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.
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.
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.