The single biggest way to support children academically and emotionally at home is to encourage them to read. The importance of fostering a positive relationship between home and school is highlighted by Ofsted in their ‘Schools and Parents’ report (2011) –

“Parental engagement can be a powerful lever for raising achievement in schools and there is much research to show the value of schools and parents working together to support pupils’ learning.”

This is a guide to help boost reading confidence by encouraging families to have fun sharing books at home, even after children start to read on their own.

Reading together in a fun and relaxed way not only helps children get hooked on reading, but it is also one of the best ways for families to bond, spend quality time together and make memories that will last a lifetime. Sharing books with children and talking about the story will also help to deepen understanding and develop language.

Top Tips to get you started:

  • Arrange a visit to the local library or invite a member of the local library service into school to give a talk. Send information home to parents about joining the library, reassure them about potential barriers such as late fees, and inform them about events that are currently running. You can encourage them to have fun choosing new books and finding favourite authors. This could be followed up with details of new book releases and book reviews, to help maintain interest and engagement.
  • Signpost families to helpful websites, such as Book Trust and National Literacy Trust. These sites also include tips for reluctant readers, activities to do with your child at home, a book finder and tips for reading with your child.
  • Make a book list of ‘Recommended Reads’ for different classes or year groups – including contributions from the children and teaching staff. This could also spark discussions at home about the books different family members enjoyed sharing as a child. 
  • Set up a school or class reading display of photographs sent in from home celebrating books that have been read outside of school and supporting the idea that reading can happen anywhere! You may get a picture of someone reading a book in a homemade den or cuddling up on the sofa with their pet.
  • Share the benefits of reading, not just academically but also the positive and more recently vital part it can play in promoting good mental health and well-being. The benefits of reading are well documented and include; reducing stress levels and nurturing calmness, increasing vocabulary enabling children to better articulate their thoughts, ideas and feelings, offering an ‘escape’ into another imaginative world or helping children to understand difficult issues, through the words of others.
  • Demonstrate the value of audiobooks to parents who might lack confidence or experience reading aloud. Audible make a charge for their audiobooks, but local libraries offer a selection of audio stories. Teachers could also record and share videos of themselves reading books or send home links to audio downloads.
  • Just making one small change can make an enormous difference. If families pledge to include just one idea into their home routine, it can have a very positive impact. It’s also important for parents to know that they don’t have to do everything all at once!
  • It’s important to make sure reading books sent home are accurately matched to the abilities of the pupil. You will find special Home Reading collections from Badger Learning, which have been specifically put together for children and parents to read at home, to ensure children are not only entertained but also to ensure they continue to make progress in their reading. Children who struggle with reading will need books that are appealing to their interests and emotional and social needs but with a simpler, more accessible text. Badger Learning and Barrington Stoke both have a wide range of appropriate resources. 
  • Provide a leaflet for parents and carers to give them ideas and inspiration on how to get started or improve their experiences of sharing books at home. Download our free PDF leaflet which can be printed and sent home in book bags, or attached to emails and sent to parents directly.

Here are 5 ways for families to have fun reading at home:

1 – Be curious

Asking questions and talking about the book is a great way to form connections, develop understanding and make reading even more enjoyable. Start by discussing the front cover and what it suggests the book could be about. Then share ideas about what you’ve been reading. You could talk about the characters, something that has surprised you, what something reminds you of or how it made you feel.

You might ask questions like, “how did it make you feel when….”, “why do you think this happened?”, or “what do you think will happen next?” then give children plenty of time to think and respond.

Make sure you give your child the chance to ask questions too. Children, (and adults!), often enjoy reading the same book again and again – this provides an important opportunity for children to get to know the story well, develop confidence and increase comprehension and vocabulary.

2 – Be playful

Start by making a calm and comfortable place for your family to relax and read independently or together. You might be reading the same book together, reading different things at the same time or getting your children to read together. This can be relaxing and fun for you all and just a few minutes each day can have a big impact on children of all ages. Be guided by your child and when you feel is the best time to read together – what matters most is that they enjoy it.

Why not try acting out your favourite parts of the story together, using different voices and dramatic actions. Have fun letting go!

Helping your child to see reading as play time rather than work time is one of the most powerful ways to help your child engage in books and become a lifelong reader.

3 – Be creative

Bring reading to life by getting involved in some crafty activities related to the book. It provides the perfect opportunity to talk about the story you’ve been reading too.

Why not try drawing some of the characters or creating a picture to show a different setting. You could then use these to retell the story or make up your own version.

4 – Be imaginative

Help engage your child in a way that suits them. This could mean creating treasure hunts that include finding similar objects that were in the book you shared, making a recipe that you read together or play a game where you pretend to be the characters in the book. Try using different voices, sound effects or actions as you read. If that all sounds too much, how about making a book tent with a blanket and some pegs – it could be a cave, a den or a castle depending on the story you are sharing.

Gift books as presents. Encourage book swaps between friends and family and encourage your child to always carry a book with them, so they are never bored! on the bus, while waiting for a sibling to do an activity, or when they need a bit of quiet in a busy household.

5 – Be ready to read anywhere, anytime!

Reading isn’t limited to storybooks! We are immersed in a world of print, which can be shared anywhere and at any time. Read yourself and help your child to join in, this could be anything, including…magazines, postcards, comic books, travel brochures, sports programmes, toy boxes, or labels on clothing and food. Local libraries are perfect for finding a rich and diverse mix of story and factual texts, as well as poetry and audiobooks.