How to help your child to read?...It's a question that sends lots of parents into a sweaty-palmed panic. It needn't, it should be fun.
Beyond the standard 10 minutes or so of reading homework, what's required? Any method you care to name may be beneficial to support your children's literacy skills. Indeed, research from various heavyweight sources proves that children who enjoy reading do better at school in all subjects.
But surely that misses the point. Mastering the skill isn't the same as inspiring the will. As children's laureate Julia Donaldson says: "The desire to have an A-star offspring shouldn't be the motivation for reading together." To encourage independent reading for its own sake is a far richer prize.
Studies show motivated young readers become more confident, articulate adults, and that lifelong readers have richer, more empathetic, lives. Here are a few ways to give you child a good start:
• Sing rhymes and tell stories to your unborn baby. Studies show they can hear you from around 20 weeks, so they may learn to recognise your voice even before they are born.
• Read together. It increases literacy skills, and it also helps to build a strong and loving relationship with your child. Sharing books that they have chosen shows you care what they think and that their opinion matters.
• Reading aloud is key. Make sure that whoever cares for your child at nursery or school shares stories and rhymes with them every day.
• Sit close together when sharing a book and encourage your child to hold the book themselves.
• Don't be afraid to use funny voices – it's a great way to make your child giggle. And don't be afraid to sing, either; they won't care whether or not you sing in tune.
• Ask questions when you read. Talk to your child about what's going on in a book, and give them plenty of time to respond. Try to ask questions that require more than just a "yes" or "no" answer. For example, ask them what they think will happen next, or about how a character might be feeling.
• Pictures are great storytellers. Sharing books is definitely not just about the words – so point to the pictures and relate them to something your child knows. Talk about the characters and their dilemmas. It can help children to understand personal relationships and is an excellent way for you to get to know each other.
• Finally and, above all, make it fun. It doesn't matter how you read with your child, so long as you both enjoy the time together. Sharing a book with your child is an expression of love. The more you put in, the more you get back.