With thanks to Catherine Casey, co-author of On Track English: Writing and Grammar.
How can teachers encourage parents and carers to engage in reading with their child?
Reading regularly and exploring books both at home and school can be so important when a child is learning to read, but how can we as teachers encourage and support parents and carers to engage in reading?
Reading shouldn’t be a chore. But we need to be sensitive to the fact that some parents/carers may find reading difficult themselves for a variety of reasons. And for others, daily family life can be extremely busy or complex and time to sit and read can be forgotten or difficult to manage.
Every school and community is different and diverse therefore different strategies and approaches may be appropriate for your school.
Take a look below at some different ideas and tips for promoting reading - whether you’re looking to host an event, offer a few words of advice or create a positive collaborative reading ethos, there may be an idea for you…
More than just books:
Reading doesn’t just have to be about books. Words are everywhere! Encourage children and parents to read whilst out and about; this can be less daunting than sitting down with a book and also address the issue of finding time. Suggest reading signs (such as shop signs, road signs) and notices (or spotting letters) when out and about or around the home, or sharing the menu with your child when out for a meal, looking at a magazine together, reading information leaflets about places or information boards on daytrips. You could set a ‘reading whilst out and about’ or ‘reading around the home’ homework task for child to complete with parents such as ‘record 5 places you spotted the letter “e”’.
E-books can provide a different way for parents and carers to engage with reading; some people may feel more comfortable with a digital device than a physical book. Many e-books are available for free, some school reading schemes also have e-books available online.
Author websites can also be available on-line, and parents and children may enjoy exploring their favourite authors.
Share information about new books, new authors, book signings, and events at the local library or bookshops, literacy festivals or reading trails in the local area; pop a notice or advert in your school or class newsletter if you have one.
Provide advice for parents:
Many parents are unsure of how to help their child read or what to do and say when listening to their child read. Provide parents with ‘tips on listening to your child read’, which could be stuck into the front of the child’s reading diary. Include examples and ideas of comments to write in their child’s reading diary, questions to ask when their child is reading, what to do if their child is stuck on a word, what to do if the child is reluctant to read or struggling, examples of strategies to encourage their child to use.
Share reading targets:
Set reading targets for each child in your class and share these with the parents and carers as well as the child. Parents and carers might find it helpful if they know what their child is working on/working towards. You might give examples of how the target can be achieved.
Encourage discussion with parents/carers:
Above all else, teachers should welcome and encourage open, honest dialogue with parents about their child’s reading, reading levels and the books the child is reading. Parents should feel they can discuss the child’s reading and their opinions, comments and suggestions should be welcomed. For example if a parent/carer suggests that their child’s reading books are too easy, try to view this positively – it’s great that the parent feels the child is confident in their reading, has progressed and that they are taking an interest. Take this opportunity to discuss the child’s reading, progress and targets positively rather than view it as a criticism of you in some way or as an instruction. Or if a parent comments that the books are boring, again try to take this positively rather than an insult on the book scheme - view it as an opportunity to discuss the child’s reading interests and preferences. It’s great that they are reading and discussing their thoughts on the book and developing preferences.
Promote the local library:
The local library can be an invaluable resource that is often under used. Promote the library and encourage children and parents to discover this free resource. Going to the library can be a fun way to spend a few hours on the weekend and dedicate some time to reading. Most libraries have a wide variety of books to explore and a cosy environment. Libraries usually have free internet access to explore e-books or author websites too. They may have audio books that can be borrowed or listened to also. Invite the local librarian into school to speak to children about how they can use the library and borrow books. Organise a school trip to the library. Notify parents and carers of children’s events held at the library such as workshops, reading groups, author events etc.
Gather information about parents and carers’ reading habits; find out what they feel the barriers to supporting their children with reading are and what problems they encounter, ask parents and carers what you can do to help in a simple short questionnaire. Communication is often key.
There are many reading charities that can help. Different reading charities provide a range of services from supporting adults/parents/carers with their own reading abilities to supplying families with books and advice. Perhaps get in touch.
Reading challenges or a sponsored read:
Arrange a reading challenge; for example, can children read 5 books at home and collect stamps or stickers? Give children a certificate once they have completed the challenge. Or have a sponsored reading event – how many books can children read in a week? Fun events like this can promote reading in a fun way and provide an incentive for the children to read at home.
Book sale/book swap:
Ask your school Parent Teacher Association to organise a book sale; invite parents/carers and the local community to donate children’s books they no longer use and set up a book sale. Sell the books for a small fee (20p-50p) - this can not only raise a little money for the school to spend on their school library or reading resources but will also promote reading at home and reading for pleasure. Parents/carers can purchase books to enjoy with their children at home. Many book sellers also have mobile book stalls that will come into school and sell books for parents and careers to purchase. Alternatively, you could organise a book swap where parents/carers donate a book and take a different one home.
Reading and Phonics workshops:
Hosting reading and phonics workshops for parents can be one way to discuss your school reading scheme and share tips for reading at home. This doesn’t need to be hard work to organise – set a date or time for parents to come into school; display the books your school uses, phonics games and activities for parents and carers to explore, hand out leaflets with details of your phonics and reading schemes, be on hand to answer any questions, provide a question box for parents to write questions anonymously and select a few of these to answer at the end of the session and perhaps model a phonics session. Keep it informal and friendly. Informal workshops can provide opportunities for parents to ask questions and pick up tips for reading with their child.
Reading and Phonics mornings/afternoons:
Introduce regular reading or phonics sessions – invite parents and carers to come into school and read with their child or take part in phonics activities in the school setting. This could be once a term or once a fortnight. This could be at the beginning or end of the school day or after school. Create a welcoming, friendly environment. Keep the session short, for example half an hour. This can provide a dedicated time for parents and carers to read with their child and promote the importance of reading.
Speak to your Headteacher, literacy co-ordinator, school Governors and colleagues to develop a whole-school approach to promoting reading and share the workload. Work together with the school and parents.
Finally, reading should be fun, promoting reading can be fun too! Share your passion of books and reading with colleagues, parents/carers and children.
Our reading scheme Reading Planet ensures parents/carers are fully supported to help their child learn to read. The scheme provides a range of accessible print and digital resources for use at home. Find out more here.
, English and Literacy
, Reading and Ebooks
, reading scheme
, Rising Stars Reading Planet