My daughter has reached that gorgeous age where she believes she has the power to read everything and anything. She shouts out letters she recognises on street signs, in newspapers, in books that I’m reading. Over and over again it makes me wonder what it must be like to experience the big wide world opening up, finding out you can finally understand things that you never thought you could. Seeing her pick up a book and have the confidence to give it a go is one of the loveliest things to witness.
On the flip side, this also makes me sad for the children that this doesn’t happen to. I’ve been so fortunate to have 2 children that enjoy reading, hugely helped by a school that teaches the basics so well. Books are celebrated at home and at school so they don’t really have much excuse! But at the same time there is a big proportion of children who just don’t get the same opportunities. I had a brief insight into how big a problem it is when I volunteered for the reading charity Beanstalk. https://www.beanstalkcharity.org.uk/ I just thought I’d mention it in case anyone was looking for some volunteer work, that is easily accessible. Basically, after a little bit of training, you will be given the opportunity to go into a local school and read, twice a week, with 3 children that need that little bit of extra help. Alongside the reading, you can play games, spend a bit of time chatting, do puzzles, word-searches, anything to give them a bit of time out of the classroom and a real confidence boost.
When I was involved, I worked with 3 year 5 boys, which was daunting at first as my previous experiences were only with the really little ones. However, it ended up being a really gratifying time (hopefully for all of us and not just me!) The boys really got stuck in, and I just about managed to change their opinion that ‘books are boring.’ I’m not saying they became avid readers, but I definitely helped remove the fear factor, and together we found some books they enjoyed. Most importantly, or I believe anyway, the experience gave the boys some chill out time, in what is now a pretty fast and frenetic life. You can’t get past the fact that children see books as old-school when compared to computers. ipads, PS4’s and so on. But that isn’t a bad thing. Books slow children down, make them look at subjects in more detail, and most importantly can be shared with an adult who really cares. It really is the most rewarding experience when a child asks to read the book you found for them the week before because they were enjoying it so much. Now that’s not something they would admit to in class, in front of their friends, maybe even their family, but because of the time you’ve invested in them they trust you not to make them look silly. It’s a real bond, made over books, that will stay with them forever. Priceless.
So, if you have a few hours a week free, then I would seriously recommend having a look at Beanstalk. You get lots of support and they will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. If you haven’t got any spare time, as your hands are full with your own children then do what you can to carve out those precious few minutes to sit down and read with them. 10 minutes a day has been repeatedly proven to work wonders for not only their reading skills, but also concentration, writing, communication and an overall feeling of security. I know myself how difficult it can be, but I believe the long-term gain has to outweigh any short-term disruption. And it won’t be forever! Once they are confident readers you too will be able to get back to that novel that you have always been meaning to finish.