I was a teacher for a long time before I became a full-time author. During those years I’ve seen the complete spectrum when it comes to reading. From children who’ll walk into things because they won’t put their book down to kids who feel ambivalent until they find just the right book to kids who downright hate reading. For some children, it is all about finding the right book – the one whose characters speak to them and they can’t wait to find out what happens next, for others, the mechanics of reading can be such a struggle and we all know if something is hard and we’re not enjoying it then sometimes we just don’t want to do it. Helping children learn to read is giving them a superpower. Reading changes children’s lives and it’s so important to persist.
I think a big part of helping kids want to read is reading aloud to them. We all know that it’s beneficial to read to young children – they hear the language and the rhythm and the rhyme and often mimic the words and actions. Small children are like language sponges – soaking it all in. But please don’t stop sharing stories just because your child can read for themselves. As an educator, I implore teachers to read aloud to their classes. That sounds like a no brainer – of course teachers read to their classes but can I tell you, I’ve seen and heard some things lately that made me weep. Putting a PDF of a book on a screen and telling the class to read it collectively is not fun for anyone – not for the kid who reads the page in a split second nor the kid who gets halfway through before the page turns. What is fun, is the teacher reading in character with all the funny voices and expressions. And if teachers aren’t confident reading aloud, then there are gazillions of audio books to share (though I still think there is nothing more relatable as the teacher reading). I fell in love with stories hearing my teachers read them aloud to us. As a teacher it was my favourite thing to do – and I still love it to this day. I write my books ‘out loud’ so that I know they’ll work as read alouds. So – kids – make sure that your teachers (and parents) read to you – and teachers and parents, I really do believe there is nothing more joyous than a shared story.