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How to Fit Reading into Busy Family Life

Published: Saturday, 25th May 2019

How to encourage reading and ways to fit reading into busy family life

All parents want to help their children to develop their reading skills so they can enjoy books and stories.  Unfortunately with a busy family life it can be difficult to find the time to help your child with reading when there are so many other demands on time.  Listening to your child read can become a ‘battle ground’ if everyone is tired and the child doesn’t want to read his or her school reading book.

Here are some ideas to help manage reading in a busy family.

Provide opportunities to read or listen to stories as entertainment

  • Audio books or e-books are great for car journeys.  These are now often freely downloadable from the internet or through Kindle.  Remember to check what children have downloaded to make sure it is appropriate for their age.
  • Keep a book in your bag for those times when you are waiting for a dental or doctor’s appointment or you arrive early for a swimming or dance lesson.

Make reading a part of your everyday family life, not something kept separate.   Take any opportunity to make it meaningful and make it fun.  There is nothing like a shared, fun experience to motivate, enthuse and make reading a life- long activity.

Exploit opportunities to read

There are endless possibilities to read both around the home and when out shopping or in the car:

  • Cereal packets, tins and boxes
  • Puzzles and competitions
  • Cooking – recipes, ingredients, instructions
  • Magazines, comics, notes, lists
  • Flat pack instructions, kit instructions, internet information
  • Shops – notices, signs, offers, prices
  • Car – maps, signposts, road signs, warning signs
  • Eating out – menus, prices, meals, special boards
  • Sport – leaflets, notices, venues, times

Encourage an interest in books and reading

  • Let children choose what to read.

  • Link reading to your children’s own interests and encourage a range of reading experiences.  It doesn’t have to be the school reading book.  Comics, magazines, joke books, football annuals, library books, e-mails and the internet are all opportunities to share reading with your child in a meaningful way.

  • Provide the opportunity for your children to visit a local library so that there is a wide range of books to choose from. 

  • Talk to them about their reading interests and show an interest in the books they have chosen. 

  • Choose books yourself so your child can see that this is something that you do for enjoyment too.

Make it fun

  • Find a few minutes a day to talk about something you have read, competitions, leaflets, flyers through the door are all reading opportunities.
  • Use TV, DVD, tablet or computer ‘tie-ins’ linked to their interests e.g. computer games, football teams.
  • Don’t assume children like the books you like or want them to read. They may prefer non-fiction about snakes or UFOs.  Whatever grabs their attention and makes them want to find out more is a valuable motivator for choosing to read for fun.

Read with your children

  • School books at all levels from reading schemes to plays at GSCE level.
  • Read together and talk about the language, characters, storyline and plot.
  • Borrow DVDs or download films or plays, watch scenes and talk about them together.
  • Use cinema or theatre trips to read and discuss information about the play or film.

Ensure reading the school reading book is a positive experience

Too often this can become a nightmare with refusals to read and frustration all round.

To avoid this:

  • Choose the right time when child and parent are not tired, hungry or distracted by TV, siblings etc.  This may not be after school or in the evening. In the car, before school having dropped one child off and waiting for the next school to open, may be the answer!
  • Try to find a quiet place and share the reading experience. Turn the TV, radio or other distracting media off.
  • Ensure there is a time-limit.   Five or ten minutes of quality, enjoyable reading is more beneficial than sitting struggling with a book for half an hour or longer.
  • Give unknown words rather than spending time decoding/working out words in order to keep the flow of reading going. This helps children to focus on the meaning of the sentence and promotes enjoyment of the text.
  • If it’s a battle, don’t do it.  Ask school for reading games or focus on other opportunities for reading. 
  • Remember that everyone likes success and feels much happier if the experience is positive.  This builds confidence so ensure children’s reading books are within their reading ability.  Reading after a busy day at school is an opportunity to review and consolidate reading skills, not the time to try to cope with a book that is simply too hard.

How to help them with reading

  • Stay positive, calm and interested. 
  • Try to read on a daily basis.  Ten minutes a day is better than trying to read for a longer period of time two or three times a week.
  • If your child is struggling then try sharing the reading – maybe a page or paragraph each.
  • Discuss the book.  Which part do they like best?  Talk about the characters, the plot, the setting.  Use the ‘language of stories’ and this will help develop children’s understanding of what they are reading rather than seeing it as a chore of reading one word after another with no time to think about what they are reading.
  • Talk about any words that are causing a problem and try to find a funny way of remembering them. Make up a silly rhyme or visualise.
  • Boost confidence with lots of praise – everyone responds to praise.
  • Once your child is beginning to read, and you are helping your child to choose a book, do the ‘five finger test’.  Open a page of the book and ask them to put one finger up for every word they can’t read.  If there are more than five words on a page then the book is probably too difficult.  If they really want the book then that might be one that you can share or read to them.  This is dependent on the level of the book and the age of the child.  For very early readers this may not be appropriate but they need to be able to read some of the early sight words.
  • Let your child read favourite books over and over again if they want to. Research shows this will help them become more fluent readers.
  • Keep reading aloud to children. Children don’t grow out of this. It is especially important if they are finding reading for themselves difficult. Show them that books are there to be enjoyed.  It is also a good way to nurture an interest in reading and to expose them to a wealth of knowledge and vocabulary above their reading ability.

There are lots of websites which can give further information and tips on managing reading in a busy family. Here are some you might like to try:

‘A Parent’s Little Guide to Helping Children Read – Ten Top Tips for Busy Mums, Dads and Carers’ published by ‘Springboard for parents:

Website: SEND Gateway (opens in a new window)

Top tips for helping struggling readers at home’ by Jean Gross for Oxford Owl. Phonics made easy

Website: Oxford Owl (opens in a new window)

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