Supporting your child to improve their reading skills is perhaps the most important thing you can do to positively influence your child’s emotional and intellectual wellbeing and development.
There are no two ways about it: developing strong independent reading skills will set your child up for success.
Academic success relies heavily on literacy and your child’s ability to decipher what is on the page, and helping your child to improve their reading skills is fundamental to them thriving both at school and in life.
“Reading for pleasure is more important for children’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education - children who read frequently make more progress in maths, as well as vocabulary and spelling than those who rarely read.”(UCL, Centre of Longitudinal Studies, 2013)
At Pickatale, we are committed to helping schools and families facilitate children’s reading for pleasure so that they can excel academically, socially and emotionally. We equip children with the tools they need to build reading confidence, improve their reading skills and take ownership of their reading for pleasure journey.
Additionally, independent reading expands your child’s horizons to encompass cultures, experiences, and world-views beyond their own, and is fundamental to the development of curiosity, love of language and the ability to concentrate for longer periods of time.
You’re here because you want to support your child to improve their reading skills, but we know it can be difficult to know where to start. Take a look at our top tips for ways you can help your child develop - and eventually thrive - as they learn to love to read:
1. Establish a regular reading routine
Studies suggest that setting aside dedicated time each day to read to and with your child can help to improve your child’s reading ability. This includes increasing their vocabulary, boosting their comprehension skills, and improving their ability to decipher previously unknown words and to recall words they already know.
This can be as simple as a bedtime story where you and your child take it in turns to read to one another, a ten minute read when your child gets home from school, or enjoying a book together during bath time when there are no other distractions.
Over time, you should shift more of the reading responsibility onto your child at a pace that allows your child to continually move beyond their comfort zone without experiencing stress. This will teach them to read independently and their confidence should begin to grow.
As your child learns to read independently, it is still important to maintain your routine. You needn’t read together once your child is able to read alone - and indeed your child will benefit greatly from being allowed to read alone - but it’s important that you remain on hand to provide support when your child comes across an unfamiliar word or needs to clarify something they have read.
2. Keep books within easy reach
Research points to one very simple way to get your child to read more and therefore improve their reading skills: availability of books!
One way to achieve this is to have books stacked high in every corner of the house ready and waiting to be discovered, flung open and enjoyed by your child. It has been suggested that children do best when books are placed at their fingertips - in the bathroom, in the car, at the kitchen table, by their bed or next to the television.
While this may send an all-important signal to your child that reading is both an important part of daily life and readily available to them, it can also be a more expensive and - let’s face it - pretty untidy solution.
Technology makes it easier and more convenient than ever for every child to access the magical world of children’s literature. Digital reading allows children to read for pleasure, indulge their curiosity and build knowledge by enjoying fiction, non-fiction or poetry wherever they are. Picktale means it couldn’t be easier to make books easily accessible to your child at all times at just a fraction of the cost, and with a lot less clutter!
Plus, downloading our reading platform means that instead of deciding which book or two to pack when leaving the house with your little one - and carrying weighty books around all day - you can slip our library of over 1500 books into your bag and your child can take their pick.
3. Help your child to find books that they love
Helping your child to discover the right genre or type of book for them could be the key to unlocking their joy when it comes to reading. Some children prefer science fiction or adventure stories; others find mysteries and histories more captivating. Likewise, your child may have a penchant for nonfiction or poetry rather than for story books. If this is the case, allow them to read the books they are most interested in. This will not only allow them to tap into their unique interests and curiosities - be it history, space, dinosaurs or animals - it will also make it far more likely that they will continue to enjoy the reading process.
Remember, the more interested your child is in a book’s subject matter, the more excited they will be excited to read it. Enjoying the journey is fundamental to your child’s progress, so follow their lead and provide them with reading material that is of particular interest to them wherever possible.
On our reading platform, we have something to engage every child, from the most reluctant reader to the keenest bookworm. From fiction to nonfiction, poetry to plays, our curated library contains a huge variety of popular books - including Disney and Marvel - selected by experts to engage, motivate and excite all readers.
Which leads us to our next point…
4. Encourage a wide variety of books and reading materials
Research suggests that giving your child access to a wide variety of books has a powerful impact on their eventual enjoyment of reading. The variety and quality of the books in the Pickatale library empowers children with choice and ownership over their reading journey.
Improved reading skills is a common side-effect of children engaging with a wide range of reading material. Whether poetry, fiction or nonfiction, our library contains a huge selection of genres and booktypes to help broaden your child’s reading behaviour. It is important to note, too, that reading does not - and indeed should not - be limited to books only. Your child will only develop faster if they are engaging with newspapers, websites, road signs, cookbooks, television subtitles, cereal box blurbs, the lot! Every word counts toward your child’s reading development so encourage your child to read whenever - and wherever - the opportunity arises.
What’s more, by seamlessly incorporating reading into day-to-day life, not only will your child’s reading skills improve more rapidly, but their enjoyment of everyday activities will be augmented too.
5. Lead by example
Children love to imitate their parents. It’s the primary means by which they learn in their earliest years, and you should never underestimate your power as a role model.
If you make a point of reading in front of your child - at breakfast, in the evening, at bedtime - your child will be more likely to read too! Similarly, when they see you choosing to read over, say, watching television, and when they witness you actively enjoying what you read, they will learn vicariously that reading can and should be a joy.
Chat to your child about what you are reading. Talk to them about the characters, the plot, the moral of the story and how you think the book might end. This will encourage them to open up and talk about what they are reading with you too.
6. Track your child’s progress
Children struggle to develop as readers for all kinds of reasons and almost all children will face a stumbling block somewhere on their journey. The most important thing is that any challenges they face are picked up on and addressed quickly.
Addressing problems quickly prevents the formation of bad reading habits, and also prevents your child from becoming disheartened with the learning process. Teaching your child to read for pleasure needn’t be painful for them or for you.
Taking the time to sit and read with your child can be a really helpful way to gauge what, if anything, isn’t working for them. Do they struggle to recognise words? Are they able to use contextual clues to work out what a word may be? Are they confident in their use of phonetics when figuring out pronunciation? It can be helpful, too, to ask your child questions about what they have just read in order to assess their understanding of the text.
We make it really easy to keep up to date with how your child is progressing with their reading. Our app gives you crystal clear visibility over the number of books your child has read and how much time they spent reading each one. Our book quizzes go a step further and allow you to monitor your child’s comprehension of what they have read.
Don’t allow a hiccup in your child’s reading journey to grow into a full-blown disadvantage. Nip any issues in the bud by closely monitoring your child’s reading journey and intervening where necessary. If the steps above don’t go far enough, consider scheduling a meeting with your child’s teacher to discuss some support strategies.
7. Remember that every child is different
It can be so easy to compare your child to other children of a similar age. A child devouring Austen is not doing ‘better’ than one who is enjoying Biff and Chip. Every child develops at a different rate, and that is normal. The fact that your child has not yet cracked the spine of Dostoyevsky does not mean that they will never sample the delights of classic literature and soak up all it has to offer. It just means that their journey is still underway!
Every child’s brain develops at a different rate and you cannot compare your child to other children the same age, or to siblings whose progress was faster or slower than their own. Every child’s reading journey is totally unique.
We know that no child’s reading development is linear; we are here to support your child through the ups and downs of their individual reading journey. Our book levelling framework has been carefully formulated to cater to all reading abilities, and is suitable for all children aged 4-11 and beyond. The vast majority of our books have an audio option which allows your child to benefit from narration and gives them access - regardless of their standard of phonics or fluency - to a huge variety of books at and above their independent reading level. By listening as they read, children will comprehend more of what they are reading and could progress more quickly.
That being said, if a particular issue persists or you see very little improvement in your child’s reading ability over time, you should continue to support, encourage and empower them to read for pleasure. Progress will come. The ideas suggested in this article are things that you can control; but the way your child’s brain develops is something you cannot. So you, and your child, will need to work together with compassion and be patient.
We are continuously innovating to personalise the experience and motivate children into reading for pleasure.
Learning to read for pleasure is the cornerstone of your child’s learning and development. Helping your child to improve their reading skills, their comprehension, their vocabulary and their grasp of language will set them up for success at school, at work and in life.
You are not alone on the journey. We are here to help. Try us free for 30 days and unlock your child’s literary potential. They are but one small step away from discovering the joy of reading for pleasure.
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