FAQs about children's reading
How else can I help at home?
The most important thing to do is to keep in touch with your child's class teacher, making it clear that you are interested and want to help.
General things you can do at home which will help any child include:
- Make time every day to read aloud to your child.
- Develop a routine where your child reads to you as often as possible. Choose a time which doesn't clash with other activities, eg favourite TV programmes, as you don't want your child to resent reading.
- Help your child to develop their understanding of the world. Take them out, even if it's just to the local park, and talk about what you see. Discuss reasons for things that happen - if you don't know the reasons, invent plausible sounding ones.
- Play board games together. Many board games involve reading or develop skills which are important for reading.
- Let your child see you reading.
How can I choose books at the right level for my child?
As a rule of thumb, you would expect a child to read a book with about 95% accuracy if they want to read it to themselves.
If your child is making more than this number of mistakes, it's generally the case that they're missing, or misreading, too many words for them to make sense of the story.
- Introduce the 'Rule of five' to older children. Encourage them to read the first page or two of a new book. They must put up one finger for every word they cannot read. If they get to five fingers, then the book is too hard for them and they should choose another one.
- For younger children, be guided by the teacher. Most schools have some kind of colour-coding system by which they recognise different stages in reading. Parents and children are often allowed to make their own choice of books.
My child says reading is boring. How can I help them to enjoy reading?
Talk to your child to find out what it is about reading that's boring. Children use the word 'boring' to cover a wide range of negative responses. Is your child trying to hide the fact that they're struggling? Are they being challenged too much or insufficiently? Don't they like guided reading? Don't they like the kind of books they're reading?
For many children, particularly boys, non-fiction books are more interesting than fiction books. These children are likely to find that books in reading schemes don't match their interests. If this is the case, talk to your teacher, a librarian, or a book seller, and see whether books are available which match your child's interests.
I find reading to my child boring. How can I make it more fun?
What is it you find boring? Do you resent the time it takes? Do you dislike the books your child is choosing? Do you find it difficult reading the same book over and over again?
Whatever your feelings about reading aloud, please hide them from your child. If you want your child to become a reader, they need to know that it's important to you and the best way to let them know that is to share a book together.
Making reading aloud fun is often about selecting the right book - a book which both you and your child can enjoy. Visit your local library or bookshop and talk to a professional about books.
Do I need to be reading to my child every night? When should this stop?
Making a bedtime story part of your child's bedtime routine from the time they are are very young is an ideal way to wind down together at the end of the day.
Bonding over books develops a special, unique relationship where you can share together the world you have read about and you can talk about the characters. Many parents find it's at this time that their child feels safe enough to talk about things that are worrying them.
Your child will probably continue to treasure the bedtime story, at least until they leave primary school. However, it often becomes impractical to have a long bedtime routine once children start to attend evening clubs.
If your child enjoys a bedtime story, read to them as often as it is practicable; if they want time to read to themselves instead, then respect their decision.
How can I use technology to boost my child's reading?
Our children are growing up surrounded by technology and there are many different ways in which it can be used educationally. Sometimes, even the most reluctant readers can be caught up in technology. For example:
- Some reading schemes now offer schools the option to send 'virtual books' home. Children will log in to a secure website and read books which have been assigned by their teacher, just as if they had brought home a paper book.
- Publishers are publishing electronic books online. Use a search engine to find them.
- A lot of software is available to teach your child phonics, spelling, sentence building, comprehension and so on. Again, use a search engine to find the software - sometimes there's a small fee.
- Publishers are creating online worlds for children. These involve children playing games to earn rewards. Most of these games involve reading, if only to work out what to do next.
But check that you're happy with the content before you let your child loose on any website.
My child used to love books but now says she hates them. What should I do?
Talk to your child and try to find out what the problem is. There must have been some incident which caused their change of heart. The root cause will be different depending on the age of your child, but the most likely cause is that your child has hit a barrier and isn't making the progress she wants to make. If this is true, talk to her class teacher and see if you can pinpoint the problem together.
While your child is in this negative state of mind, it may be better not to 'force' her to read. Instead, use the time to play a board game or read some silly poems together.
Try to keep the time for reading available so that you can gently reintroduce the reading habit after a little while. If you allow your child to fill the time with TV and computer games, she's unlikely to want to relinquish them.
Where can I find some really good books to get my son reading?
Find out about access to the school's library. There are bound to be some excellent books in the library which your child hasn't yet come across.
If the school's library isn't big enough, try a bookshop. Most bookshops have a children's book buyer who knows a lot about what's available and who will spend time talking to you and offering your child books to try.
What should I do if my child is not at the reading level they're expected to be at?
Firstly, don't panic and don't make your child stressed about reading. There are many good reasons why your child may not be making the progress you hoped for, and only a few worrying ones. The most important thing to do is to make an appointment to talk to your child's teacher to find out whether there's a problem.
It may be the case that your child is young in the year group, or not developmentally ready for reading, or not very interested in reading. Also, most children don't progress in a straight line as they learn to read: they may have periods of fast progress followed by periods of consolidation. Children who start off behind for any reason, tend to take a little while to catch up.
It can be very worrying if you think your child is falling behind. Make an appointment to discuss your concerns with your child's class teacher.
My child's class has been doing the same book for weeks. Is this right?
It depends on why and how old your child is. It's unusual for very young children to focus on one book for more than a couple of weeks, so if that's the case, pop into school and ask if you can discuss it with your child's teacher.
Older children are more likely to focus on one book for longer because they may work on a book from many different aspects: first, they'll read it, then talk about it and analyse the characters, plot etc. Their teacher may want to use the book as a model for a piece of writing, so they continue to look at the way the author uses language, paragraphs, speech etc.
It's not unusual for children to use the same book in guided reading sessions for several weeks.
However, it is more unusual for a child's home reading book not to be changed. Again, pop into school and talk to the teacher.