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Budding bookworms: Get your children reading

bookworms1The gift of reading is one of the most beneficial skills you can teach your child and the best way to start is by reading to them from day one…

 Many parents are inclined to leave the challenge of teaching their children to read for their school teachers to tackle, but studies have shown that the foundation for literacy is laid at home. Children who are read to by a parent at least three times a week are nearly twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading abilities compared to children who are read to less than three times a week.

Failing to get your child involved in the process of reading is doing them a great disservice, especially since all it requires is a little bit of your time, a pinch of patience and your own, genuine enthusiasm towards books – after a few turns of the page, you’ll be on the way to raising an inquisitive, confident, literate child!

Giving babies a reading boost

  • At six months old your baby will be ready to begin an introduction to reading. Babies learn best through sight and sound, and by watching facial expressions and movements, so make sure you include gestures, talking, smiling, and even singing when you are
  • reading to them.
  • Soft, washable books or touch-and-feel stories that make noises or have textures are a fun and interesting way to introduce your baby to reading. With some repetition on your part, they will start to associate the specific sounds or textures with a particular word or picture.
  • If you feel somewhat lost as to how to teach your baby, or how to monitor her progress, you can take the pressure off yourself by investing in a reading kit. There are various packs expertly created by those in the know, that include flashcards, books and DVDs designed to help you make the most of this crucial time when your child’s brain is at it’s most absorptive – nearly 90% of your child’s brain will have developed by the time they reach five.

Developing your child’s reading skills

Step one is to introduce books into your child’s routine. Stock up on some age-appropriate reading material and work some time into your day that is reserved for story time. Read to younger children for a few minutes, at different times of day – as their attention span is short – gradually increasing that time as they grow older.

Books, books, books
Practise what you preach by investing in a book collection and demand that it be respected. That means no scribbling, no tearing and no grubby fingers allowed!
You need to reinforce the idea that books are something special to be treasured. Encourage your kids to look after their books. Who knows? You could have a lovingly pawed-over heirloom in the making.

Top reading tips bookworms2for toddlers

  • Books for toddlers need to be slightly more advanced than baby books. Look for picture books with more of a storyline included. Make the reading sessions as fun and lively as you can, so that they become something to look forward to. Putting on funny voices or choosing books with a ‘pop-up’ element will make the stories memorable and encourage laughs all round. Your kids will look back on these times with fondness in years to come.
  • Choosing books that include rhymes, poems or songs that you and your child can say together is another way to up the group participation and familiarise your child with particular words and phrases. Point to objects, shapes and colours in the storybook – and do this if you see these things in your daily life, too – and discuss what is happening in the picture, repeating the names for the things you pick out.
  • Getting your toddler into the habit of calming down at bedtime and focusing on a book also promotes a good sleep time routine, as playing with toys or watching television will stimulate her brain and make it harder for her (and you) to get some much needed shut-eye. Your toddler will love listening to the sound of your voice. Engage her in a bedtime story to help her drift off to sleep or try making up stories instead of reading. Make your child one of the characters and talk about things your child will find interesting. Stories will help influence her interests and develop her creativity.

(Ages four to five)
Now that she has reached school age, your child will need books that are
a little more complex. Start to ask questions about what she is reading, such as what she thinks will happen next. Highlight and explain the meanings of new words. Ensure your child notices the word’s letters and how it is spelt so that hopefully she can recognise it next time it pops up.

Fledgling readers
(Ages six to seven)
As your child’s reading ability improves, encourage her to read out loud. Make sure she’s in a comfortable environment so that she doesn’t have to feel shy if she makes a mistake. Encourage her when she gets stuck on a word, but let her battle it out rather than correcting straightaway. Take your child to your library, and let her choose books. This’ll save money and let her take control of her reading, and socialise with others readers, too.

bookworms3UK’s literacy stragglers getting left behind
Recent reports revealed that more than one million people in London alone do not
meet the basic literacy requirements needed to hold down a job, and one in four pupils are said to leave primary school without the literacy skills needed to continue in education.

Worryingly, the recession has also seen local authorities forced to make budget cuts that are affecting local libraries. Many of them are now under threat of closure or are gone already, despite one in three London children reportedly not having any books of their own.

To help babies develop an early love of reading, Bookstart ( has come to the rescue of bedtime stories across the UK. Bookstart is a programme run by the independent charity Booktrust, who support and encourage parents to enjoy reading with their child from as early as possible, and provide free book packs to every child in England that is below school going age, with three packs covering the key age groups nought to 12 months, 18-30 months and ages three to four years.

Brilliant books!
No matter what stage of reading your child is at, delve into these fantastic reads for summer…

Good baby books are those that laugh in the face of spit, chewing, food, grime and, of course, many hours of repeated page turning. Opt for wipe-friendly cloth, vinyl, or coated cardboard varieties.

Faces (Baby’s Very First Book) illustrated by John Fordham (£4.99, Macmillan)
This cloth buggy book is illustrated mainly in black and white (your baby’s brain is still learning to distinguish colours in the first few months), and can be wiped clean. The mix of high-contrast images, crinkly pages and a mirror will tickle baby’s senses and make this a fabulous first introduction to books.

I See Me – Baby Einstein Series by Nadeem Zaldi (£4.99, Scholastic)
Most babies could stare at faces all day, and this book includes a glassless Mylar ‘mirror’ on each page, so their own face becomes part of the story. There’s little more they need in a book to keep them entertained!

The Crunching Munching Caterpillar by Sheridan Cain and illustrated by Jack Tickle (£7.99, Little Tiger)
The book features cute and colourful pictures about a caterpillar that wants to fly. Sounds on each page to capture the attention and the happy ending to this classic leaves a smile on our faces every time!

Toddlers enjoy interactive books that keep them interested with things that move, squeak or feel nice to the touch.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, (£7.99, Walker Books)
Winner of the 1989 Smarties Book Prize, this book is great for reading out loud, as it uses plenty of repetition and onomatopoeia to keep it sounding interesting. Your toddles will be reciting it back to you in no time.

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly (Classic Books with Holes) (£4.99, Child’s Play) illustrated by Pam Adams
Die-cut holes grow in size to show all the animals the old lady has swallowed in this much-loved nursery rhyme. This book is guaranteed to get your toddler giggling, and you’ll have as much fun reading it as she’ll have listening to the story.

The Bedtime Bear: A Pop-up Book for Bedtime, by Ian Whybrow, (£7.99, Macmillan)
This 12-page hardcover book features detailed illustrations with many objects to ask questions about. With plenty of flaps to lift, wheels to turn and a pop-up on every spread, rest assured your toddler will be kept entertained!

Once children start to get the hang of more words, it is important to work at building their vocabulary.

Peppa Pig: George’s First Day at Playgroup by Ladybird (£3.99, Ladybird)
Based on the children’s television show, this story will help to reassure any little ones about to start nursery as they read all about George’s first day, where he ends up having great fun. Read the story to help your little ones find out what it’s like to have their first day at nursery, with the reassuring thought that Peppa Pig and George managed it.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, illustrated by Charles van Sandwyk; (£32.95, Folio Society)
This cloth-bound edition of the much-loved children’s classic tale of Toad, Mole, Ratty and Badger includes 85 stunning illustrations, and deserves to take pride of place on any bookshelf at home.

fledgingreaderFledging reader
Fledgling readers need books that are fun and easy to read out loud or to themselves.

Read It Yourself: Cinderella – Level 1 (£4.99, Ladybird)  (5–8years)
This kids’ classic is retold using short words and sentences, so it’s great for beginner readers to tackle. They’ll be speeding through the pages in no time.

The Puffin Book of Stories for Six-year-olds by Wendy Cooling (£5.99, Puffin)
With a martian in a supermarket and a magic pearl tree, there’s something to suit everyone’s tastes.

The Quick Brown Fox Cub by Julia Donaldson, Illustrated by Lucy Richards (£4.99, Egmont)
From the Children’s Laureate author of The Gruffalo, this beautifully illustrated book is designed to build reading confidence and get your child past the first stages of reading.

This article was first published in at home’s ’Parenting with Jo Frost’ July 2011. [Read the digital edition here]

 Images: Getty

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