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Encouraging older children to read independently: Ideas for parents

As children become more confident readers, they require less time reading with their parents and begin to read independently. However, parents still play an important role in supporting their child’s reading. They can help their child to develop the habit of reading regularly, to talk about their reading with skill and confidence, and to learn through their reading.

Motivate your children to read regularly

Getting better at reading requires a lot of practice. Parents can help motivate their child to read more often by: Modelling enthusiasm and excitement about reading and its benefits, and talking to your child about your own reading – what do you enjoy reading and why?  

Helping your child to find texts that interest them. Ask them about their favourite books and what they would like to read next. You won’t be able to get to the library now, but there is a lot of reading material online. The Education Hub has published tips for parents on finding books and audiobooks during the lockdown.

Establishing a reading routine. It’s better to do a little each day, even just ten minutes, than nothing at all.

Talk about reading

Talking about their reading can help your child to remember what they have read and develop important language skills.

  • Ask open questions about your child’s reading. For example, over dinner you might ask the whole family what interesting things they have read that day. This doesn’t need to be limited to schoolwork – it could be news, fiction, or comics. Make sure you give your own contribution to show that you are still reading and learning.
  • If your child is reading something that you haven’t seen before, ask them to tell you about it and explain it in their own words. If they are reading fiction you can ask them to summarise the story, and if they are reading non-fiction you can ask them to explain the key points. This will help them to better understand and remember what they have read and build their confidence.

“Read to learn”  

As children become more confident readers, they can learn much faster about a greater range of subjects. Parents can help their child to develop the ability to learn through their reading. The following tips might help your child become an effective learner as well as a strong reader:

  • If your child doesn’t understand something they are reading, encourage them to think about where they might look for clarification. For example, if they are stuck on a particular word, suggest they look in the dictionary (you can find dictionaries online if you do not have a paper copy).  If they are reading non-fiction and are confused by it or doubt its truthfulness or accuracy, encourage them to find another source.  
  • Demonstrate the value of exploring a variety of different texts (such as books, newspapers, cartoons), genres (comedy, drama, sci-fi), topics (sport, wildlife, adventure), and perspectives (writing from both New Zealand and abroad).
  • When children finish a book, speak to them about what they might read next and why. Encourage them to consider what they enjoyed about the book, what else they need to learn about the subject of the book, and books that offer a different perspective or style.  

By Peter Henderson

PREPARED FOR THE EDUCATION HUB BY

Peter Henderson

Peter is on secondment to The Education Hub from the Education Endowment Foundation, a UK charity which supports teachers to use research to improve their practice. Before he joined us, Peter co-authored five EEF guidance reports and led the EEF’s grant making in maths, literacy, and special educational needs. He also chaired the governing board of a primary school in North London.