5 Halloween Activities that Increase Reading Skills

Halloween reading for kids

The spooky season has a tendency of sparking the imagination, creativity, and sense of wonder in young children, which sets the perfect environment for refining important early reading and writing skills.

If you’re celebrating Halloween this year, here are five fun activities designed to increase your child’s literacy skills and help you get into the spirit of the festivities.

1. Find costume inspiration in books

If your child hasn’t decided which character they’d like to dress up as for Halloween, search for some inspiration from a variety of children’s books, rather than television shows and films. This will give even the most reluctant of readers some extra motivation to read and explore new titles and genres. Sit down together and help them write a simple list of ideal character traits and features, for example: funny voice, dresses in green, owns a pet, kind to people, wears glasses.

Once you have your list, visit the local library and choose a few different picture books you can read together. Ask the librarian for advice on where to look, or do a bit of research online beforehand. After you read each book, your child can make a tally of how many desired traits each new character exhibits.

2. Halloween word list

Creepy. Ghostly. Eerie. Enchanting. There are so many interesting and exciting words associated with Halloween! Holidays and traditions are a great opportunity to introduce new words into your child’s vocabulary. Take a large sheet of construction paper and write the heading ‘Halloween Words’. Divide the paper into three columns and label each column with a category, depending on your child’s age. You may choose simple categories such as foods, costumes, and characters, or more complex ones such as sounds, emotions, and adjectives (words that describe nouns).

Brainstorm a list of words for each category and add some new ones, too. Once you’ve completed your word list, help your child decorate it with drawings that represent each word (e.g. pumpkins, lanterns, witches, ghouls, cauldron, cobwebs, haunted).  Display it on a wall and use it as a guide for activity number four.

3. Trick-or-treating prep through role-play

One of the most exciting things about Halloween for young children is trick-or-treating. But trick-or-treating is more than just stocking up on candy (although that’s definitely a big part of it!). Children love dressing up, getting into character, doing funny voices and reciting their lines.

Children gain so much from imaginative play, and Halloween provides the perfect opportunity to spark your child’s imagination and build important literacy skills through role-play. Help your child refine their trick-or-treating routine and get into their character with a bit of preparation. Do they have a funny laugh? What does their voice sound like? What is something they would say? Invite your child to try out their routine on you, and don’t be afraid to improvise! You can even help them reenact stories if their characters are derived from books. This will help build their comprehension skills and understanding of narrative structure. Choose books that include new words that will help expand their vocabulary in a fun and motivating way. For example, if your child is dressing up as a teacher, include as many related words as possible (e.g. classroom, students, blackboard, desk, books, learning, reading).

 4. ‘When I think of Halloween’ writing exercise

Encourage your child to sit down and think about all of the things they associate with Halloween (use your word list from activity number two). Write a poem titled ‘When I think of Halloween’, made up of three stanzas that include six lines each. Write the beginning of each line for your child and have them fill in the end by inserting specific words.

Begin the first line for your child with ‘When I think of Halloween, I think of’ and have them write two special features of Halloween. Then begin the following lines with prompts such as ‘I see’, ‘I feel’, ‘I pretend’, ‘I wonder’, ‘I try’ and so on. Close the poem by repeating the first line.

For younger children, try writing an acrostic poem by putting the letters in ‘Halloween’ down the side of the page. Then go back to each letter and have your child write a word, phrase or sentence that begins with that letter to describe Halloween.

 5. Spooky story starters

This is a fun activity that the whole family can play together. Have one person start an original Halloween story by saying one line (e.g. “There was a thump in the middle of the night…”). Then go around in a circle so that each person contributes a sentence to the story. This activity can be done orally or by taking turns writing a sentence and folding the paper so that the next person can only see the last few words (this usually results in a nonsensical plot line that’s guaranteed for laughs!). As a great memento, you can also create a home-made book about Halloween and encourage your child to add their own illustrations too!

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8 Ways You Might Be Discouraging Your Child from Reading

how parents discourage reading

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We don’t intentionally discourage our children from reading. But sometimes we can make small yet frequent mistakes that deter our budding young readers over time.

Here are some common ways parents can discourage their child from reading, and what you can try to do instead.

1. Not providing reading material at home

“Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.” — Dr. Seuss

A love of reading begins with great books – a lot of them! Make sure your house is stocked up with age-appropriate books and reading material, including comic books and kids magazines. Provide a variety of reading material around the house and in your child’s bedroom. Early readers can also benefit from having posters on the wall that include a lot of text (e.g. animal charts, nursery rhymes and songs). If your child owns a tablet device, look for reading apps and e-books that will give their other games a run for their money.

For long car trips and family holidays, always pack books and reading material.

Give your child their own bookshelves at home, and if they’ve finished all their books, you can always find more at the local library.

2. Using reading time as a bargaining chip…

Sure it may be tempting, but using reading time as a bargaining tool is something that parents should try to avoid. It’s never a good idea to associate reading with any other incentive than pure enjoyment or learning about new things. If your child is a reluctant reader, saying things like, ‘If you do your reading you can watch TV’ or, ‘Just ten minutes of reading and you can have dessert’ are not going to yield real long-term results.

Instead of bargaining, encourage your child to see the intrinsic rewards of reading by saying things like, ‘Wow, you finished your book today! Which was the best part?’ or, ‘I remember reading that book in school, and I still love it today!’ 

3. Or using it as a threat

“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.” — Kate DiCamillo

The one thing that could be worse than bribing your child to read is using it as part of punishment. Have you ever heard yourself say something like, ‘You didn’t do your reading so you don’t get to watch TV’? We’ve almost all been there.

Using reading time as punishment can leave your child filled with dread at the very thought of it. Read more about the value of positive reinforcement.

4. Not letting them choose their own books

If your child is at school, chances are they have a set reading list, and there may not be very much you can do about it. So when it comes to reading books outside of school, it’s important to let your child choose the ones they really want.

Visit the library and let your child pick out the books they want to read. There’s nothing wrong with making suggestions and guiding your child’s decision – we all hope our children will love the same books we loved as children. But ultimately, if they’re reluctant about a book from the get-go, they’re not very likely to warm up to it anytime soon.

5. Being a non-reader yourself

Can’t remember the last time you picked up a book? Finding time to read can become a great challenge in our adult years, especially when raising a family. But if your child doesn’t see you or anybody else in the house enjoying a good book, eventually they’ll struggle to see the value in doing it for themselves. Let your child see you indulge in a good read now and then – children watch (and often copy) our every move.

6. Choosing books that are too easy or too hard

If your child finds a book too easy or too ‘babyish’, they’ll quickly grow bored with it. On the other hand, if the book is too challenging and contains too many words they don’t know, it’s likely to cause immense frustration, which can put them off reading altogether.

A good way to determine if a book is just right for your child is by using the Five Finger Rule. If the book has a few difficult words, try reading aloud together. There’s nothing wrong with exposing children to more complex language in context. But if you know the language and concepts will be too difficult for them to enjoy the story, set it aside for another time.

7. Over-correcting their mistakes

This one is tricky. While it’s important to show your child where they’ve gone wrong, being overly critical can be extremely discouraging.

Reading should be a fun and enjoyable experience. It’s important to prove this to your child. Forcing them to read and reread text until they have it perfect can be very discouraging to an emerging reader. Try to avoid interrupting while they are reading and wait for a natural pause to point out any mistakes if you need to. If you want to help your child work on their reading fluency, try texts that are fun to re-read over and over again, such as fun rhymes and poetry, which also give reluctant readers a great sense of accomplishment.

8. Forgetting to read with your child regularly

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” — Emilie Buchwald

Even if your child is old enough to read on their own, reading together can still have a lot of value. Take turns reading aloud and create positive reading memories together. Talk about the story, the characters and the pictures, and ask your child questions about how they feel or think about the book. Setting a regular reading time with your child is one of the best ways to set them up for a lifetime love of reading.

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How to Choose the Perfect Children’s Book

choosing books for kids

Choosing the right books for your child is important; getting it right the first few times can spark the beginnings of a lifelong enthusiasm for reading. So how can you spot a good children’s book amongst the dizzying variety of titles and genres?

The most memorable books from childhood are usually the ones which include vivid imagery, exciting stories and interesting characters. Here’s what you can look out for:

Good books are easy to relate to. Choose books that allow your child to explore different worlds and lives but are still familiar enough that they can see themselves in the characters. Even if it’s a story set in an imaginary world of monsters and fairies, if the characters have hopes and desires that are easy to relate to, your child will be more interested in reading it until the end.

They teach us important things. Whether it’s learning a timeless moral in The Tortoise and the Hare or learning about numbers, fruit and days of the week in The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the best books often teach things without us even realising it. Choose books that deliver an important message or subtly teach essential skills such as the alphabet, counting, colours or seasons.

They may not be your personal pick. Children’s author Libby Gleeson suggests that when choosing a good book for children, parents should “resist the desire only to feed their children the books they loved when they were young”. Your child may not share the same passion for your childhood classics, and, as Gleeson notes, “The world has changed and children have changed.”

They are not too difficult to read. Use the Five Finger Rule if your child will be reading on their own. If the book has a few difficult words, read aloud together with your child. There’s nothing wrong with exposing children to more complex language in context. But if you know the language and concepts will be too difficult for them to enjoy the story, avoid putting them off reading altogether by choosing a simpler book.

They have strong illustrations. Vivid and clear imagery that supports the story is powerful for early readers aged 4-8. Choose books that have good illustrations that correspond with the storyline. Wordless books are also a great way to develop your child’s language skills, as they require readers to interpret the illustrations as the story progresses.

They are fun to read aloud. How many times has your child requested yet another reading of Dr Seuss? Books that rhyme or have a good lyrical flow are fun to read aloud and listen to. Read with enthusiasm and use different voices for different characters to bring the reading experience to life.

They’re often trending. Talk to your child’s teacher, librarian or other parents to find out about popular children’s books. Alternatively, search online for award-winning children’s book lists or hop onto book review sites to read what other parents are suggesting.

Good books can simply be the books your child desires. At the end of the day, what makes a good children’s book is any age-appropriate book your child wants to read! Let your child choose which books they would like to read, because choosing to read over not choosing to read is a significant step towards a lifelong love of reading.