Ways to keep your child’s reading up while schools are closed

Parents Education
31 March 2020
Fiona Evans
Fiona Evans is Director of School Programmes at the National Literacy Trust and is a member of the executive management team. Fiona is responsible for the charity’s innovative suite of school programmes, which are run in early years settings, primary schools and secondary schools, to help children from the UK’s poorest communities develop the reading, writing and language and communication skills they need to succeed in life. Fiona has been in literacy education for 25 years as a teacher, teacher trainer, literacy consultant for local authority and third sector organisations, and as part of national government-funded campaigns. 
In these unprecedented times, it’s never been more important to establish a culture of reading at home as a family.

Fiona Evans from the National Literacy Trust explores some of the ways families can support their child’s reading at home, as the charity launches its brand new Family Zone.

Why is it so important to find time to keep up with reading at home?

Reading allows children to discover new worlds, meet new people and learn about the past, while sparking imaginations, stimulating critical thinking and helping children develop empathy. What’s more, we know that children who enjoy reading and read widely are more likely to do better in school and be happier with their lives (1).

In this difficult time, it’s really important that parents and families create time in their daily routines to share books and stories together. Not only will it provide enjoyable moments as a family, but by encouraging children to keep practising their literacy skills at home, it will help them feel confident and prepared to go back to the classroom and ensure they do not fall behind. Reading with your child for as little as 10 minutes a day can make all the difference (2).

How can you involve different family members in supporting your child’s reading?

Some children prefer to read independently, which is a fantastic thing to encourage, but turning this into a shared family activity can be a great way to ensure your child is reading every day.

  • Read for 10 minutes together before bed. Reading stories at night makes for a calm bedtime
  • Set your child the task of acting out a story or chapter once they have read it with their siblings or other family members. This will help them to understand and solidify what they have just read – and it’s lots of fun
  • Video chat with grandparents and other family members and read a story together
  • You could establish a weekly book club with other friends and family members with children of a similar age to your child and they can discuss a book they have both read via video chat
  • Build a reading den and take time each day to pop in and get cosy with a book together. Here’s a handy guide to building your very own reading den.

What if my child is reluctant to read?

There are several ways you can engage reluctant readers in stories and books.

audio book
  • Find something they’re interested in and run with it. For example, if your child is interested in football, why not read over the sports section of the newspapers, research their favourite players and read all about their sporting journey, or find football themed books you can read together.
  • Listen to an Audiobook. Our research found that audiobooks are effective at engaging reluctant, struggling and developing readers because they increase children’s access to stories, enable children to experience stories in a cool’ way and are often told by famous actors or celebrities . Check out our top tips for enjoying audiobooks together as a family. Many audio resources are now available for free, for example, Audible has made hundreds of children’s audiobooks available for download and every day at 11am you can listen to Elevenses with David Walliams as he reads one of his World’s Worst Children stories.

Which books should I start with?

There is so much choice out there, it can often feel a bit overwhelming. Here are some themed book lists, broken down by age (from 0 to 11), that you might like to explore with your child from our Words for Life website: