10 USEFUL IDEAS TO SUPPORT HOME READING ROUTINES
It’s after school, you’ve had a long day and little Sam is hungry and tired. You have home reading to do.
Sam sits at table with a snack and you talk to her about her school day.
Sam runs out to play. After a while she usually opts to have some down time, to play a game on her iPad.
As Sam disappears, you scurry to the pantry and figure out what to whip up for dinner and it is with dread that you think about the idea of compulsory home reading.
The school has requested that all families support the school reading program every night by making sure the child reads at home.
Your child is a reluctant reader.
To be honest, you would rather pull the weeds from the driveway than face the challenge of reading the book in their bag.
What should you do?
Here are some ideas to try:
1. Talk to your child’s teacher about decodable books
Teachers want to help.
It is a good idea to organise a private appointment to express the anxiety experienced at home with your reluctant reader.
If your child thinks they “can’t read”, simpler decodable books** may be a better option, especially for young kids with Dyslexia or learning issues. The teacher monitors the books that your child chooses.
Nobody likes to read boring books so there should a variety of different types of books in your child’s book bag. Some children find information or procedural texts (non-fiction) books engaging and like to find out facts about animals, recipes, sport or science experiments.
If many books are too difficult, discuss this with the teacher. Other children prefer a variety of genres or stay with a preferred structure.
Graphic novels are a big hit among many children while others may prefer to learn facts and technical information on dinosaurs or volcanoes.
It’s all reading and it’s all good.
Engagement is key to any child’s learning.
It will help your child if you (quietly) monitor their book choices. Read more challenging texts ‘to’ your child for mutual enjoyment (if your child is inquisitive about the topic). It’s all good! Offer your child different genres of books, ask about any audio book selection or graphic novel series to engage your child. Beautiful, supportive pictures are helpful and engaging.
**What are Decodable Books?
Decodable books are ones which can be read by using knowledge of speech sound rules.
Beginning level decodable books contain simple words which have no ‘surprises’ and have predictable letter/sounds representations. For example, the word ‘cat’ has three sounds and each sound is represented by three separate letters, (c-a-t.)
A clear focus on a defined letter or blend of letters which, when combined in a certain order, means the child will be able to learn the spelling codes with instruction and practice and then be able to “decode” the sounds when reading, understand the meaning and take pleasure in the successes.
A truly decodable book has a consistent number of letter/sound words in each level.
To extend emerging readers who have mastered simple decodable books, the Reading Mountain® books feature both decodable words- Meg/mess (3 sounds represented by 3 or 4 letters for ‘Meg, M-e-g’ or 4 letters in ‘mess’ including the ‘ss’ which makes one sound) and more complex words- ‘count, c-ou-n-t and clean, c-l-ea-n’ (4 sounds represented by 5 letters, where we see ‘ou’ and ‘ea’ each making one different sound.)
Different long and short sounds are a focus in The Reading Mountain® books.
Check them out in our Bookstore.
2. Establish a routine
Hopefully, your child will ease into your home reading routine and knows you’re there to help them when they get stuck on words.
Maybe only half of the chosen books are just right for them and the others are there because they are of interest.
Keep the reading session short and sweet so that the routine is achievable and not too overwhelming.
Top up home reading with a favourite story before bed. This leads to ‘Cuddle Time’.
3. Plan for quality ‘cuddle time’
Find a comfy place away from all noises (your phone and TV!) and try talking about what we see, hear, learn (or already knew) or wonder about the book.
This all means quality time with your child. Kids love it when we stop and cuddle up with a book or even your tablet with eBooks loaded and share your own thoughts on how or what the book made you feel or think.
For ideas about organising a comfy reading nook, check out The Reading Mountain®’s Pinterest board here.
4. Have fun together, talk and share ideas
As a way of setting your child up for independence and success, try asking the following questions:
Before reading a book:
- Look at the pictures and think about the title. What tricky words might we find in this book?
- Let’s take turns to find the tricky words so we are ready for them. Say the word. What sounds do you hear?
After reading a book:
- Does this book remind us of anything – a movie, another book, a real-life experience? How?
- Did you like the pictures? How do you think the illustrations helped you?
- Did the story end the way you expected?
- Could the story continue? What could happen next?
- Do you want us to find more books on this topic or from the same author or illustrator?
For older children, consider asking:
- What could have made the story better? Why?
- What did you think about …? (name the character)
- Did the author use this type of text structure well? Did it work? Why?
- Do you think the topic would work in another type of book?
Ideas for rich non-fiction book discussions:
- Have you ever seen an… (e.g. iguana) in real life?
- Why do you think David Attenborough has lived his life studying animals?
- Are there any other jobs which relate to this topic?
- Have you read a different book on this topic?
- Why are there photographs, tables, contents, indexes and glossaries in this book?
- What did you find interesting?
- What did you already know?
- Has any of this information surprised you?
- Do you have any questions?
- Where can we find the answer?
- And extend the experience beyond reading time by introducing some “Hands on Fun stuff”.
- Challenge your child to make the story come to life, for example, “Shall we make billy cart like this one in the book this weekend? What do we need to buy?”
5. Model the act of enjoyable reading
It is motivating if kids see value in learning to read.
Does your child see you reading?
Think about deliberately reading a newspaper, magazine, an eBook, a map, menus in cafes or on a GPS in your car, a printed copy of a novel, a letter or email from a friend, Nan’s sponge recipe or maybe a new car manual?
We read for different reasons and your child benefits from seeing you making use of your reading skills.
This everyday modelling shows your child ‘why’ they are learning to read. It will mean more to them.
Another way of creating a welcoming home reading environment is to take turns reading one page each. Not only does it help create a more encouraging reading session for both an overwhelmed child and their carer, it is a good opportunity for the adult to model how good reading sounds in terms of phrasing and fluency.
This approach is especially helpful when the reluctant reader is confronted with reading a book that is much longer than they are prepared to read on their own.
7. Choose your battles
If words are read incorrectly and your child has made a good attempt that still makes sense, let the “need to be right” pass until the end of the story or long page. Then, you can casually point out the difference between ‘house/home’ ‘walk/waddle’ asking how the sounds are different and how even if the words makes sense, it may change the meaning.
Ask “How is waddle different to walk? Does it change the picture in your mind? Show me a waddle. Now show me a walk”.
For more insight on the ‘Perils and Promises of Praise’ researched by Carol Dweck, (2007) here is ‘Food for Thought’ when supporting and nurturing our struggling learners.
8. It is best to be organised
Your child arrives each school morning, near the bag area outside the classroom with everyone else. It’s a busy place. Organised kids know what is in their school bag and know what to do with it. They know if they’ve done home reading or not and follow the morning routine.
The best thing you can do to help organise your child is to pack their school bag with them, not for them. Your child will like feeling like ‘the boss of their learning’ with this newly found independence.
By empowering your child to be independent, you can set the expectation of a home reading book coming home in your child’s school bag every day.
Over time, you will develop the thinking that the child must bring a book from school every night and take it back to the classroom or library once it has been read at home.
For ideas about making a special book bag, check out The Reading Mountain®’s Pinterest board here.
9. Check out your local library
All kids like to be seen doing things that others are doing.
If your child is interested in a ‘cool book’ that they see a friend reading, why not take them to the library to see if it is there to borrow? Free access to quality books is always good!
Libraries also have selections of audio books. While some online libraries are free, others also offer good supportive audio resources for small annual subscription. Reluctant readers like to listen and relax with a good book with audio support or an interactive eBook.
Let your child choose the book they want to read, do not limit their choices. Even books that seem too difficult for them right now can be examined at home, discussed and the child engaged in the content.
Hint: Did you know that some libraries take requests when purchasing new books?
10. Just read and enjoy
Remember, it is OK to just read (and enjoy a book without always delving into the complexities).
Simply enjoy books while relaxing with your child. It is fine to read to them if they are tired. It’s supposed to be enjoyable!
For more ideas on reading activities and educational tips, follow The Reading Mountain® on Pinterest here.
Experienced Educator | Reading Advocate | Author | Director