Archive for the ‘Encouraging children to read’ Category

Get your children reading for pleasure today.

September 19, 2012

Our children learn to read at school, but while they’re learning the mechanics of reading we, as parents, need to be continually encouraging them to read books for pleasure. Even as they are learning to read in Y1 and Y2 , we need to be finding them easy to read books that will reinforce what they have learnt on the reading scheme at school but much  more importantly persuade them that reading a good book is fun. There are lots of great books out there that children can enjoy reading, such as those from the Usborne First Reading scheme. These books have very little text in the simpler books, but have a large font that children like and lots of lovely full colur illustrations. They cover many different subjects, but I find that children of this age particularly like the fairy stories in the series. As the publishers themselves say, these books are “irresistible for children learning to read.”

When reading for pleasure, children need to read books at a much simpler level than they would on the reading scheme at school, to ensure that they can read alone and not necessarily need adult help.They will be much more likely to enjoy a book that is simple to read than one that they struggle their way through.This lays the groundwork for them to become keen readers in the future.As they move on through the primary school years parents can really help their children  by finding lots of books for their children to read for pleasure. The children that read for pleasure usually find it easier to do well at school generally. Continuing to read stories to your child  helps as well.

We have now launched our programme to get reluctant readers reading. If you have a child (aged between 7 and 11) who does not enjoy reading for pleasure, we can help you to set them on the path to reading.  If you’d like to see what one of the Mums who has tried this scheme has to say you can read all about her experiences at Sarah’s blog.

Picture by Mike Babcock  at Flickr

Our recent reading study

September 18, 2012

The results of our recent reading study looking at how to get children reading for pleasure, have far exceeded our expectations (and, it seems, those of the children’s parents!). You may remember that we wanted to see whether the simple step by step programme we had designed, could get children who were reluctant readers, to read for pleasure . The second aim was to refine the programme by testing which strategies worked best with children.

Many parents and teachers end up tearing their hair out because they have a child who “doesn’t like books”. They try every type of book, on all sorts of subjects from animals to horse riding and football to dinosaurs in space. Nothing works! “This child clearly does not like books- they’d rather be out playing football or watching TV.” is what we frequently hear from parents. After months and sometimes even years of trying, you can understand why both parents and teachers feel this way. However, we challenge this view very strongly. Our findings have been that it is rarely because they don’t like books (how many children don’t like having a book read to them?) it is because the ones they are being given are too difficult, even if they are books designed for children of their age. Sure, they can often read most of the words, but a book needs to be at a considerably lower reading level than the child can actually read, to ensure that they understand the story and that it isn’t hard work. How many adults enjoy a book that is hard work when they’re reading for pleasure?

In addition, a book needs to be a really good one. In these days of copious reviews, for everything from washing machines to hotels and, of course books, it is indeed a brave person who will choose to buy a book that only has a 2* rating. That is why every book that we used on our study was one that had been previously recommended by children as being a really good 5* story.

Here are some of the comments made by parents whose chidren took part in the reading study. Most were 7 or 8 years old, but the final review comes from the mother of a 10 year old girl who is severely dyslexic.

“I would like to thank you so much for the help you gave James.  He has progressed in such a short time from a boy who wouldn’t read even small stories to himself , to one who is now enjoying reading children’s chapter books on his own. He has always enjoyed Maths, and now I can see his love of reading developing too.  This will only increase as he experiences more and more of what the children’s book world has to offer!  His favourites are Dirty Bertie and Secret Seven!  On the journey you set him, he definitely enjoyed the Greek myths!  Thank you so much once again.

” I can’t praise your reading scheme enough. My 8 year old daughter who found reading an uphill battle now wants to read and look up the meaning of words in the dictionary. She even has the confidence to read out loud in front of her friends. By going back one step, her reading ability has jumped three steps forward. Many thanks for your time and advice. A happy mum.”

From the mother of a severely dyslexic 10 year old. When she started the programme, she was not reading at all to herself. She stayed on the programme for a few weeks longer than the 6 weeks (2 months in all) because we could see she was about to launch into books in a big way.

“Louise is on her 3rd Jake Cake book; she loves them! She is on book 6 of the library reading challenge- I can’t believe it!”

For any of our blog followers wishing to try our programme for themselves, please see click on the following link which gives details of how you and your child can take part. The programme is suitable for children aged between 7 and 11 who have a minimum reading age of 6 years 6 months.

Why wait? Get your reluctant reader reading today.

Reluctant readers getting excited about reading

April 9, 2012

Books for 8 year olds.We’ve started all the readers in our study with books that are easier for them to read than they are currently reading at school and from what parents are telling us, that approach is really working. In addition to books that are easy to read, the size of the text (quite large) is important, as is the addition of pictures.

One Mum, whose 8 year old daughter is on our study, asked why her daughter  liked the Puddle Lane books so much and she replied that it was because she liked the pictures. The pictures in the Puddle Lane books are, perhaps, unusual in that they are in colour and there are lots of them. Children just starting to read alone still rely quite a lot on pictures to help them to understand and visualise the story, so we always try to suggest books with them in. For details of the books we are using on our study, see our previous post.

Some of the children and parents have found that it was just a matter of finding a few easy to read books and that that has been enough to spark their child’s enthusiasm for reading alone. Where this is the case, it is important to keep them on that same reading level for quite a while so that their enthusiasm is maintained, finding lots of good books at that level. We tend to find that the child moves themselves on gradually when they are ready for something more difficult.

If you are following our study and trying it for yourselves at home, your child will be reading to you for 15 minutes a day. Even if they seem to be coping with a book and seem keen to take it off to read for themselves, it is still important that you have the child reading to you so that you can see whether they are reading it correctly and afterwards just briefly check whether they understand what they have just read, by asking something like “So, why did Tom go off to the park then?” Don’t make a big deal of it, but if they don’t understand what they have just read, they won’t enjoy reading for themselves. A lack of comprehension may indicate that the book is still too difficult for them, at which point it might be a good idea to find something easier.

Just occasionally children get so stewed up about reading out loud, that they cannot concentrate on the story. If you suspect this is the case 1) get your child to read to you to ensure they can actually read the words 2) let them read a page or two to themselves and then check they have understood the story. If they do understand, then you can probably let them read alone straightaway.

Picture by GraceFamily at Flickr

Our pilot study “Encouraging 7 and 8 year olds to read for pleasure”

March 29, 2012

Next week sees the start of our reading study which aims to test which are the best strategies to get 7 and 8 year old children reading to themselves.Children who read for pleasure tend to do better in school than those who don’t and if they never pick up a book to help reinforce the reading process, it can cause problems trying to access the rest of the curriculum after the age of 11 because their reading skills are just not good enough.

The aim of this study is to test our simple step by step programme that parents can use with their child to encourage a love of reading.

This is a good age to get them reading on their own. It helps to reinforce the “learning to read” process, as well as helping them to really enjoy stories so that they find out just how enjoyable reading is and that reading is not just something you do day after day at school with some rather uninteresting school reading book.

Feel free to follow us over the next few weeks via this blog and maybe try the strategies yourselves.A brief outline of how it will work together with a list of the books we will be using is detailed on our next blog post  if you would like to have a go at home.

Happy reading- we hope you’ll enjoy this as much as the children!

Picture credit: John-Morgan at Flickr

Encouraging children to read – a step by step guide – part 2.

January 19, 2012

So now for the second part of our blog:

4.If they are only just starting to read “chapter” books on their own make sure there are plenty of pictures. It certainly helps the story along.

5. Make sure the book isn’t too thick. The prospect of reading a really long book can be all too much for the new reader.

6.I know that the temptation is to “stretch” children by giving them something that is quite a lot of effort, but I would urge you to consider whether if you were sitting down to enjoy a good book, you would want one that was an effort to read, perhaps because the words were hard to read or you didn’t understand all the meanings. Let them get the reading bug first and be begging you to give them the latest in a favourite series (even if it is the 75th Rainbow Magic book they’ve read), then, ever so gradually, try something else, one small step up. If they’re not keen, they’re probably not quite ready to move on. At the end of the day, once they get the reading bug, I don’t think you’ll be able to stop them and they’ll naturally move on to harder things. If they’re reading a lot of books, join the library-you don’t have to buy them. Local libraries are usually more than happy to order you as many books as your child wants from a series and on children’s tickets they rarely charge for the privilege.

7. Try to find books that are popular with other children. It seems that if one child likes a particular book, there is a very good chance that others of the same age or reading at a similar level will like it too. Look at book reviews and choose only books that have 4 and 5* ratings. Take care with reviews that are written by adults who say that they “loved this book when I was young”.Some of the classics, although enjoyed by many children have quiote a lot of description and it seems that in the fast paced world in which we now live, children often cannot face wading through 7 pages setting the scene, before anything actually “happens” in the story.

Hummingbird Books only lists books that children have rated as 4 or 5* books, so you may find this a useful resource when looking for books for your child.

8. Ask friends for ideas for books to read,  something they have enjoyed. When children chat about books, they tend to encourage each other to read, maybe swapping books to give each other something new to try.

9) If your child is a bit older and is perhaps a reluctant reader, although quite capable, follow the guidelines given here still, but ensure that the subject matter of the books is suitable for his/her age and not “babyish”. Books for reluctant readers are in a special section on our website for this reason.

10) If your child has always found reading difficult, again, follow the guidelines given here, but ensure that the subject matter of the books he/she is reading is age appropriate – more ideas in our section for struggling  and dyslexic readers.

If you have any great tips to encourage your child’s love of reading, we’d love to hear from you.

Encouraging children to read – a step by step guide – part 1

January 18, 2012

Many parents I talk to ask, “How can I really get my child reading?” Sometimes they say things like “I absolutely love Michael Morpurgo’s books. I can’t work out why he doesn’t want to read them”.

OK, so getting your child reading may be a slow process, but it will definitely be worth the wait.Hopefully we can give you a few guidelines. Encouraging a love of reading in your child is one of the most wonderful gifts a parent can give to their child. Sure it’s very annoying when George in your child’s class has read “All 7 books in the Harry Potter series” as his mother announces to the teacher in a stage whisper (hoping everyone will hear) and your child is still struggling to move on from Horrid Henry. But if you rush it and suggest they read books that are too difficult, you’ll be more likely to put them off altogether.

So here are the first three steps in my action plan for getting your child reading

  1. Let your child see how much fun books can be-if you can, read to them at night. This can be as much fun for you as for them, especially if you put on all the different voices (don’t worry-hopefully, no-one is listening).If the word “book” only means something they struggle through at school, clearly you are less likely to help them to become a book lover.
  2. Choose books that are at the right reading level for your child. This is crucial. If they can easily read the book, they are much more likely to engage with it.We are just introducing a new system at Hummingbird Books where every book will be categorised with a reading level. This is similar to the old system of reading age, which was essentially how complex the vocabulary was, but it takes into consideration lots of other factors as well such as font size, number of words on a page, number of pictures.
  3. Always check the font size in particular. When I am helping children to choose books in school I always open the book after we have looked at the front cover and read the synopsis on the back and before asking the child to read a bit of the book, I ask them if they think the book might suit them. At this point they often say “No, the writing is too small”. So we go back to the drawing board to look for a book with writing of the “right size”.

In tomorrow’s blog we will look at the other factors that affect a child’s enjoyment of books and reading.

Reading to your dog

November 15, 2011

A recent US survey suggests that children encouraged to read to their dogs may  become better readers and want to read more. Sounds reasonable – many of the children I know have a great connection with their dogs.

It doesn’t matter what they read as long as they read something

July 2, 2010

Lots of the parents I talk to, seem to be keen to get their children to read particular books which they believe are best for getting their child reading.

These might be books that the parent remembers from their childhood such as the “Famous Five” series by Enid Blyton or perhaps Arthur Ransome’s “Swallows and Amazons”. However they probably need to be given more or less anything (with words in) that will capture their imagination. If we are trying to encourage our children to have a love of reading, we probably need to concentrate on books they will love, rather than ones we feel are good for them. Hopefully within a short space of time, their reading will take off of its own accord.

Here are a few ideas for launching your child into the world of books and reading:

  •  books on a favourite subject such as football. They will learn lots of words from reading a football annual, and indeed may well be able to guess words they haven’t previously come across such as “manager”  and “league”
  • comic type books such as “Asterix”
  • books written in graphic novel format such as Anthony Horowitz’s ” Stormbreaker”. Here, the pictures really help to guide the reader through the story
  • funny books , like “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid”.

For children whose reluctance to read has meant that books for their reading age seem to be  too babyish, try Barrington Stoke books . They have  a fantastic range of books that are easy to read, but have storylines suited to older children. For instance, many of their books have great adventure stories suited to 11 year olds that have a reading age of just 6 years.See these books here. They are also great for dyslexic children.

Whether or not your child is a ” reluctant reader” or a “soon-to-be avid reader”, start them off gently, with something they will love and they will hopefully then develop that lifelong reading habit. At our website you will find the best books for children – all have been recommended by children themselves.