Tag Archives: reading aloud

The role of the family in the reading habits of children.

Earlier this week, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released an interesting report which examined the important relationship between the family and the reading habits of children.

Photo by Alec Couros

This article used data from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) which is a major study following the development of 10,000 children and families from all over Australia. The study began in 2004, looking at families with 0 -1 year old children and 4- 5 year old children. These same families and children were the studied six years later in 2010.

Data from the LSAC indicates that there are three major influences in the development of a child’s reading habits: having books in the home, visiting the library and reading aloud.

The children in the study had their engagement in reading measured using a time-diary which recorded the sequence of all activities the child engaged in during the day prior to being interviewed for the study. Various factors affecting the reading habits of children were mentioned in the report, such as the education levels of parents, family type and the language spoken at home. You can read the full report here.

The most interesting part of the report for me is that of the Family Reading Context, which discusses the influence a child’s family can have in determining their reading habits later in life. The following factors were most relevant:

  1. Children who lived with 30 or more books when aged 4 – 5 were more likely to enjoy reading at age 10 – 11 years than those who lived in households with fewer than 30 books.
  2. Visiting a library when aged 4 – 5 years was positively associated with children’s engagement in reading at age 10 – 11 years. Children who had visited a library when aged 4 – 5 years were more likely to enjoy reading than those who had not.
  3. Children aged 10 – 11 years who were read to when aged 4- 5 years were more likely to enjoy reading.

Whilst this study does not really provide us with any new information in children’s reading habits, it helps to reinforce our beliefs about the important strategies in how we get children to read and become readers. Interestingly the above three findings relate well to the Reading Rules, especially Reading Rule no. 1 Create the right environment; Reading Rule no. 2 Be a role model; Reading Rule no 3. Read to them and Reading Rule no. 8: Ask an expert.

Every day in my work I am reminded of the power of reading. Just last week there was a public speaking competition in the library, and one of the speakers, an articulate and confident young lady, gave an impassioned speech about her love of books and reading. This made me quickly scan the faces of the entrants from my school and I noted that every one of them was a regular library user and regular reader. I have no doubt that there is a direct correlation between their reading habits and abilities as confident public speakers.

Developing positive reading habits is the key, and as the LSAC report illustrates, it all starts with a few simple routines in the home.



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Reading to your children

Reading Rule no. 3 Read to them is one of the most important Reading Rules of all. I was reminded of this as I read a recent PISA study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

PISA is the OECD Programme for Internation Student Assessment. It evaluates education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-olds in participating countries.

The PISA in Focus 10 report states that fifteen year old students whose parents read books to them during their first year of primary school show markedly higher test scores than students whose parents read to them infrequently or not at all. The average benefit of teens whose parents read to them every day, or almost every day, when they were 4 or 5 years old was equivalent to six months of extra schooling. Best of all, the advantage gained by reading to children was evident regardless of socio-economic status.

Reading is so important to the development of your child, and reading to your child clearly has numerous advantages. Just remember to follow the advice of Rule no. 3 and keep reading to your child long after they can read independently.

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The Reading Rules in action

Recently I’ve been busy with the wide reading program in the library which has made me consider the importance of the Reading Rules, in particular: No.3 Read to them, No. 5 Don’t be a snob and No. 6 Loosen your filter.

The catalyst has been a short story which I have chosen to read to the boys during the lesson. It is called The Incident and is an old favourite of mine, from Andrew Daddo’s 2002 book Sprung. The Incident is a story about two very naughty little boys who test the veracity of a helmet supposedly once owned by Luke Skywalker. The problem is that they test the helmet’s strength by dropping a brick on it – while the family dog is in it.

This incident is after the story opens with the boys already being in serious trouble – for drinking urine. They also have a distinct problem with honesty and telling the truth to their parents.

Having said all this, the story is written in such a way that the reader (or in my lesson the listener) knows that it is a humorous story and is intended purely to entertain. And it entertains in bucketloads. The boys have gasped, giggled and laughed out loud during this story and have even given applause at the end – a high compliment for high school boys at the end of a lesson.

There are many boys in my lessons who began the year saying they did not enjoy reading or indeed did not enjoy anything much at all about books. But by reading to them and loosening my filter to read something that many teachers would think lacks literary merit (or any merit at all), I am teaching the boys that reading can be fun. And at no point in the lesson has there has been any literary snobbery at all.

I see the results of my efforts in the wide reading program on a daily basis. Not only are the borrowing figures of the boys sky high (1,000 more books borrowed than at this time last year), yesterday I saw two boys who have previously wandered aimlessly around the library actually sitting down engrossed in their books: one was reading I am Number Four, another The Power of Six – both books I have read and promoted to the boys in wide reading lessons.

Everything I do to encourage reading comes back to the core rules and they really do work. There is nothing more satisfying to me than seeing a reluctant reader with a book in hand and enjoying the experience. The Reading Rules really do work, especially if you remember Rule No. 10 – don’t give up.

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A century of reading

To be honest, the title of this post is a little misleading. It refers to my dear grandfather, whom we all called Pop. He died last Wednesday aged 102. Whilst he didn’t spend a century reading, he must have spent the best part of one hundred years with a book of some sort in his hand.

Pop reading

Reflecting on Pop’s magnificent life, one significant aspect that dominates all memories of him was his love of books. He spent much of his life reading. In an age with few screens, he learned by the printed page and he loved the written word.

Whilst he left school at 14, Pop was one of the most well-educated men I’ve ever known. Everything he learned was self-taught through reading and books. He even completed his engineering qualifications by correspondence, back in the days when correspondence was through the post and not online.

My memories of Pop nearly always involve him with some sort of reading material: books, newspapers, journals and his bible. Not only was he well-read, he was widely read. He could quote poetry by Robert Burns, sonnets by Shakespeare and passages from his well-thumbed bible. If there is such a thing as a reading gene, I am sure he passed it on to my mother who obligingly sent it down the genetic path to me.

This makes me consider my Reading Rules and whether they apply to my family history: Pop certainly created the right environment for his children and grandchildren to become readers. Clearly he was the epitome of a reading role model. He did read aloud – passages he found illuminating or entertaining. He would also recite passsages  from his favourite works. Although he lived the majority of his life before ebooks became a reality, he certainly did re-define book insofar as he read anything: the Sunday comics, magazines, newsletters and catalogues. As for not being a literary snob, he found Dagwood and Blondie hilarious, which also meant he didn’t have to loosen his filter too much – Pop loved a bit of toilet humour and could recite a colourful limerick with the best of them. If it was written, he would read it and encourage us to read it as well.

Rule Seven is a bit tricky: remember it’s the 21st century. Pop was someone who moved with the times, and in his day was quick to learn and adopt new inventions. However, he was well into his 80’s by the time the Internet hit our shores, and then well into his 90’s before Facebook and social media became part of our everyday vocabulary. But Rule Eight is a winner, as Pop was quick to ask an expert about anything and everything – he learned by asking and listening and received some very expert advice on reading matter in his time. He made reading routine – it was a part of his daily existence and quite simply defined who he was. And Pop never, ever gave up on anything.

For the best part of a century my dear grandfather demonstrated the Reading Rules to his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, simply by loving and sharing his passion for the written word.

Goodbye dearest Pop. You will be missed, but your reading legacy lives on in us all.

For a more thorough explanation of the Reading Rules, head over to that page here

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Top 10 books for teenage girls

In terms of books which will get girls reading, this is my current Top 10. There are a lot of vampire books here, as they really are popular at the moment. I have tried to balance these with all-time classics and other favourites.
  1. Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling – because girls love this series as much as boys. Thank you J.K. Rowling for creating Hermione Granger – the strong, intelligent female protagonist without whom Harry would not have survived.
  2. Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer.
  3. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead.
  4. Any book by Jodi Picoult
  5. Before I fall by Lauren Oliver. Every teenage girl should read this book.
  6. Sisterhood of the travelling pants series by Ann Brashares
  7. Looking for Alibrandi and Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
  8. Any book by Jane Austen
  9. Fallen series by Lauren Kate
  10. Any book by Meg Cabot

With special mentions to The Vampire Diaries by L.J.Smith, Peeps by Scott Westerfield, The Mortal Instruments series by  Cassandra Clare, The Notebook  by Nicholas Sparks and authors Margaret Clark and Sarah Dessen.

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Reading Rule 9

9. Make reading routine.

Does your child play a musical instrument? How often do they practise? Do they play a sport? How often is training? Music and sport are activities that most children take part in and one thing they have in common is that they both require practice.

Reading is somewhat similar. In the early years, it does indeed require practice which is why children have home readers and parents are expected to listen to their children read every night.

But when children become independent readers, many parents think “job done”. This is not the case. Children’s reading needs encouraging and nurturing, and it requires parental involvement long after children are reading independently. Reading needs to become a part of your child’s everyday routine.

The most convenient time to read is probably bedtime. When children are little, this is when most of us read stories to them. As they get older and can read independently, there is no need to stop this ritual. This is a great time to read aloud to your children (Rule no.3). Just make sure you always stop at an exciting point in the story, and your child will want to continue on with their own independent reading.

The most important thing is to make this time a regular occurrence. If bedtime is 8.30p.m in your house, try making it 8.00p.m instead. This leaves half an hour for reading time before lights out. If you have followed all the rules up to this point, you will find that your child is quite happy to have this reading time. In fact, half an hour may not be enough and you will often become engaged in heated debates at 8.30p.m when you say ‘lights out” and they say “just one more paragraph/page/chapter please!”

The main thing is to make reading a part of your daily routine. It should be an expectation and be a part of family life. The other important part of this rule is that when it is reading time, it is “no screen” time. Unless the reading material is an e-book, all devices (mobiles, laptops, i-touch etc) should be off so that the reading time is an uninterrupted, sustained period of interaction with the written word.

© Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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Reading Rule 8

8.  Ask an expert.

You pay a mechanic to service your car, even though you may be able to do it yourself. You can colour your own hair, but when you pay a hairdresser to do it the result is much better. There are experts in all areas whom you can pay for service or advice, and this includes experts on books and reading. But there is one difference: you can get advice on books and reading for free.

Start at your local bookshop. Bookshops are magical places. They contain the promise of pleasure: row upon row of pristine new books, beautifully displayed and very enticing to the most reluctant reader. Book sellers cleverly design their stores so that you can browse in sections according to your taste: science fiction, crime, romance, cooking or sport. Best of all, bookshops contain fantastic children’s and young adult sections. Titles are displayed face out, so the covers will tantalise, entice and entreat you to buy. There are often recommendations to accompany the books. If not, your bookseller will be able to recommend a title to you. Booksellers are highly intelligent and well-read people. (I know many booksellers with degrees in children’s literature). These booksellers are voracious readers and they know their product. They may not like me saying this, but I think most booksellers are more passionate about finding the right book for their customers than making a profit.

A plea: please try to avoid the department chain stores which heavily discount popular titles. They buy books much more cheaply than book shops can and therefore sell them cheaper. But they are really making it hard for bookshops. The department store cannot offer the knowledge, expertise and service your local bookshop does. Just consider their presentation and selection of titles….both are lacking. So if you can afford it, pay a few dollars more and support your bookshop.  This will ensure they survive to support our reading future.

Librarians are also passionate about finding the right book for their patrons, and once again, their expert advice is free. Libraries are treasure troves of knowledge and recreation. Unlike the pristine books in a bookshop, your library contains volume upon volume of well-loved, slightly worn tomes. In older libraries there is even a slightly musty smell, which bibliophiles find tantalising. Your library is organised in beautiful Dewey decimal order and if you can’t find what you’re looking for, your librarian will only be too happy to assist.

Develop a relationship with your librarian and bookseller. Let them know that your child is a reluctant reader/new reader/voracious reader. They really are experts at recommending books for all types of readers. By becoming a regular customer in your bookshop or regular patron in your local library, your bookseller and librarian will look out for titles to recommend for you. There is nothing more exciting to a bookseller or librarian than promoting books and sharing the passion for reading.

When your children are young, get in the habit of making regular visits to your local library and utilise all the programs your library offers: story time, competitions, author visits. Make it a fun time and it will be something your child looks forward to. Make trips to your bookshop a special event. Even quality, second-hand bookshops can prove exciting as many have excellent children’s sections. It was in a second-hand bookshop that one of my daughters first discovered Trixie Belden books. This find eventually developed into a love of crime fiction, which contains a plethora of reading options from quick mysteries to the more sophisticated classic literary genre.

If you’re not convinced yet about visiting your local bookshop or library and taking advantage of the wonderful free, expert advice available consider this. If you are not confident enough to read aloud to your child (Rule Three), they will do it for you! Every library has story time for younger children and many offer it for older children too, or it may be incorporated into a teenage book club. Ask the Children and Youth Librarian what is available. Similarly, good bookshops offer story time and many also have readings, sometimes by the author. 

If your bookshop or library offers an author visit, make sure you go! Even if your library or bookshop has paid a fee for this, it is free for you. And talks by authors are fantastic! I have been privileged to hear many authors speak over the years, and not surprisingly, given that they deal with words every day, most authors are gifted speakers. Many are quite hilarious and will engage your child and make reading “cool” and enticing in a way that no-one else can.

There is not much in life that is free. Expert advice on books is free. Books from your library are free. A beautiful new book from your bookshop costs approximately the same as a movie ticket, but will offer more than 90 minutes of pleasure. Reading really is an affordable and accessible pastime. So when you want to get your child reading and don’t really know what book to borrow or buy, just ask an expert. It’s free.

© Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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