With most children still learning at home, we know that schools will be getting creative in how to celebrate World Book day this year.
World Book Day is also an opportunity for organisations, schools and teachers to reflect on how we can support families with reading going forward. For some families, reading time has become a source of joy and comfort during the pandemic but this has not been the case for those parents who face a range of barriers to engaging with their child’s reading. For example, when we surveyed parents last term, we found that confidence in supporting English was only 7% higher than confidence in supporting Maths. With new approaches to phonics and grammar, there is a lot for parents to get their heads around.
Over the last year, we have been developing our new English with Parents activities and thought we would share some of our top tips for schools to use.
The first step to supporting parents is motivating them and letting them know how much their help at home is valued.
Be clear and realistic on how long parents should spend on reading
Through discussions we have had with parents we have found that parents do not always feel confident in knowing how long they should spend on reading and knowing when they have done enough. Reading for 10 minutes a day might not be suitable for all families so differentiate this approach to help parents feel motivated.
Ensure parents understand their child’s reading ability
Whilst levelled reading books can help teachers assess children’s reading ability the coloured bands can be a source of anxiety for parents especially if they do not know what they mean. Providing parents with explanations on what the levels mean and with regular updates on how their child is progressing can do a lot to ease their anxiety.
Support parents with subject knowledge
Whilst providing vocabulary lists of key terms could be useful they may also be overwhelming if parents do not know how to use them. Providing parents with interactive activities they can do as they read with their child can do a lot to help them engage with their child’s reading.
Creating a love of reading
A love of reading is arguably the most important thing adults can teach children.
Support parents to read aloud to their child
This can be a special time for them to connect with their child and just as valuable as the child reading to them. For those families, who are less confident with reading perhaps you can suggest they listen to an audio book together. Story Online and the World Book Day website have some great free ones! CBeebies Bedtime Stories are another good free resource for younger children.
Support reading together to continue into Key Stage 2
Parents sometimes feel that when their child is older and more confident with decoding, they no longer need to read together. But sharing books can be a really enjoyable experience, and talking about texts together is important for improving comprehension skills. If children are reading chapter books independently, it can be frustrating for both the parent and child to share a small section from somewhere in the middle of the book. Instead, why not provide shorter texts for shared reading? Poetry contains rich language, shorter non-fiction texts like blog posts could provoke interesting discussion, and playscripts or scenes can be a fun way of getting parents and children to read aloud together.
Help parents make reading purposeful
Suggest ways parents can bring reading into everyday life for their child, for example reading recipes as they prepare a meal, using a list to help with shopping, or reading film reviews before deciding what to watch. Early readers could find letters on things when out for a walk or phonics sounds on items in the supermarket.
Make reading time fun and interactive
Children may not always want to sit down and read their school book and we do not want reading to become a time of stress between parent and child. Show families the other kinds of reading material available, including comics, poetry, biographies, joke books, magazines and recipe books. Suggest, too, other ways they can practise reading together that don’t involve a whole text, such as playing phonics snap, alphabet games, or using inference skills to talk about a picture. You could also suggest ways of using a story for inspiring other activities, such as small-world play, looking at numbers, or art.
Remember that all parents want to support their child’s reading, they just need to empowered to give that support!
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