A great way to get better at English is to read. Reading improves comprehension skills and vocabulary – but it also helps children get better at writing, speaking and listening.
Resistance to reading
How can we expect children to read in English if they do not want to read in their own language? This is a common problem. Children often associate reading with school and school assignments. When they read something, it is often because they have to, not because they want to. In their free time, they are more likely to reach for the remote control, computer mouse or mobile phone than they are to pick up a book. What can we do about this?
Different kinds of reading
We need to change the way children feel about reading. At school, they often have to read for close understanding of a text – intensive reading. This is the way we read when we are trying to learn something. It requires concentration. When we pick up a book at home, we read in a different way. We read for pleasure. We read to relax. This is called extensive reading.
Reading for pleasure in English involves being able to read fluently and quite fast. Children should not have to stop to look up words in the dictionary or have to concentrate too hard on the meaning. The pages should keep turning at a fast rate. In order to help our children discover the pleasure of reading in English, we need to make sure they have the right book.
Finding the right book
The ideal book for your child is something that interests them (the right topic) and something that they can read easily (the right level). The Oxford Bookworms series of graded readers has more than 200 different titles to choose from. There are seven types of story, for example Classics, True Stories and Fantasy and Horror – making it easy to find what you are interested in.
Bookworms readers also cover seven different levels, ranging from Starter (250 headwords) to Stage 6 (2,500 headwords) so you can choose a book that is at the right level for your child. Remember to choose a book slightly below your child's actual reading level – that way they will be able to read extensively.
Getting children interested in reading a book
There is a big difference between reading a book that your parent has chosen for you and choosing a book for yourself. Parents can help their children take an interest in books by encouraging them to read rather than forcing them to read. It is no longer 'reading for pleasure' if it is compulsory!
Here are some ways that you can get your child interested in reading:
- buy a selection of titles you think your child will be interested in
- leave the books you have bought in the living room rather than putting them into your child's hands
- if the reader you have bought has an audio CD, play it in the car when you are with your child – they might take an interest and ask to see the book!
- start a library or collection of readers at home
- mark your child's progress on a reading poster (see below)
Look at the cover and talk about what you think the story is about. Make guesses. Remember your predictions, or maybe write them down. As you read, you can look back and see who was right!
You can take turns reading. First you read a page, then your child. At the end of each page, talk about the story and share your ideas and opinions. Look at the pictures and talk about what you can see. What do you think is going to happen next? Make some more predictions as you read.
Do not worry about grammar. This is reading for pleasure. It is not a problem if your child does not understand every word, either. The important thing is to follow the story.
Record your progress
Use this book tracker poster to encourage your child keep a more detailed record of their reading.
My Reading Poster (PDF, 29KB)