This is a great little piece from Rad Dad & teacher Nick. We love our reading here at Kids in Adelaide, so we’re really glad Nick was able to put this piece together for us.

Your children are never too old to read to!

There is much research on the benefits of reading to and with children and how to develop reading skills in emergent readers, but once children become fluent and independent with their reading many parents stop reading to them. This is a real shame and a lost opportunity to bond with your child, develop comprehension skills and model good reading practice. I am sure there are a myriad of reasons why reading to your child stops. Partly it is because the books they read get longer and can’t be completed in a single sitting, partly it is because children no longer require you to read to them as part of the bedtime routine before they go to sleep, partly it is because night time is so busy it is nice for parents to reclaim some of the night for themselves.

Children from about the age of 9 onward often plateau in their reading development, lose interest in reading and struggle to find age appropriate reading materials. This is where reading to and with your child can be really beneficial.

Why is reading to fluent readers so important?

Reading to already fluent readers is an essential part of further developing their comprehension. Once your child can read fluently they are probably able to decode most texts you give them, but just because they can decode the words, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are understanding what they are reading. Reading to your older children and getting them to read to you gives you a better understanding of their true comprehension as you can ask questions and discuss what is happening in the text.

It also gives you the opportunity to model good reading and expression, and develop inferential comprehension. Most fluent readers get to a stage where they can understand anything literal in the text, but it is their inferential comprehension that needs development.

What can you do to help your older child develop as a reader while reading to them?

To help your child develop both their reading and comprehension there are several things that you can do.

  1. Be Dramatic: Use expression, create voices for the characters and be a little melodramatic as you read. This will not only make the reading experience enjoyable for your child it will help them to see and hear the effects different forms of punctuation have on a piece writing.
  2. Talk: Talk about the book and characters as you read to your child, get them to make predictions, justify their thinking and point out features of the text that made them make that prediction. This is all part of inferring, an important part of the comprehension process.
  3. Share: Share some of your favourite books from when you were a child and then get them to share some of their favourite stories. Some of my favourite childhood memories involve my parents reading Roald Dahl books to me. Sharing your favourite books will expose them to a broader variety of authors and genres. There is strong evidence to suggest that exposing children to a variety of authors and text types not only helps their reading but also benefits their writing.
  4. Read Sections: If the text your child is reading is a bit long, just read sections of it with them. Or take it in turns reading a page each. Reading to your child enables them to access text and language that they might not be quite be developmentally ready for, so each session you read and discuss the text is like a mini extension session.

What else can you do to help your child’s reading if they don’t want you to read to them anymore?

Some children won’t actually want you to read to them anymore, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t help develop their reading. Don’t despair, there are several things you can still do;

  1. Read parts of the book they are reading and show interest, and have discussions about the book.
  2. Become involved in the process of choosing books. Contact the school or local librarian, they often have a wealth of knowledge about the books that are popular and series similar to those your child enjoys.
  3. Read in front of your child. As a parent you are a role model, if you show them that you value reading, they are more likely to develop a respect for and see value in reading.

Reading is one of the most important life skills you can help your child develop; it can be done daily, won’t cost you much money, will develop a stronger bond between you and your child and will help set them up for life. Hopefully some of these tips will encourage you to continue to read to your child well into their twenties…okay at least into their teens.

Nick is a passionate educator, father of 3 and sports fan. He has experience in teaching and leadership in South Australia and the ACT.  Nick’s areas of expertise are in Language and literacy and STEM education (Science Technology Engineering Maths). Nick has been a friend of the Kids In Adelaide team for 20 years- and we all felt incredibly old when we worked out how long we’d known each other!