Updated: Jul 27, 2020
Having your kids at home whilst still trying to take care of jobs, households, babies and maybe even your own studies can be tough. You won’t have time to spend all day coordinating and supervising educational activities with your kids and so reading activities that kids can do and will want to do on their own are really useful.
Home learning set by schools
Many parents are wondering how important it is to complete all of the home learning set by schools and are struggling with kids whose behaviour turns at the very mention of anything school-related. Stress levels can skyrocket as you try not to make it a ‘thing’ whilst they stubbornly ignore your efforts.
So, the first thing to clear up is that no, you do not necessarily have to complete all the work sent by school if it is causing more problems than anything else.
The second thing parents should know is that children learn all the time outside of time spent doing school work. Just because they’re not doing actual work set by school, doesn’t mean they can’t be learning. You are totally justified in letting your kids do other meaningful, educational things instead if it reduces your household’s stress levels. (Things that get children actively thinking and/or moving are best!)
Reading is an incredibly important area of learning that parents should be encouraging at home whether you’re doing home/distance learning right now or not and is a perfect place to start.
This doesn’t mean that you should grab a random book and force your child to sit at the table with you and read aloud every day. That’s just not fun and if something isn’t fun then kids won’t learn as much and they’ll soon be refusing to do that too.
The good news is that there are tonnes of ways to get your child excited about reading without:
being limited to what is sent from school
sitting in front of a screen for hours
constant supervision and help from an adult.
Read on to find out how children can develop reading skills at home without focused study or schoolwork, without screen time or devices and often without you!
Balance phonics and stories for younger readers
Young children learn to read through a combination of stories and some kind of phonics program. Not just phonics. Not just stories. Both! Drawing and verbal storytelling are also important for early readers and certainly shouldn’t be discouraged. Paper and pencils should always be on offer and telling stories (real or made up!) aloud is great for early reading skills.
Keep in mind that balance is necessary. Hours and hours of time playing on a phonics app won’t promote skills like comprehension and storytelling, whereas children do need some phonic knowledge that they won’t get from just looking at books or listening to stories.
If you are worried about how much screen time your kids are getting then reading is great because it doesn’t rely on using technology at all.
You can read post about pronouncing the Phonics sounds correctly at home here.
How to get kids to read on their own at home
Firstly, having children's books at home is a must. Recent research from Unicef showed that just having kids books support with reading from a parent at home has a massive impact on whether kids develop early reading skills (as well as foundational numeracy skills!)
If you’d like your child to look at books on their own, you’ll need to make sure the books are accessible to your child without them having to ask for help. If you want them to be kept somewhere specific, you could show your child where they are kept so that they know where to get them from and where to put them back. This way, if they are suddenly gripped by the urge to read, they won’t have to wait.
Once reading at home is accessible to your child, you’ll need to make it exciting and fun otherwise they’ll never do it on their own.
Set up a reading corner at home
A reading corner is a special area that is for children to read and look at books in. They are often set up in actual corners or are more like reading dens, where children can relax and focus on books.
Reading corners often include cushions, bean bags, blankets and cuddly toys and may be decorated with lights, fabric or other dangly things. Most importantly the books should be arranged or displayed as invitingly as possible in a position that is accessible to your child of course.
The aim is to have a special place that is just for reading that children are excited to go and spend time in. Browse my Storytime Pinterest board for some inspiration for home reading corners.
Don’t forget to show your kids how to use the reading corner - kids won’t automatically know what it’s for and what to do in it. You don’t really want them bringing other toys in there or eating in there for example.
When children develop a love of reading and they do it for their own pleasure they will improve their reading skills and learn about other things as they go along.