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How to encourage the right childhood reading behaviours in 5 small steps

young girl with pigtails and glasses reading atop a pile of books

As adults, we have the ability to help set our children’s long term behaviours. 

We want to ensure that we equip them with communication skills and encourage the right behaviours.

Sometimes, these behaviours can be challenging to set on the right path.

For instance, parents may have to deal with a sudden temper tantrum from their 2-year-old while out in public.

And teachers may find it difficult to keep the attention of an entire class when one pupil is being disruptive.

However, whilst these struggles are completely normal, how we react and deal with these early behaviours is important. Especially for a child’s overall development.

Encouraging the right reading behaviours from the word go

In terms of encouraging the right reading behaviours, the process starts at birth and in the home.

You don’t need to invest loads of income to get your children to read from an early age either. 

Developing good reading behaviours early will help them go further at school and communicate better with their friends too.

All you need is a little time, and a consistent routine to help you do this.

We’ve put together 5 easy steps you can follow. These steps will ensure your child has a strong foundation on which to embark on their reading journey.

1. Talk and read to your child from birth

At Readingmate, we want to inspire the next generation of readers. And this starts at birth. To encourage eventual good reading habits, it’s important to start talking and reading to babies as soon as possible. 

Parents, carers and wider family members should all play a part and help to build a solid foundation in literacy. 

Read or sing to babies before they fall asleep. 

And talk to them often. 

You might feel silly to talk constantly without a response, but babies begin their language development in this way. 

From birth they already instinctively know how to make sounds, but they may start to mimic your tone of voice. 

Even though they don’t have the language to respond with actual words or sentences yet, their communication skills will flourish. 

And good communication is a fantastic foundation on which to build positive reading behaviours as your child grows.

2. Create a positive reading environment

Small changes in home can make a real difference in whether a child enjoys reading. 

Build and sustain a positive environment in which reading is encouraged. Throughout childhood, some children don’t have access to books outside of school. So it’s important to expose children to books from an early age. 

Keep them accessible too. Books on high or hard to reach shelves may as well not exist!

If you can’t create a space at home, your local library is a fantastic environment. You can take your children to a library, read and pick books that they want and take them home. All without spending a penny. 

Sign your child up to your local library services. You can find out where your nearest one is on the government’s website

3. Let them choose their own books

Give your child the power and responsibility to direct their own reading path, and it will inspire a love of reading. If your child shows an interest in books about dinosaurs, encourage it. Buy or borrow similar books from the library. 

Let them choose their dinosaur books and nurture their journey by visiting natural history museums together, for example.

However, you should also let them re-read books that they love if they want to. Never discourage reading – even if you are bored of the same Peppa Pig story over and over.

This freedom of choice is especially important as they begin to get assigned set reading texts. 

A lack of choice in the books they consume can negatively impact children and young people. This is because assigned books often start to feel like tasks or chores.

As we discussed in a previous article, the benefits of reading are felt more strongly when reading occurs through free choice.

If your child enjoys a book and what they read is in harmony with their interests, you’re doing something right. And, it will encourage them to read frequently for pleasure.

Let your child navigate through their own reading journey and it will naturally lead to regular reading behaviours. 

Subsequently, regular reading outside of school is directly linked to better, overall school performance.

4. Encourage them to follow words with their finger

Sometimes when reading, children like to fill in the gaps. They’re reading but they’re not focusing on the words. They will often add in words that they think come next. 

It’s still reading but it’s not reading.

Children learn quickly to rely on predictable language or pictures in order to guess words. Your child might see that the next word starts with a certain letter and rush to fill in the gaps. 

For example, this excerpt from The Firebird, one of the stories from Usborne’s 10 Ten-Minute Stories, reads as follows: 

“The king was surrounded by beautiful things, but his greatest treasure was a garden”.

Some children may get to “greatest treasure” and then read the sentence as “his greatest treasure was gold”. They fill in the story with the details they think are next.

This is because ‘gold’ also begins with a ‘g’. Additionally, the child may have had previous encounters with stories about pirates and treasure chests full of gold. 

When a child reads without paying attention to the words on the page, it can lead to similar mistakes. 

You can avoid these errors if you guide your child’s finger across the words on the page as you read. 

Encourage them to continue to use their finger to guide them across words on their page or screen as their reading level improves. It will help them to expand their vocabulary and really focus on the words.

5. Focus on their reading achievements

Each child is different and not all of them will be good readers straightaway. Don’t compare their progress with other children or classmates. 

Instead, celebrate the progress they have made and what they have already done. For instance, you may have followed the previous four steps. You read to them as a baby, you provide a positive environment, let them choose their own books and encourage them to use their finger as a guide. 

Despite all this, they may still struggle to read or develop good reading behaviours.

Of course, they need a little encouragement now and then, but you should never rush your child’s development. Doing so may have a negative effect.

You don’t succeed without mistakes

Your child might also be struggling with a certain vowel sound or mixing up the letter’s ‘p’ and ‘q’. This is normal to begin with and it’s important not get frustrated if they repeatedly make the same mistakes.

Instead of focusing on what they can’t do or what you’d like them to achieve, look to what they have already done. 

For example, you may schedule 15 minutes of reading a day. One day, your child may be distracted and might only manage to read for 5 mins. 

Try not to get disappointed. Even though they didn’t reach the 15-minute goal you set, congratulate them anyway. Reading for 5 mins is better than not reading. 

In fact, it is easier to start with a smaller target and build up (e.g. 5 mins). You can then slowly increase this over time.  

If your child mixes up letters, focus on the ones that they aren’t confusing and encourage them. 

For instance, “Good job on reading that word” or “Wow, you’re really good at “ch” words!”.

Eventually your child will associate reading, even in bitesize chunks, as a positive action that results in praise. 

At Readingmate, we understand this and that’s why we reward children with badges in our app for time spent reading. 

Reading affects other childhood behaviours

Not only is reading considered a positive behaviour, it can also affect other childhood behaviours.

A study by the Lambeth Research and Statistics Unit Education, Learning and Skills revealed an interesting benefit of reading. 

According to the study, you can reduce disruptive behaviours in your children by regularly reading with them. This applies both in school and at home. 

The study, undertaken across eight primary schools in the London Borough of Lambeth included the involvement of parents and guardians. 

They attended a parenting skills programme designed to promote techniques that were primarily focused on behaviours. 

By focusing on positive actions rather than negative, parents saw greater improvements in their child’s behaviour. 

How the Readingmate app can help

The Readingmate app uses a similar tactic to encourage regular reading. It rewards each child with badges for how often they read, rather than for the reading itself. 

This builds confidence. Which in turn, results in an enjoyable reading experience as opposed to making a child feel inadequate. 

Our app can also help recommend your child’s next book. These are based on their favourite stories, characters and books. Readingmate offers your child a personalised list of titles to choose from. 

Readingmate can change your child’s attitude towards reading, promote good habits and behaviours and help them to feel confident. 

Read more about the benefits of Readingmate and discover how our app can assist in your child’s development.

Summary

Overall, to promote good behaviours in our children can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. 

You can make small changes (or rely on resources such as the Readingmate app) to transform reading into something fun. 

Whether you read to them from birth, let them choose their own books or celebrate their time spent reading. 

We all want what’s best for our kids and these steps can help them to grow and succeed. With the right behaviours guided with gentle encouragement, anything is possible.  

Sign-up now for more helpful articles and to start your child’s reading journey and celebrate the fundamental joy of reading.

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