose two letters to talk about: How do they look alike? How do they look different? What shapes/line styles are they made up of?