As a teacher, parents often ask me about ways they can help their child progress and learn. My answer always, for primary, secondary and sixth form pupils, includes reading. But how can you encourage your child to read?
 Listen to your child read
One school, which has made it into the top 1% of schools nationally for reading, puts part of its success down to its approach with parents. A school spokesperson said, ‘First, we make sure the parents understand the importance of daily reading with their children… We have strong expectations that parents will hear their child read (or, as their child gets older, discuss with them what they have read) every single day.’
Parents will hear their child read…every single day.
 Discuss your child’s reading
Reading is the key to literacy. Any school strategy which aims to improve literacy will have reading at its heart. A Guardian writer recommended a “16 classics before you’re 16” reading challenge’ , ‘where the upper school students attempt to read 16 classic set texts before they finish year 11. It’s proved popular. We’ve also run a reading challenge where students aim to have read a certain number of books by different points during the year. The books students read are signed off by a teacher, who briefly questions them to check they’ve been read. Students gain bronze, silver and gold status and lower-ability students can access all of these levels, as the size of the book doesn’t matter.’
When I prepare pupils for their 11+ exams, reading is the most important aspect of the process. My pupils complete a comprehension task for homework each week, in addition to a recommendation that they read for 20 minutes every day and complete mock exam papers which involve reading complicated passages. The books I recommend are usually 19th century novels, such as Oliver Twist and Pride and Prejudice. Pupils look up and write down meanings of any words they don’t know.
Linked to this is dictionary usage. I never tell a pupil the meaning of a word unless I absolutely have to. I also prefer them to use dictionaries in book form rather than the internet, as the process of searching for words in alphabetical order is a literacy skill that should be developed through practice. When pupils have difficulty finding a word, I ask them to point to a word on the page in front of them and question them. This is a process that parents can harness too. For example:
Me: ‘What is the first letter of the word you’re looking for?’
Me: ‘What is the first letter of the word you’re pointing at?’
Me: ‘What is the second letter of the word you’re looking for?’
Me: ‘What is the second letter of the word you’re pointing at?’
Me: ‘What is the third letter of the word you’re looking for?’
Me: ‘What is the third letter of the word you’re pointing at?’
Me: ‘What comes first: O or E?’
If the pupil is wrong, ask them to recite the full alphabet (more than once if necessary). Ask them which direction they need to look (backwards or forwards). Repeat this process whenever they have trouble finding a word.
 Be a positive example
Finally, if you want to help your child improve their reading ability, reading should not just be encouraged, but children need to be motivated to read. A reward system can be put in place and books should be valued within the home. Also, it is said that children are more likely to value reading if they see their parents reading at home. Thus, a good idea might be to have an agreed regular family reading time where everyone reads together.
For ten tips to improve literacy, check out this article.
Contribution by tutor, Christopher Niyazi (North Manchester, UK).
If you want to further support your own or your child’s learning, whether to catch up or sail ahead, get in touch to discuss your needs. A tutor could be the helping hand needed to help your child (or yourself) get the grade!