'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Encouraging your kids to read with Jackie French

Keen to make readers out of your kids? here are tips from a master storyteller - from babies through to school age. These tips have been taken from Jackie's website, with her kind permission. Enjoy.

How to help babies become readers
Reading to your kids is great. It teaches them to focus on words and to associate books with love and cuddles. But reading to your kids isn't enough! Kids need MANY skills to learn to read.

Kids need to know what words sound like – and if the TV is on all the time they may not learn all the sounds that go to make up a word. You don't have to sound like the Queen every time you talk to your kids – but do make sure that sometimes you sound out words carefully, so they know what sounds go to making up, say Cat. C..a...t.

Kids need to be able to coordinate so they can track across page. Games like catch and hopping and skipping are important learning tasks too!

Most of all, kids need to learn how to concentrate – and TV doesn't teach this. TV shows are designed so that if your attention wanders – or you need to go to the bathroom – you can still pick up what's happened.

So talk to your kids – share long conversations, tell them stories, teach them how to make sausage rolls or play 'I spy'.

Take your kids to the library to enjoy story time. Or start a 'baby book club' where parents take turns reading stories to the kids – and the Mums get a chance to relax and talk to each other too.

Getting Kids Reading
Okay, first the good news: there is a magic potion that will turn your bored kids into contented munchkins, help them perform better at school, plus make them generally happier and eager for life.

It's called reading.

Now the bad news: sadly there isn't a useful herb you can sprinkle on your kids to get them reading!

Step 1. Read to your kids! This should start when they're a few days old. I'm serious...while you're cuddling them and feeding them, tuck yourself into a comfy chair with a good book, and read bits out to them. No, of course they won't understand it ... but they'll love the sound of your voice.

Read them a bedtime story every night too-and if you go out get the baby sitter to do it for you! Both of these steps mean that kids associate reading with being loved and cuddled...and also gets them hooked on the fun of books.

Step 2. KEEP reading to your kids! Read stories to little kids several times a day. Even when they learn to read well, KEEP reading to them. Kids love the drama and closeness of being read to!

Step 3. Be sneaky. Read one and half stories! This will tempt them to read the other half just to see what happens!

Step 4. Accept your kids are different to you. This is probably the hardest step. ACCEPT THAT KIDS ARE ALMOST ALWAYS DIFFERENT FROM THEIR PARENTS- and the books your kids like will be different from the ones you love too.

My son, for example, has a steady diet of books where one man single handedly overcomes etc etc. He hates books where people TALK about things- exactly the sort of book I love. (Boys mostly prefer male main characters. Girls are more tolerant!)

If I'd tried to stuff my son with the books I adore he'd probably hate reading. (My husband Bryan only likes books with diagrams and submarines. I do wish people would write more books with diagrams and submarines..)

Listen to your kids, and find out what sort of books they love....and don't shudder if they want yet another space adventure or book about horses.

Step 5. Don't underestimate your kids! Often kids are bored because they are only given simple books, or movie tie ins (it is very rare to find a really good movie tie in!!!).

Too many parents say 'Oh, little Cedric doesn't like reading' and just give him the next Star Wars series so he reads SOMETHING. But even if little Cedric finishes it, it won't make him love reading.

Find half a dozen good solid stories at the library for him to choose from, whether they're adventure books or a 'chick's books' as my son describes them, with characters and emotions. You need real meat on the hook if you're going to catch a kid!

(If you have absolutely no idea what books your kid might like, have a chat with the children's librarian at your nearest large library, or the teacher librarian at your kid's school.)

Step 6. Make the books available! Kids can't read books that aren't there. It's so easy for kids to turn on the TV, but books have to be hunted out...and just like our ancestors had to learn how to hunt a sabre tooth tiger, it takes time to learn book hunting, how to find the books that THEY like in shops and libraries, just by skimming the back cover and first page and a bit of the middle.

Read to your kids, take them to the library, show them how to sort through books to find the ones they like... then take a deep breath, because the chances are that you'll have an enthusiastic reader demanding more books NOW... and WHY aren't you supplying them!
See our review of Jackie's amazing book - Rocket your Child into Reading - here.