Imagine Another World and #KEEPKIDSREADING
As we enter a new year, we once again find ourselves taking on the role of home educators, many of us with only the experience of the previous lockdown to use as a reference point. We all want to do the best for our children. We want to look after their mental health while simultaneously providing the best possible education for them — all within in a climate for which we have never been trained. But we did it in the spring, and we can do it again. You’ll be feeling tired. Possibly daunted. We all are. But this blog is here to remind you of the tools that already exist within you and at your fingertips.
There are a huge number of digital resources out there, and once again, schools will be sharing links with families on what systems they are using to keep children learning their school subjects. While we can rely on the proficiency of our amazing teachers to signpost these resources and direct us in teaching opportunities, there is also a hugely important additional way we can support our children academically and emotionally — to encourage them to read.
The benefits of reading are well documented, in fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that they can be life-changing. Harnessed in the right way, reading can become a super-power, unleashing the following remarkable effects that are needed now more than ever:
- The power of calm: reading can significantly reduce stress levels, lowering our heart rates and reducing muscle tension — and who hasn’t had their fair share of that in 2020?
- The power of opportunity: reading has the power to impact results in school and future salary more than anything else we know of.
- The power of knowledge: reading increases our vocabulary and knowledge about the world, often without us even realising it.
- The power of imagination: reading offers us an escape from reality, however temporary. It unlocks our ability to dream, and create visual representations across the furthest reaches or our imaginations. We may be locked in our houses, but when we read, we can go wherever we want.
- The power of connection: reading stops us feeling alone, despite even the physical isolation in which we currently find ourselves. As James Baldwin put so perfectly:
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read”.
So, we’ve listed the immense benefits of reading, but what good does that do if our children are — understandably — difficult to motivate? Trying to force them will just make a stressful situation even worse. So here are our ten top tips to make the process a little bit easier:
- Don’t attempt too much. Be kind to yourself and accept that some days will be better than others.
- Prioritise happiness and enjoyment over achieving goals or reaching certain milestones.
- Consider the different ways you could enjoy stories. Snuggle up with a warm drink and listen to an audiobook. Audible has promised that for as long as schools are closed, their stories are free to stream. Encourage your children to write reviews, think critically and rate their best bits. Why not recommend your childhood favourites?
- Read to them — it still counts! And younger children especially will love it! Read aloud. Do the voices. Have some fun. Play a character. Be silly. Bring the words to life. Encourage them to join in.
- Dip in and out — and when the going gets tough, stop. Reading is not time-dependent, nor a linear task to be completed. And it isn’t a crime to start one book without finishing another!
- Let yourself be led. Listen to your child about which books interest them and which don’t. It might evolve into an interesting discussion. Let them read the IKEA catalogue if they can justify it!
- Structure a routine as best you can. Break everything into bite-sized chunks and allow your child to digest them one-by-one. Even a few minutes of reading a day will gradually add up. Reading in instalments or chapters could build up investment in a plot, to be devoured the next day like a long-awaited TV episode.
- Be patient. It might begin as a chore, but will hopefully become a treat, or at the very least, a moment of dependability in an unstable world.
- Encourage your child to start a virtual book club or reading group with their friends, swapping recommendations and ideas.
- Use the internet in a healthy way. Follow hashtags such as #unitedbybooks and #keepkidsreading. Harvest inspiration. But never compare yourself to others.
We hope this advice helps. We’re with you, and we’ll be here after we all emerge from this moment in time, hopefully with a renewed appreciation for all we’ve missed, as well as for those shining lights that have helped to lead us out of the tunnel. We hope your children discover the glow of a bookshelf this lockdown.