As winter nights draw in and storybooks start to appear in many Christmas stockings, Mark O’Donnell, the new headmaster of St Martin’s Ampleforth, the prep school at Ampleforth College has provided some top tips on reading with young children.
Mark says, “Unlocking a child’s imagination through reading enriches their vocabulary and gives them the opportunity to form opinions and articulate their thoughts. “Recent research undertaken at Harvard has highlighted the significance of reading to and with children before asking them about what they have read and discussing the ideas, context and relationships that stories provide. By encouraging children to articulate their ideas you are providing them with opportunities to gain new insights and develop their ability to form opinions and to think ever more effectively.”
1. Make reading a part of your family life – Always encourage reading, whether it is on the back of a cereal box at breakfast, or road signs on the way to school.
2. Indulge their interests – Children are more likely to stay engaged if the book is on a topic they are interested in, it also helps to see what topic they are most enjoying at school and find a book to match it.
3. Get comfortable! – A quiet, cosy environment is perfect for some independent reading so your child can concentrate, as well as reading together.
4. Be sure to ask questions – To keep them interested in the story and encourage them to reflect on what they’re reading, ask your child what they think will happen next or where you got to the previous night to make sure they’re engaged.
5. Read again and again – It’s important that you encourage your child to re-read favourite books and poems to help build up fluidity and confidence.
6. Rhyme and repetition – Books and poems which include rhyme and repetition are great for encouraging your child or children to join in and remember the words.
Mark adds: “There are also marked benefits for the parents when they read with their child. It reminds them of how they enjoyed being read to and sharing this time together further strengthens the bond between a child and a parent. It also allows parents to become very aware of their child’s social, emotional, and intellectual development.”
Thanks to Mark O’Donnell at St Martin’s Ampleforth for these tips.
We certainly make reading a part of our family life. We’ve read to both children since they were babies, and now that Boo has started at school, she wants to read things everywhere that she sees words, which is really lovely. And yes, rhyme and repetition are very popular here, with so many fab Julia Donaldson books, amongst others, enjoyed! Little Man is particularly loving Stick Man and A Squash and a Squeeze at the moment, along with his beloved Pip and Posy books. Boo basically wants to read anything she can get her hands on! This week she’s been enjoying her Rainbow Fairies books, her Storytime magazine, and her Aesop’s fables library book.
What are your children’s favourite books? What tips would you add?
Disclosure: Written in collaboration with St Martins, Ampleforth.