It’s so important to read with your children from a young age. Reading together helps to develop essential early literacy skills and a passion for books and also offers precious bonding moments. There are many other ways in which you can encourage a lifelong love of reading in your home.
We chatted with Allison Greenland, an Inner West Mum and the founder of Leap into Literacy, which provides small workshops for young people with a focus on reading comprehension and writing, about the importance of reading to your children and the role of reading in her own family’s life. Here’s what she had to say.
‘I have always been an avid reader, and this was instilled at a very early age. My mum is very passionate about reading; I can‘t remember a time when I didn‘t see her with a book in her hands! I think that definitely wore off on me. Growing up, we made weekly trips to the library and always returned with stacks of books.
‘Reading plays a huge role in my family’s life. My husband and I read with the children nearly every night. Sometimes we read separately with each child and sometimes we read together. I think it is helpful to do a mixture of both, so that they are each introduced to different genres and levels.
‘Reading to your child from a young age has so many benefits. It helps them to develop a passion for literacy, and improves their confidence and self-esteem. It motivates them to continue reading on their own and can introduce them to genres that they may not be familiar with, not to mention the added bonus of spending quality time together!
‘There is never too early a time to begin reading to your child. A child‘s verbal comprehension begins at only six months, whereas their reading comprehension doesn‘t begin until they reach primary school. This means that you can get started early with what they are able to comprehend and teach them reading comprehension skills as you go. Making predictions, questioning and inferring are all life skills that can be taught from a very early age.
‘When choosing books for a young child, try to select titles that are of interest to the child, and these can be at any level. Do also try to choose other books that you think they might find interesting – you will be surprised sometimes! I remember some of my daughter‘s favourite books from an early age were about dinosaurs, robots, and other topics that I had no idea she was even interested in. She still loved the princess and ballet books, but it was important that I didn‘t choose only the books that were about her interest at the time. Now she’s older, but she still surprises me with some of her choices! At the moment her favourites include the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and the Treehouse series.
‘There are so many good series out there for new independent readers. Roald Dahl is a perennial favourite. Authors such as Andy Griffiths and Morris Gleitzman are also popular as they provide a lot of humour in their books. Anita Heiss, an Australian author and ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, writes early readers for children who love sports. For upper primary, I am a huge fan of the Artemis Fowl series and the Percy Jackson series. Both have been huge hits when we explore them in our classes at Leap into Literacy.
‘Many parents think that once their child is old enough to read independently they no longer “need” to read together. However, kids still want that bonding time, the sense of security and the physical closeness that reading together provides. Reading aloud together also continues to increase the child’s confidence, vocabulary, and ability to read with expression. Since a child‘s listening and reading comprehension don’t become equal until around Year 8, you can even read aloud to your child a book that is at a much higher level than they would read independently.
‘Of course, some primary school students are reluctant about reading. For these kids, introducing the audio book first can help to get them reading. Once they have listened to a chapter or two, then read a chapter together from the hard copy. Have them then read a chapter or two on their own, then switch back and forth between the audio book, reading together, and on their own. Many children find getting started difficult, but once they are interested in the book and want to find out more, they are more likely to continue reading.
‘Through my work I see hundreds of kids on their reading journeys. While I love seeing their reading and writing skills increase, my biggest goal is to develop a lifelong love of literacy. It is so fantastic to have a student start our classes with the mindset that they dislike reading, and within as little as a few weeks go home with a book that they enjoyed and want to continue reading. We focus on reading comprehension and building confidence, which I think are two of the most important aspects to building avid readers for life.’
Some tips to encourage a lifelong love of reading in your children