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By Dr Ronelle Venter, an educational psychologist with experience in working with children with special needs. She specialises in assessment accommodations for learners struggling with barriers to learning.

 Why encourage reading?

Research has shown that reading for pleasure improves children’s academic performance, develops vocabulary and increases general knowledge among many other benefits.

It’s not always easy, however, getting children to read. Here are some tips on ways to foster a love for reading in your children.

How to encourage reading?

Use pictures 

For younger children (from 6 months): Regularly show pictures of different objects and animals, including the sounds they make while reading. Follow up with activities relating to the books in a real-life situation, e.g. visit the zoo or an animal farm.

Use songs 

Younger children enjoy singing rhymes and lullabies and will especially enjoy Dr Seuss’s rhyming books.

Read aloud

Older children still enjoy hearing stories. Read them books aloud to help build their vocabulary.

Find books they will enjoy

Read books aloud that will interest your child. This will eventually motivate him/her to learn to read and encourage reading for enjoyment.

Children love “pop-up” books or short, simple stories with interesting illustrations/photos of familiar objects. Choose books together that will interest your child (pets, ballet, dinosaurs, sea creatures, etc.). Snuggling in your arms, encourage your child to follow your finger while reading (this develops left-right scanning).

Do paired reading with older children

Choose a book that is below your child’s age level. Read the book aloud, using fingers on words, and your child follows the words as you read. Read the book a second time. The third time, allow your child to read the book aloud. Listen carefully to hear where your child hesitates, then give the correct response before anxiety develops. Your child then repeats the word and reads on. Read again until your child reads fluently. Only ask your child to read sentences or passages you have first read together and which you are confident, can be read successfully. Your child must enjoy success.

Talk about the story

When reading to children between two to five years old also talk to them about the story or content. Encourage your child to guess what comes next. Ask them how the story will end or what they think will happen. Then discuss what you have read to develop understanding, language use and attentive listening.

More reading tips:

  • Set a good example and read where your children can see you. 
  • Schedule family reading-time. Put the TV off, put out snacks and let everyone describe what they are reading.
  • Put out magazines and newspapers where children can reach them.
  • Show your child the importance of reading in everyday life – from the weather report to the opening hours of shops.
  • Do not force your child to read a certain number of pages within a limited time.
  • Make time for reading to your child when they ask.
  • Read in exciting places, like the garden in a tent, or a reading corner.
  • Play word games like “I spy” to create language consciousness.
  • Build up a repertoire of rhymes, jingles and songs, that your child can enjoy and learn by heart. This will help your child develop memory and sequencing skills while having fun.
  • Make it fun! Praise attention, effort and correct responses.

Impaq offers unique reading books for learners in the Foundation Phase. The books encourage emergent reading, which is a core aspect when learning a language. Visit their website to learn more.

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