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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10 Things Your Child Should Know Before Starting School

Get your child ready for kindergarten

It’s perfectly natural to feel anxious about sending your child off to big school; as a parent, you want to be absolutely certain that your little one is fully prepared to adapt to a classroom environment, make new friends, and be able to clearly communicate their needs to their teacher whenever they need help.

But when it comes to specific skills and knowledge, many parents are surprised by how much their child is expected to know before starting school. Research shows that children who are well-prepared for their first year of school have a much better chance of settling in and succeeding in school, giving them a significant head start for later years.

Your child’s school should be able to provide you with a list of things they will be expected to know before starting. Before you let go of that little hand and send your child off to big school, here are the ten most common things they should know to help them feel confident and ready for their biggest adventure yet.

1. Listen to and follow simple instructions

By the time they start school, most children should be able to listen to and follow two to three part instructions.

What you can do: Give your child daily tasks around the house, like putting away their toys or setting the table for breakfast in the morning. Use two-part instructions like, “Pick up your toys and put them in the box.” and three-part instructions like, “Put the spoons, cups and napkins onto the table.”

2. Communicate their needs

Children should be able to clearly communicate their needs, especially to their teacher.

What you can do: Encourage your child to speak in complete sentences of five to six words, such as “I would like some water, please.” or “I need help with this word.” Always encourage them to explain how they are feeling: “I am hungry.” “My leg hurts”. “I would like to play outside.”

3. Dress and feed themselves

Children should feel comfortable managing their own clothes (e.g. zippers and buttons). They should also know how to open a juice container and unwrap their own food. It’s also at this age that children learn how to tie their shoes, though some won’t get the hang of it until around age six.

what does my child need to know before kindergarten

What you can do: Help your child practise dressing themselves each morning until they can do it independently. This includes zipping pants, buttoning shirts, putting on socks and taking off gloves and jackets. Teach your child how to open food packaging and praise them for doing a “big boy” or “big girl” job.

4. Share toys with others and take turns

A big part of starting school is about getting along well with others, completing a task or project through teamwork, and treating others with respect.

What you can do: Play board games at home to help your child become familiar with taking turns. If you have more than one child, encourage them to work on projects and tasks together at home.

5. Understand and retell simple stories

In their first year of school, children should be able to listen to and understand five to ten minute stories. Most will be able to retell simple stories that they have heard, and some may even begin telling original stories.

What you can do: If you don’t have a regular reading routine at your house, it’s never too late to start. Numerous studies have found that children who are read to regularly at home will have a much better chance at succeeding in school overall. Encourage your child to retell stories you have read by drawing pictures, using puppets, and role-playing.

6. Match and sort objects

Children should be able to match and sort objects by simple attributes, such as shape, colour and function (e.g. food, clothes, things you can cook with).

fun maths games

What you can do: Use books, songs, and play guessing games that teach your child about opposites. This will help them understand that objects can be identified by their attributes. To help your child sort, you need at least two different types of objects. Start with fewer categories (sorting by two types) and gradually progress to three, four or more. Slowly demonstrate each sort before asking your child to have a go.

7. Identify basic patterns, shapes and colours

These foundational skills will help your child develop essential mathematical skills and knowledge.

What you can do: Help your child point out patterns when you’re out together (e.g. in clothing, along a footpath, in a picture) and turn it into a fun game. Hang up colour and shape charts at home and let your child experiment with watercolours, crayons, blocks and playdough or clay to get familiar with colours and shapes.

8. Identify some numbers and understand how numbers are used

By their first year of school, many children will know how to count to at least 30 and tell what number comes before or after a given number to 20.

What you can do: Help your child point out numbers on a regular basis, like on the television, in books, on a keypad or on a phone. There are also many children’s books and online games like Mathseeds that teach children to count. Show your child how numbers are used in everyday activities, like following a recipe, keeping score during a game, or counting, measuring and weighing objects.

9. Identify letters, and begin to understand that letters stand for the sounds heard in words

Most children who start school will know the letters in the alphabet, and begin to understand the correlation between sounds and letters. Some children will be able to spell and write the letters in their name. Children should be able to also identify words that rhyme, which is an indicator of phonemic awareness, one of the five key aspects of learning to read.

What you can do: Use alphabet charts that include uppercase and lowercase versions of each letter. Games like letter races, matching rhymes and phonics hop-scotch are all great ways to build your child’s understanding of the relationship between letters and their sounds.

10. Begin to identify some sight words

Learning to identify and read sight words is crucial for young children to become fluent readers. Most children will be able to master a few sight words at the age of four (e.g. is, it, my, me, no, see, and we) and around 20 sight words by the end of their first year of school.

What you can do: The first 100 high-frequency sight words make up more than fifty per cent of primary level reading texts, so the sooner your child masters sight words, the more confidence they will have, and the faster they will progress towards reading fluently. Read three fun activities to learn sight words. While learning a handful of sight words before school is highly beneficial for developing early reading skills, parents shouldn’t be too worried if their child doesn’t grasp this until later.

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