Enhancing Literacy in the Home
Lead by example: read as much as possible and let your child see you reading. Talk to your child about things that you have read.
Encourage reading as much as possible. Ensure that reading material is visible in your home. If your child enjoys reading novels, try to make sure that they have access to new material. If your child is unsure what to read next, you could ask your local librarian for recommendations or a quick online search should generate some ideas. Some helpful links are included below.
If your child enjoys reading online, there are apps such as Overdrive® that can be used to check out a library book onto a phone/tablet/kindle as long as your child has a public library card.
2) If your child tells you that she or he does not enjoy reading, don’t despair. It might be that they are less keen to read novels now than when they were younger. Sometimes this is because they feel they have less time because of homework, activities in the evenings, etc. Often though, this is due to an overwhelming choice of material for young readers. Your child will not necessarily be interested in the popular choice, so it’s helpful to be informed about less popular choices too.
3) Maybe your child genuinely doesn’t enjoy reading fiction at this age. Please persevere with trying to encourage your child’s reading through good quality reading in any format, eg. newspapers, magazines, etc. either in hard copy or online. The reading of any good quality material will help your child’s skills of decoding and understanding. A bonus of reading widely is that your child’s knowledge about how to write well will be enhanced. S/he will be more confident at using different sentence types; s/he will have a wider vocabulary and s/he will be more likely to use a wide range of punctuation in their own writing.
5) Don’t assume that your child is too old to be read to. Reading to your child is a tradition in many families that diminishes as children move towards being independent readers. Most children and teens still love being read to and it is also a nice way to share some time with your child. It can be especially helpful to get a reluctant reader started on a new novel. Once the story is introduced, many children will want to read on by themselves to find out what happens. If you aren’t confident about reading to your child, there are audiobooks available from public libraries and online (even sometimes on Youtube).
6) Think in simple, achievable steps: ten minutes of time spent reading per day will benefit your child immensely. This adds up to over sixty hours per year! If your child already reads daily, ten minutes extra will reap even more rewards.
7) Screen time at bed time? It is ideal to read from an actual book at bedtime. This will help your child to wind down and will prevent the temptations of the internet and social media. However, if your child prefers to use an electronic device to read, ensure that the lower night light setting is used. Blue light, which is the default setting for most electronic devices, is detrimental to sleep and should not be used. If possible, switch off the internet.
How can I help my child develop better writing skills?
Your child does not suddenly become an independent learner after making the move to secondary school. Check your child’s work. It is vitally important that you maintain procedures at home for checking your child’s work that would have been habitual at primary school. This enables you to advise your child about any errors they may have made and will encourage your child to proof-read, which remains a vital skill at any level of education. Even if your child doesn’t have homework, it is beneficial for your child to know you are interested in their work and you will check their books regularly. Particularly for writing, it is advisable to sit with your child and look over the extended pieces of writing they have done to check together for any areas to improve.
If you aren’t confident about correcting errors of spelling, encourage your child to use a dictionary (it is better to use a hard copy of a dictionary as this reinforces spelling as well as scan-reading skills).
If you aren’t confident about correcting punctuation, listen as your child reads their work aloud, one sentence at a time. Hopefully, you will hear where there should be a pause and you can then ask your child to decide if he or she should put in a punctuation mark at this part of the sentence. This strategy will also help your child to avoid long, confusing sentences when writing.
Handwriting should always be neat and legible. Cursive (joined-up) writing is best as it will enable your child to write in detail more quickly as he or she gets older and more content is demanded in written work. It is essential that your child’s handwriting is legible as there is a risk that at GCSE level, that their work will not be marked if handwriting isn’t clear.
Another feature of writing that pupils should start developing throughout secondary school is the ability to analyse material with an increasingly sophisticated level of detail. At Rathmore, teachers model the POINT, EVIDENCE, EXPLANATION (PEE) method as a way to help pupils structure their written responses to material they have learned about in class. For example, this could be a novel in English class, the use of a source in History class or even analysis of data in Science class. The pupils are taught that the EXPLANATION section should be the most detailed part of the PEE structure, in order to show their understanding as fully as possible. An example of this is on the back cover of the Key Stage 3 English books so that pupils (and parents) have a reference point to help with the development of this skill. As with any literacy skill, writing is enhanced through personal practice and through immersion in sophisticated examples of the skill in action. So, the more your child reads material of a high quality and the more he or she consciously practises writing in a controlled way, the more likely he or she will be to make excellent progress in this area.