Literacy: Five ways to encourage pupils to read at home

Written by: Alex Goss | Published:
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Reading at home can boost pupils’ literacy and love of books. Alex Goss shares five tips for how schools can support and encourage young learners to want to read at home

Ease the anxiety

We cannot talk about supporting children reading at home without talking about supporting parents. There are no two ways about it, most parents have felt the pinch one way or another in 2020. Many families spent the first half of the year coping with not seeing one another. Parents have had challenges with working from home, being on furlough or even worse, being laid off. When you add home-schooling to the mix (something unfamiliar to almost all parents – and children for that matter), we have a recipe for anxiety.

So what can schools do about this? Well, removing obstacles and encouraging a focus on reading is a good place to start. Here is a reassuring sentiment from a headteacher to parents for this autumn term:

“As we begin a new school year, we know there’s a lot to take on – and some of you might be thinking whether your children need support catching up. So I just wanted to say, don’t worry about completing all the homework or school projects if you’re not up to it. If your child can just do a bit of reading on their own or with you, that would be amazing. Your family's wellbeing is the most important thing, and a bit of quiet time reading can actually help with that.”

Start a club

Many children will have missed seeing their friends for most of the year. The importance of their social interactions and relationship-building cannot be underestimated. Now might be the time to hold book clubs (virtual or real) as a way to encourage interaction and build a community around reading. Host a “Storytime” to get children playing in a world of reading. Children love learning through play – so add some spark by making it a “Read to your teddy or toy” club. Children will be sharing stories with friends, engaging with a range of texts and using their imagination.

Encourage active reading

Provide opportunities for children’s minds to roam creatively and freely. With some households having limited access to open spaces, it is vital that we provide ideas and inspiration to get children moving. Fun activities such as treasure hunts can let children take the lead, as they first make their treasure maps and then go on an adventure to find their hidden goodies. Adding signposts and instructions to the treasure hunt is a great way to introduce vocabulary and literacy elements.

Free and accessible

There are so many incredible free resources available to help get children reading, such as those from the National Literacy Trust. Unfortunately, too many children do not have access to books or reading material at home. So prioritise making your school library books accessible if it is safe to do so – and tell parents about it.

If children are self-isolating and still learning from home, post books through their doors and share a video from the teacher to let children know that a special delivery for them is on the way (children love receiving post).

Also encourage the use of what is known as environmental text, such as reading recipes (even on food packaging), to develop children’s understanding of different types of reading (even better if they can use their reading to help make something tasty).

Use technology

Screen-time can have its place when it comes to reading and learning to read. We might not be in lockdown anymore, but we can benefit from some of the skills we have learned and processes we have set up. Remote education will continue as part of contingency planning in the months to come.

When relevant and appropriate, hosting video calls of big and small groups can increase engagement with the school. Use a chat feature to write and share poems so children can engage with shorter texts.

There is a wealth of reading material online that can get children trying new texts. Children could use an encyclopedia to make their own quiz (learning facts along the way), or read free eBooks (such as those on Teach Your Monster to Read).

  • Alex Goss is from Teach Your Monster to Read, a series of games to help children learn to read. It is free on laptop and PC and there are also ideas for physical and tabletop games to encourage active reading. Teach Your Monster to Read is also developing a new game called Reading for Fun aimed at cultivating a lifelong love of reading:

Further information & resources

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