Calling all teachers, this is not an attack on you, I promise!
Teachers are wonderful creatures. It’s got to be the only job whereby you’re expected to entertain, inspire and impart knowledge whilst simultaneously see to scratched knees, remain professional when a child breaks wind and be able to hold in a wee for 5 hours.
Teaching is the ultimate version of standing on one leg, rub your tummy and pat your head all at the same time.
That being said, I genuinely feel that the way we’re supposed to teach English to the next generation is killing the love for reading.
What are the pitfalls of English lessons?
Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely features of the curriculum that have their place.
Phonics, for example, is quite literally the building blocks of your child’s reading. Without learning to blend sounds and move your mouth and tongue in the right way to form words, reading is nearly impossible.
But I don’t think a 5-year-old needs to read The Little Red Hen 20 times in order to pick apart the structure and characters. All that child really wants to do is pretend to be, Little Red Hen.
A child’s joy of reading – especially at a young age – comes from being immersed in the story. Acting out the characters, asking curious questions and letting their imagination run wild with all the possibilities that come with turning the page.
Unfortunately, there’s little room in the curriculum for this kind of freedom (even in the young and tender school years).
How are schools destroying your child’s love of reading?
There’s a huge amount of research to show that a love of reading is what drives your child’s future prospects, success in school and in later on in life.
So why is there no room for it on the curriculum?
The schedule of any school-aged child in the UK is packed. Decoding words, spellings and numeracy leave little space for exploring books or browsing the library bookshelf.
Primary school teachers already have the timetable brimming without trying to fit in ‘reading time’ too.
From my 7 years of teaching English (5 of which were in secondary schools) I’m afraid to say it doesn’t get much brighter in the later years. With a focus on ‘British Values’ and more ‘traditional texts’ on the English curriculum, the exposure to inspiring or modern texts is extremely limited.
As a result, by the time your child reaches their GCSE years their English lessons are packed with decoding the English Language, Shakespeare, 19th Century texts (such as Frankenstein or Jane Eyre) and poetry. Sounds inspiring, right?
What can we do to ensure your child nurtures a love of reading?
Make sure there’s opportunities to read –
Put books and reading materials in every nook and cranny in your house (or at least every room). For younger ones, buy bath books for them to explore without the worry of soaking the pages, put a book basket in the bathroom so they can explore whilst…doing their business (as long as it doesn’t involve two hands!) on your coffee table, in their bedroom, in the kitchen, in the car, under the pram. Wherever there could potentially be a child, there should be something to read available.
Don’t be restricted by set school-books –
Chat with the teacher before throwing the book away and politely say you’re going to choose something else for them to read. If you know that the book your child’s been set will be a huge battle to get them to read, switch it up.
Chat about books in an informal and fun way –
You could bring up discussions about a character you really hated or a plot twist you weren’t expecting. The exploration of books in this way is what cements your child’s comprehension.
Show your own love of reading –
Let your child see you read in your free or spare time. Talk to them about the books you’re reading (as long as they’re appropriate). Take them with you to the library or bookshop so they can share the experience and maybe even get a book for them too?
Share books from your own childhood –
If you’re lucky enough to still have books from your childhood, share these and pass them down to your children. This way, your child can see the reading journey you’ve been on and be inspired by it. Children also love to hear stories of you before you became ‘mum’ or ‘dad’ so it’s a great spark for discussion too.