Many parents often ask how they can be helping their kids learn to read after school. Each child learns differently, but here are some ideas to help boost your child’s literacy at home.

Join your local library. Kids can sign up for free and borrow books on their own card. This allows your child to be able to choose from a wide range of books that appeal to them- even a bigger variety than we have available at school. Swap the books regularly, and you’ll have a never ending supply of fresh material to read. Libraries are also a fantastic source of (often free) holiday entertainment and enrichment activities that make learning so fun!

Read to a pet or stuffed animal. Kids who struggle to read may be hesitant to read in front of people for fear of making mistakes or sounding slow. Reading to an animal or teddy means that a child gets their practice in, with absolutely no judgement if they stumble over a word or miss it out completely.

Hand-write or type out favourite books. This might seem a pointless activity to an adult, but it is actually really valuable for kids to grow their brain-to-hand-to-page skills which will serve them well in their future. Their imagination will blossom. You could encourage your child to swap out one of the character’s names for their own name and tweak the details, so that they ‘write’ their own story about themselves.

Have them help you with shopping lists. Write down the products to buy, sorting them under headings of ‘fruit,’ ‘vegetables,’ ‘dairy’ etc. If you take your kids shopping, let them be in charge of the list, and cross off the items as you buy them. They might even be able to read the price tags and figure out the best value products.

Keep a journal in the holidays. If you can print some photos of special days, kids can make their own ‘photobook.’

Encourage kids to make their own projects. If your kid is a nature lover, then they might love to make up a fact file of animals. They can find the information themselves and present it in a display folder ($1 from the supermarket). If your kid loves food, they can make a recipe book and send it to relatives as a gift. If your kid loves sport they can make player fact files with all their favourite statistics and update it as seasons progress.

Buy your child a mini-whiteboard and whiteboard markers. Kids who don’t want to write on a paper often really like writing on a whiteboard. They feel less pressure, as they can get rid of mistakes quickly and easily.

Let your child see that you make mistakes too. Maybe you have to fake a mistake when it comes to reading and spelling, but show your children that you have to re-write things sometimes, and that you stumble over words and need to slow down and start again too.

Read in front of your kids. How often does your child see you with a book? Not a tablet or kindle, but a real-life book? The more they see you with a book, the more likely they are to read themselves. Read separately, together. Snuggle up on the lounge together and read your individual books. Point out interesting things to your child in the books that you are reading. And encourage your child to do the same for you. Read together as a family. Choose a ‘classic’ like ‘Matilda’ or ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ and read a chapter together before bedtime. Kids will treasure these precious times together as they get older.

You might notice that none of the ideas above involve you sitting down at a table with your child and making them ‘work’. While there is a time and place for this, the more fun and less pressure that kids feel, the more likely they are to want to read in a way they see fit. Celebrate effort, praise little victories and persevere with whatever it takes for your child to enjoy reading!

Hayley Burns
Junior School Learning Support