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Parenting Matters: Advice on How to Get Your Child Reading More

 Also available to read in Myanmar, please click here

 

It’s widely accepted that reading is an important habit, and most of us guiltily acknowledge that we should spend more time doing it.  Those who read regularly tend to have a more extensive vocabulary, a better understanding of grammar, a stronger ability at adapting their writing style and even increased emotional intelligence and empathy. As an English teacher, I can usually predict how much time a student spends reading by studying their writing: regular readers are more likely than their peers to describe characters and settings in creative detail, have a sophisticated grasp of structure and even analyse texts in more depth.

 

Along with the benefits above, reading provides escapism from the speed of modern life. Unlike scrolling through apps, social media feeds, Youtube or Netflix, reading a book requires a time investment – and patience. When we immerse ourselves in a story, we get to check out from our real lives for a while. We make friends with fictional characters who give us the gift of a new perspective. We reflect. We slow down.

 

However, therein lies a problem. For some students, reading is second nature: they require no persuasion to curl up with a good book. For other students, reading is a struggle, a chore, perhaps even seen as a punishment. Is it fair that those who naturally love reading gain all the benefits above, when the latter group don’t?

 

I don’t think it is. I think we owe it to young people – our students and children – to nurture in them a love of reading. It isn’t an easy feat: books have to fight against smartphones, laptops and TVs, but if you help a child to find joy in reading, you have given them a gift that will keep giving for the rest of their lives.

 

If your child is already an avid reader, then you have won the jackpot. Talk to them about what they are reading and about how they feel about characters and situations.

If your child would rather watch paint dry than read – all is not lost. It might take a while, but everyone can learn to love reading; they just need to find the right book.

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Top Tips for Parents

 

Rebecca and her colleague, Stephanie Smailes (Primary English Teacher), have teamed up to create these tips to help you support your child's reading:

 

1) Read

Does your child ever see you reading? This might sound simple, but I cannot emphasise it enough: if you want your child to read, you must show them what a reader looks like. Children need to have reading modelled to them, so consider how you could build some reading time into your family life – whether in the evenings, weekends or during holidays – so that your child sees that you value and enjoy reading.

 

2) Ask about what they are reading

It’s amazing what you can find out about a young person in an animated conversation about a book. Talk to them about what they are reading, and you may be surprised by the insights that they have.

 

3) Don’t dictate their reading choices

My brother Joe hated reading growing up – he was much more interested in playing, watching and discussing sport. It was only when my parents gave him Steven Gerrard’s autobiography for his 12th birthday that he saw any benefit in picking up a book. Now he has shelves full of sporting autobiographies – and won’t stop talking about them! If your child is into Marvel films, then encourage them to read graphic novels. If they love computer games, you could consider getting them a subscription to a games magazine. If students begin to see reading as an extension of a hobby or passion they already have, they will not see it as an arduous task but instead as something they enjoy.

 

4) Give them books in their home language

Students will gain so much from learning to enjoy reading whatever language the book is in. Even if the book is not in English, it will still benefit their knowledge of characters, structure and description which will undoubtedly have positive effects at school.

 

5) Give them books appropriate to their age and level

Children and teenagers often disengage from a book if they feel it is aimed at a younger audience. If your child is new to English, then Barrington Stokes is a great publisher for teenagers: their content is aimed at secondary students, but the reading age is much lower. Ask your child’s school whether they have books suited to non-native speakers and have a look on Amazon too.

 

6) Practise everywhere

For younger learners, there are countless opportunities to practise reading and reading skills. Point out signs and letters wherever you see them.  Help your child to develop inference skills by encouraging them to infer meaning from what they know about the world around them. For example, if the traffic lights are red, ask them what colours will come next and what they mean. If the clouds are grey and dark, encourage them to predict what might happen next. This skill will help them when they read stories.

 

7) Make books available

A dearth of books is a barrier to reading. Make sure you have books available all the time; with their toys, in the car, in their bedroom. It’s a great way to encourage them to reach for a book when they have time to fill.

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Promoting Reading – The Literary Canon

 

At The British School Yangon (BSY) we are privileged to have students from a wide range of nationalities and cultures: some are native English speakers and others are comparatively new to the language. Because the students have been schooled all around the world their ‘cultural capital’ – knowledge and insights that they gain from reading different stories – is very diverse.

Our aim this year has been to develop a shared cultural capital through a Literary Canon: an annual collection of books that students, staff and parents aim to read to promote conversations with each other.

One book on this year’s secondary Literary Canon was ‘Wonder’ by R. J. Palacio. Many of our students and staff have enjoyed reading the book and have engaged in conversations about the issues it raises, which range from bullying to empathy. For next year’s Literary Canon, we invited parents, staff and students to suggest and vote on books that they felt explored interesting ideas or topics. This has resulted in a diverse and exciting collection of 20 books.

No one will be forced to read these books, but if students, staff and parents choose to engage with them, they will be part of a community in which they can discuss and share their different perspectives, learnings and ideas with each other. We aim to make reading enjoyable and accessible for all.

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