Gaining skills in reading and writing is essential to a child’s development, and research suggests that reading alone can reduce depression and help build empathy in young people. In a world of TV, tablets and smartphones, encouraging your child to read and write for pleasure is more valuable than ever and will help their creativity, focus and imagination to flourish.
Of course, some children take to reading and writing more readily than others and it’s not uncommon for parents and carers to be met with resistance when they suggest reading a book over playing a computer game. But with a recent study showing that the number of young people reading for pleasure has fallen, it’s essential that we do all we can to inspire a love for the written word in the next generation.
Here, we offer guidance on how to encourage children to read and write at home, and look at some of the ways you can help support children who may struggle with literacy skills.
Why Reading and Writing Are Important
Developing literacy skills is by far the most important aspect of a child’s education, and how quickly they’re able to grasp reading and writing will have a big impact in other areas of their life. Becoming a proficient reader isn’t purely academic; it affects personality, character and relationships, and can help young children learn the difference between right and wrong.
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Here are some of the other reasons why children of every age group should be actively encouraged to read and write at home:
- Improves concentration and focus – The act of sitting quietly to read a book or write a story focuses the mind, and this can have a positive influence on even the most disruptive children.
- Reading is great for learning about new things – Even works of fiction will introduce children to new themes, topics and cultures, which is essential for their development.
- Heightens imagination and creativity – Whatever their interests and life goals, creativity and imagination are important things to nurture in children.
- Develops empathy – Reading introduces children to the idea of moral decision-making and feeling something towards certain characters, which can help them gain a sense of empathy.
- Children who read and write perform better in school – Statistics show that passionate young readers are more likely to excel in school, and not just in English.
- Reading and writing are essential for improving language skills – Reading is particularly good for developing both written and verbal communication, giving children a grasp of how words and sentences are structured together.
These are just some of the reasons why reading and writing are so important to a child’s development but, of course, one of the main benefits is that it’s a fun, relaxed and creative way to spend time together. There’s nothing like getting lost in a book as a family, and it’s a fantastic way for you to bond with your child.
Tips on Encouraging Your Child to Read and Write
Keen to get your child reading rather than spending hours on social media? No matter what their age, here are some practical and creative ways to encourage them to read and write for pleasure at home.
For Young Children
- Read to them every day – Exposing children to the conventions of reading and storytelling from a young age will make it easier for them to adopt good reading habits as they get older. They’ll learn to see reading as a positive pastime rather than a chore, and will also begin to develop their own reading skills.
- Start them with poems or rhyming stories – The rhythm and pattern of children’s poetry and rhyming stories, like The Gruffalo, is satisfying for young readers and can help them develop key reading and language skills.
- Talk to your child normally from a young age – Language and communication are essential to developing a child’s literacy skills, and studies show that verbal interaction from a young age increases the chances of a child being able to read and write proficiently as they get older.
- Visit your local library – Libraries are paradise found for the avid bookworm and are places where children of any age can find inspiration. Start them off young by taking your child along to the library and letting them choose their own books from the shelves.
For Older Children
- Keep your bookshelves well stocked – By giving older children access to a wide range of books and reading material, it’ll be much easier for them to diversify and challenge themselves. We think investing in books for children is something all parents and carers should consider, and if you need inspiration, check out our list of recommended children’s books for World Book Day.
- Continue reading yourself – Children are easily influenced by their guardians, so if they see you burying your face in a book, they’ll be more likely to do the same. It’s important to maintain reading as a positive activity around the home, and not something forced upon them by you and their teachers.
- Let them stay up a little later to read – Sure, allowing children to stay up late playing computer games is a no-no, but there can be some leeway with reading, especially when they’re thoroughly immersed in a page-turner. Reading can actually help children get a healthy sleep, as it slows the mind and helps them to relax, so you may find them drifting off before they’ve finished a chapter.
- Promote reading as a form of escapism – For older children dealing with problems from their past, reading can be a great form of escapism. Talk to your child about their issues and openly suggest reading as a form of escape. It can be one of the most rewarding and therapeutic ways of calming them down and helping them find a moment of inner peace.
- Start a family reading challenge – For those passionate about getting their children more interested in books, why not incentivise reading? Start a reading challenge by which your child has to read a book, and then reward them with special treats when they’ve finished. This not only adds a sense of fun contest but will enforce good reading habits and hopefully get them indulging in more books for pleasure.
How to Support a Child Who Struggles with Literacy Skills
If your child struggles with reading and writing, there are things you can do to help support their development and learning. Here, we suggest a few simple ways to help struggling young readers.
- Ask them to read aloud – Many children placed into care may never have had the one-to-one support needed to help them become proficient at reading. Encouraging them to read aloud to you will help them gain a better grasp of sentence structure and rhythm, while allowing you to correct their errors and offer helpful advice.
- Incorporate reading and writing into different aspects of life – Sitting down to read a book or write can be daunting for children who struggle with literacy. One way to combat the negative stigma they attach to reading and writing is to incorporate it into everyday tasks. For example, having them write out the shopping list and recite it back to you in the supermarket is a good way to get them thinking about words without being faced with a lengthy book or piece of homework.
- Work closely with their school teachers – It’s important to understand as much as you can about why your child struggles with reading and writing and what exactly they find most difficult, so you can come up with an effective plan to help them. By liaising closely with their teachers, you can work on helping them at home and come up with an appropriate reading list that matches up with their skill level.
Promoting reading and writing is one of the most valuable things you can offer to a child, helping them escape to new worlds while nurturing their imagination and creativity. At NFA, our fostering support services can help carers with all aspects of looking after a foster child, including advice on promoting reading and other positive activities.
If you think you have what it takes to become a foster carer, call our friendly team today on 0330 022 9135 or visit the homepage to find out more.