Please just read with your child!

Boy reading #StartAStory Puffin Summer Reading campaign

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about reading and I very much doubt it will be the last.  I think you all know how much importance I place on reading – and if not,  I’m fairly confident you will by the end of the post!

ONE IN FIVE UK PARENTS DO NOT SPEND ANY TIME READING WITH THEIR PRIMARY SCHOOL AGE CHILDREN

When I read this headline yesterday, it really made me sit up and take notice.  I won’t deny being equal parts shocked and gutted. As a primary school teacher, I know all too well what a difference it can make when a child is being read with regularly at home.

In my opinion, reading with your child is the single most important thing you can do to help your child at school.  Reading doesn’t just improve their reading skills but helps with their spelling, their writing, their understanding of the world, their imagination . . . the list goes on.

Boy reading #StartAStory Puffin Summer Reading campaign

Don’t get me wrong, in my pre-parent days I used to think “for goodness sake, how hard is it to find five minutes each day to read with your child” . . . I now totally get that it’s not all that easy.  Time slips away from you, you’re tired, you want to get the kids to bed so you can sit down not spend 10 minutes reading the dullest book in the world while they sound out the same word over and over again.  But it matters.  Those few minutes will pay you and your child back tenfold.  Not just in their academic achievements but in those moments of quality time you’ve spent together.

I know I’ve said before that a bedtime story is pretty much non-negotiable in our house – it has been part of our bedtime routine since each child was just a few weeks old.  And yes, now they are older there are times it gets missed – Ben sometimes chooses to read to himself or perhaps Chloe will read to Amy instead of Dave or I but the foundations are there.  We’ve done the groundwork and all three children are now building a solid love of books and reading.

A recent YouGov survey commissioned by Book People found that 54% of parents spent less than one hour a week reading to their primary aged children and in fact 20% of parents spend no time at all reading to them.  No. Time. At. All.   I can cope with an hour a week, a ten minute bedtime story each night?  That’s the basics.  If you’re doing that then fair play to you.  But to not read to your kids at all?  Hell I know I’m getting all judgey-pants here but it’s a subject I feel really passionate about.

Experts recommend that children spend at least 20 minutes per day reading to develop their literacy skills.  20 minutes really isn’t all that long.  And it doesn’t even have to be all in one chunk – 10 minutes with their school reading book, a 10 minute bedtime story – job done.  (There are so many ways to incorporate reading into your child’s day but perhaps that’s for another post)  It’s worth bearing in mind that listening to you reading a story, joining in with it, answering questions, making predictions – this is all really valuable reading – not just working out what the words say.

Daddy & Amy reading Where's Spot? book #StartAStory Puffin Summer Reading campagin

Half of the parents surveyed said they would use a tablet, mobile, TV or film when distracting with just 10% giving their child a book to read in comparison.  One of the main reasons we didn’t give our children access to tablets as toddlers (Ben was 5, Chloe was 4 when they got their own tablets as birthday presents) was because we wanted them to learn to entertain themselves without technology first – let’s face it there is time enough to become addicted to screens.  (Says the woman who just can’t leave her phone alone!)  Given the choice Ben probably would pick his tablet up over a book, but being as how he’s not allowed to take his tablet upstairs – I can almost guarantee that first thing at morning and last thing at night, that boy will be reading in bed.

Reading with your child is the single most important thing you can do to help you child at school.

29 thoughts on “Please just read with your child!

  1. That’s shocking. Reading a bed time story is one of my favourite things to do each day. I remember hearing once that a reception teacher had noticed a child in her class didn’t know which way the pages turned in a book which indicated they’d never been read to or even had any access to books 🙁 x

  2. Yes, yes and YES! JUST READ WITH YOUR KIDS! I know, I know. Not easy to find the time everyday, with work, HW, clubs, lots of kids around, but I just don’t understand it when parents are clearly not bothered at all by the fact they’re not arousing an interest in reading in their children. Crevette now reads novel after novel, and although Beanie (Y2) is still refusing to go near chapter books, she still enjoys her small story every night.

  3. Totally agree but Molly just isn’t developing the love of reading I would love her to have. Shout out to your network for book recommendations for a reluctant 8 year old. Think suggestions featuring animals may hit the mark

  4. I find this really interesting. I seem to have brought up a daughter who doesn’t really like to read to me, up until the last month didn’t like to read for pleasure, and yet completely excels at reading in school. I’ve beaten myself up about it for so long. Last week she came home with ‘The Billionaire Boy’ and is suddenly an avid reader. Oh, the joy! I feel validated.
    The flipside is I have two boys, one of which I have watch excel with daily reading, and the other who has, we now think learning and behavioural issues- reading with both offers their own challenge.
    I completely agree with daily reading, but sometimes it’s even more than being about the time, but also trying to bring your child into a mindset after a busy (exhausting) day at school that they want to read.
    No answers, but my pre-parent perspective was completely delusional in thinking any child of mine would inherit reading genes.

    1. Oh I’m so glad she’s found her reading groove!! I met with Cressida Cowell last year who told me she firmly believes that even the most reluctant reader just needs to find the right book to ignite a passion for reading and I think she’s absolutely right.
      I completely agree that forcing your children into reading when they’re not in the mood isn’t going to get anyone anywhere- in this instance it’s worth looking at other ways you can sneak reading into their day (something which I’m actually planning on writing about very soon).

    2. We have the same issue, the naive parent in me really thought it would be a gene too, we love books so Boo must do…….so far she’s not a massive lover of it tho excels greatly, I am trying all sorts and so far Isadora Moon seems to be hitting the spot, still colour pictures (well black and pink) and glossy pages but a nice entry chapter book. I struggle with bedtime books because the books are too old/young – at the moment we do two one that’s aimed at Boo (6) and one aimed at Hiccup (3) but they both have to listen to each other’s, thems the rules!!

      1. My older two now listen to Amy’s story or even read it for her, and then go off to their rooms to read to themselves. I listen to them reading their school books regularly and we try to share their bedtime books whenever we can.

  5. Goodness me. I’m shocked. I started reading to mine when they were babies and still do, even though they are 8 and 9! It’s just a normal part of our life. They love it and are devastated if it gets revoked for poor behaviour. As for me, I enjoy my nightly chapter of Famous Five/D Walliams or whatever is the current book of choice. They both excel at reading for their ages….that’s never been why we do it though (we love the chill out/contact time)…but it’s a damn good bonus!

  6. We never skip bedtime stories. If he’s not in the mood for it, we still try to pursue him for at least one story. Shocking that some parents need a reminder the importance of it.

  7. Bedtime stories were always a regular thing in our home….sometimes the best thing. It was a joy sharing a book with two kids together, and they’d take turns reading out loud. Then as they got bigger, sometimes they’d read to each other without me. I think you’re right and it really does help their education in so many ways 🙂

  8. Wow that is shocking and yet sadly, I can see how that does happen. Although I read daily with my children, it is a real struggle. I’ve become adept at fitting in five minutes here and there, and we always have a bedtime story, but with four children and for those who have even bigger families, it’s tough to find that time. It’s sad that not everybody does though.

  9. My boy is only 18 months but bedtime stories is one of my favourite times in the day and I hope we continue with this routine. He loves his books and is always bringing them to me in the day so I can read to him. Its sad to read that such an important and special thing is not being done enough x

  10. It saddens me how many parents don’t read to their children, or at least try to give them an interest in reading. Like you say, it is so helpful to their learning and it also gives good quality time too. I can’t remember a time I didn’t read when younger!

  11. It’s interesting to read from a parent’s or teacher’s perspective – (I’m not a Mum), but my Mum would make me read all the Peter & Jane books every night. We had to specially order them in as the levels increased and there were less photos (which I missed) 🙂 I was also the best speller in the class, too, so completely agree 😉

  12. Reading is BIG in our house, weather by themselves or with us, I never really had much of books while growing up and reading was not something important in our families back then, but this is something I feel really strong about… it opens up different worlds and cultures for the little ones.

  13. It’s absolutely shocking really. We’re massive bookworms and while Amy loves playing on the tablet, she loves a good book just as much. In fact, when she had her school entrance exam and they asked her why she wanted to go to school, she said so she can read mummy a bedtime story. Yep, proud mummy 😉

  14. I loved the days when I could read to our eldest – she’s 12 now and I still do on occasion but miss the regular bedtime routine. Sadly reading never really worked for our youngest, was always fleeting at best. Her autism meant she was less willing to focus on books (even before she had a screen, which wasn’t until she was over 5). I still count it as a huge win if I ever see her near a book 🙂

  15. Oh gosh its so sad to hear that so many parents don’t read with their children. We always have a book or two at bedtime and we encourage / listen to Olly read his school book every other night too. Olly’s grandparents are ex-Teachers and know how little reading children did in our local area. It’s so sad knowing that something so simple isn’t been done but could really help their childrens development.

  16. That makes me feel a little bit sick and very sad that so little people read to their children. It’s so important for so many reasons. It teaches them language, it teaches them the sounds of words and the structure of sentences, even just from your voice! I love reading with my daughter and adore how enthusiastic she is about books. She listens and memorises the stories and then re-reads them to her dolls and teddies before bed. My mum is a school teacher and she always tells me that the children who struggle to learn English and still struggle to speak (even at 7 years old) are the ones that haven’t been spoken to much or read to. It makes me so cross because it’s something so simple that parents can do. x

  17. We have always made the time to read to Jamie. I make sure I get him ready for bed with plenty of time available to read. Usually that’s about 20 to 30 minutes so it’s reassuring to hear that’s the recommended time. We go to the library every couple of weeks as there is no excuse for not having something to read. It’s sad that some, or rather lots, of children aren’t given this opportunity to learn and improve their language skills.

  18. Thank you for this post colette, its great to be reminded. I read to our children every night bar the odd night when its a mad rush. But I must read with Sophia more. With the arrival of our new baby everything before baby seems a blur. I completely agree how important it is to read with your children it helps tremendously even when they are younger wth their speech development, books are brilliant. I wish I had more time to read myself xxx

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