Many children struggle with reading, especially when they’re at home and teachers are far away. Although available research data from research shows that parents and caregivers engage learners in literacy activities at home, by grade 6, most children in Zambia cannot read at their own grade level. This means that children in grade 6 can only read as if they were in grade 5 or 4. In some cases, children cannot read at all.
The importance of reading for school going children is a topic I’ll venture into in another article. Today, I want to focus on what you as a parent or caregiver can do to help your child develop interest in reading while at home.
Fortunately, there are many things a parent can do at home to help build literacy skills in children.
Help your child stay on track with their education and language development while they’re at home. Consider these tips for teaching reading skills and creating an environment that will encourage a lifelong love for books.
Parent Strategies for Helping Younger Children to develop interest in reading while at home
Most experts believe that teaching phonics to young children is essential for fluency and reading comprehension.
Try these tips to provide your kids with a strong foundation for reading:
- Talk together. Speaking and singing to your child boosts their brain power and vocabulary. You can start while they’re still a baby
- Emphasize letters and sounds. Play games that teach alphabet letters and sounds. Keep in mind that your child’s attention span is limited, so keep your lessons brief and repeat the same material often.
- Label things. Kids love stickers, so put them on objects around the house like furniture and toys. Practice looking at the names of things and saying them together.
- Draw pictures. Drawing involves some of the same brain activity as reading. Give your child crayons and paper to help them express their thoughts about things you discuss and read together.
- Start writing. Many children can write their name or their first initial by the time they’re 3 years old. You can also ask them to dictate a letter to you and go over it to see which letters they recognize.
- Take advantage of your library. Check out the children’s events and materials at your local library or library you have built in your home. Enjoy what’s available online.
- Social media and learning platforms. There is potential in using social media with children in order to develop interest in reading while at home. Today, there are myriads of teachers teaching on YouTube, Facebook, and other learning platforms. For children, watching their friends learning online or seeing a teacher explaining something online might just be something that they want to see. There are also millions of cartoons that teach reading and writing. Learning online is good because it is done in an entertaining way. As such, your children won’t feel they that are actually ‘learning’.
- Read out loud. Make story time part of your daily schedule. Ask your child questions about the characters and plot to stimulate their thinking.
- Use digital technologies. Let’s face it. Many parents are struggling with how to let the children develop interest for books. This is because digital technologies like phones, tablets and computers have taken over the world and children are super experts in using these gadgets. If your children have love for phones and computers, just buy them educational digital gadgets. This will not only help them develop interest in reading and writing but it will also help them develop the necessary attitudes towards education.
There is overwhelming evidence in research that using technology by some teachers and parents/caregivers has added to the relevance of the literacy environment in preschools and homes. Use of digital media can increase children’s interests and engagement in literacy activities because it provides the motivation for learners to read and write. Fortunately, there is a wide array of gadgets children can use instead of your phone or work laptop. You can find some here.
You need to understand children are born and live in an environment infested with popular culture, media and information and communications technology (ICT).
Since the development in technology has become huge part of African life and culture especially in urban areas, one cannot discuss home reading or school literacy activities and practices without mentioning the myriad modes through which literacies are practiced. Phones and television form part of the major ways people interact with technology. This technology can be used to the advantage of learners. Since most schools in Zambia are not connected to internet, it is incumbent upon parents to parents to find ways they can incorporate digital modes in children’s education in general and reading and writing in particular.
Time has passed since you left school and situations have changed. Do not deny a chance for your children to learn from your phone or computer. That’s where their interest is. Just know how to use these digital gadgets for the advantage of your children, after all, they are your children.
By the way, there is no need for you to say, “in our time, there were no computers but….’ Your children are not time travelers, they cannot go back to your time. Just buy your children items that will make them get interest in reading.
- Use a familiar language. Language is critical to reading. If your child speaks Bemba, there is no need to start your literacy in English. In that most parents have negative attitudes toward local languages and so, they want an early emersion into English for their children. That won work well. Use a language that your child understands for initial literacy. Then your children will transfer reading skills to English. This is not debatable but scientific. So I will not even dwell much on this issue.
In conclusion, reading should be a habit and behaviour. Children need to know that reading plays a role in thier lives. Read my article on how to help older children to read.