EDUCATION: Why not start a new chapter for 2019?

Nothing beats the start of a new year for promises to ‘turn over a new leaf’ or start a ‘new chapter’. Ironically, we ignore the book metaphors and focus on diet, exercise and lifestyle changes in a bid to make this year better than the last one. But what about reading?

As parents, there are fewer more important habits to establish in our children, especially now that technology dominates play, and stress among young people is on the rise. Whether your child has dyslexia or rarely gets beyond the first few pages, here is a Top Ten of reading recommendations for 2019 to boost your child’s language skills and reignite their love of books:

  1. Indulge in an annual

For reluctant readers or children with reading difficulties, annuals and comics are a brilliant investment. They are also high interest reads so are great for motivation. Get one for half the price now that Christmas is over and leave them strategically placed on the sofa.

  1. Watch a review

Get YouTube on your side. Get your child to choose a book from a video review by another young person or go to the book trailers on .  Harness pester power: at school speak to your child’s teacher about pupils visiting another class to ‘sell’ a book they have enjoyed to a younger group of pupils, who will then come home and pester you for a copy.

  1. Mix books and film

Use your child’s natural interest in film to inspire interest in a related book. Watch the film in two sittings (with popcorn), withholding the final half of the film until a later date when your child has read a good amount of the book in the meantime. Remember: some reading is better than no reading and not every page needs to be read if progress through the pages is difficult.

  1. Stories to share

Go online and let your child choose from books that will ‘change your mind’, ‘inspire you’, ‘make your heart beat faster’ or ‘break your heart’. also has a great ‘100 Stories to Share’ section, grouped by age range and category.

  1. Listen to books – Audible not Alexa

Stories come from an oral tradition, not just because of historical illiteracy but because of the pleasure and power of listening to narrative. If your child is not a page turner, use time in the car or down time at home to put on a well-loved audio book. Your child will still get huge literacy benefits. If you don’t have a CD player, try Audible (with stories voiced by actors), but not Alexa – speech developed by artificial intelligence does nothing to develop a love of storytelling.

  1. Inspiring authors

The creative potential of dyslexia is now widely recognised. If your child has dyslexia, surprise them with one of the many brilliant books by dyslexic authors, including Sally Gardner, Henry Winkler, Jerry Pinkney, Stacey Campbell and Octavia Spencer, to name just a few. New titles for 2019 include: Cerrie Burnell (former CBeebies presenter) The Girl with the Shark’s Teeth and Tom McLaughlin’s You’ve Been Werewofed.

  1. What to read next

Keep your child on a roll.  has a ‘What to read after’ section for up-to-date recommendations of other books your child might like if they have enjoyed a particular author. Another goldmine is the ‘If You Love…’ page.

  1. Let pictures tell the story

Whatever your child’s age, don’t forget the allure of illustrations, inside a book as well as on a cover. Books by Anthony Browne or the Ottoline series by Chris Riddell, to name a few, are wonderful reads, with pictures as well as words helping propel the story forward (Ottoline creator Chris Riddell has just deservedly received a CBE services to literature, along with author Julia Donaldson).

  1. Invest in an e-reader

40% of poor readers and around 50% of dyslexics suffer from visual stress, which causes text to move, blur or go in and out of focus, making it doubly hard to stay on track as they read. E-readers like Kindle are not just convenient, they also make it possible to reduce visual stress, thanks to enlargement, definitions at the tap of a finger and the option to change font type and background colour. Double check that your child’s school allows e-readers and avoid popular brands with gaming capacity to avoid distraction.

  1. Storytime online

Get your child back into stories as a great way to relax at the end of the day with the wonderful storytime online videos read by authors and celebrities with . These carefully chosen stories are brilliantly narrated and a pleasure to watch.

Liz Hawker is a Tunbridge Wells parent, Dyslexia Specialist at both Primary and Secondary school levels and a linguist.

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