click above to browse
through the current issue

Want to see your child's
work in print? The winner
will receive a �25 book voucher. Email: [email protected]


The main challenge for parents is not whether to help your child with reading but how best to ensure a love of books that will probably be the most important gift you can share

Until recently, many schools dissuaded parents from teaching their children to read. There were fears that, somehow or other, things would go wrong and the child would end up being disadvantaged or, worse still, bored, whilst the other pupils in the class caught up.

Luckily, things have changed and all the recent research points to the fact that adults are the best role models to inspire the young. Unfortunately, many families are busy and time for personal reading may only be saved for holidays but the good news is that it is the quality of the shared experience not the quantity that seems to make all the difference.

Just listening to a child decode words is not going to help fluency or understanding

Many people feel that hearing a child read on a daily basis is the sign of a good teacher but just listening to a child decode words is not going to help fluency or understanding.The Secretary of State for Schools, Children and Families, Ed Balls, has hit the nail on the head by saying: “Getting your children — both boys and girls to be passionate about reading is something all parents can do,” and whilst he advocates reading to your children for ten minutes at bedtime this does not have to be a onesided experience.


Honor Wilson-Fletcher, Director of the ‘National Year of Reading 2008’ explains that for boys: “Football programmes, blogs, newspapers and sports magazines are just as valuable reading as fairy tales.”

Excerpts from stories of travel, endurance, adventure and discovery written for adults can equally appeal to children if they are being read to by someone who really wishes to share their enthusiasm. In this way, vocabulary will be extended and most importantly reading is elevated beyond just something that is done by kids at school.

Helen Gillott* suggests choosing stories where it is easy to form a strong mental picture and urges parents not to forget the value of choosing text with humour to capture a child’s imagination.

“The capacity of the brain to mimic others is an important one to use. Learning by watching an expert can be a really useful way to learn”

The old adage ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ is as relevant to reading as it is to following the latest fashion craze, particularly if you love and respect the person that is reading to you. Bill Lucas* explains that: “the capacity of the brain to mimic others is an important one to use.

Learning by watching an expert can be a really useful way to learn. In most families, much of the learning takes the form of copying other family members. And the use of role models and the modelling of certain behaviours at home and at work are powerful methods of passing on learning.”

There is no reason why this shared experience can’t start early. Helen Gillott encourages parents not to give away their children’s baby and toddler books: “These are a wonderful resource, it is a huge boost to early readers to read stories they have previously only heard read to them. Little people are thrilled when they recognise the words and confidence is all when children begin to read.” It works in exactly the same way if a child is given a nursery rhyme book to read: “When they suddenly realise that the words they are reading trigger off memories of learnt songs, you can often find children happily singing away to their reading book. There couldn’t be a more effective way to learn how written words convey meaning.”

The National Literacy Trust believes that putting families at the heart of the literacy challenge is the way forward after recent research showed that nearly a quarter of pupils stated that no-one in their family encouraged them to read. Honor Wilson-Fletcher makes an important point: “Reading is the best private investment you can make in your child’s education, it’s free and makes you feel like the best parent on earth.”

Jill Mitchell is a member of the expert group on the Independent School Council
Helen Gillott is an ISI Inspector for Early Years Bill Lucas is the co-author of Help Your Child to Succeed, The Essential Guide to Parents
Bill Lucas, “Discover your Hidden Talents” –
National Literacy Trust – 
National Year of Reading –

- Start early readers with their favourite baby and toddler books and books of nursery rhymes to boost confidence
- Choose reading material that will be of interest to you both
- Talk through the illustrations to extend vocabulary and help make meaning of the text
- At the first sign of hesitation over an unknown word, cover part of the word to reveal only the first syllable and gradually expose each syllable
- Look for patterns eg ‘ight’ saying ‘ite’, ‘tion’ saying ‘sh’n’ and point out words with the same pattern
- Encourage reading for understanding by asking your child to predict what might happen next
- Above all, enjoy the experience and make sure it is a happy time for all concerned

- Read to your child from as many different sources as possible
- Share reading material that interests you, that can encourage conversation and extend vocabulary and imagination
- Use newspapers, magazines, blogs, comics or sports programmes as sources of reading to share
- You read a paragraph followed by your child reading a paragraph In a book where there is a lot of dialogue and different characters, read a paragraph and ask your child to read the same paragraph as you have just read. (It is amazing how confidence and fluency grows by mimicking your voice)
- Create a book swap shelf for children’s books at work