Ask Prof Mike: Encouraging talking, reading confidence as an adult, and reading the same stories over and over again...

Published on: 02 May 2022

Every month, Writer in Residence Michael Rosen will answer your burning questions about encouraging strong reading habits in children.

Can you give me some tips around how to encourage my son to start talking using books?

Give him time to explore the pages with you. A good book is likely to provoke him into asking questions or saying things. If not, just try 'noticing' things yourself as you go along: 'Ooh look at that lion! It's got a hat on!' That sort of thing 'models' how we can make comments about books as we go along.

I'm not a very confident reader myself and really struggled with reading at school. How can I help my child be a reader when I'm not one?

You don't have to read every word. Actually you don't have to read any words. You can make up stories together, looking at the pictures. Most picture books for young children have enough stories in the pictures for you to create little stories as you go along. Remember you can say 'I wonder if...' and make up stories about what you wonder might happen just out of sight of what's actually in the picture.

Is it OK if my kids want me to read the same three books over and over again at bedtime?

YES! Each time a child hears the same story they are making new discoveries. Some of these are discoveries IN the book, bits they hadn't noticed before. Other discoveries are discovering the strange mystery of how the story stays the same even though life in between the last time the child heard the book, has changed. Another discovery is in the area of whether the emotion you had last time can or will happen again - the joke, the scary moment or whatever. This is, if you like, the way we learn how stories work.

Finally, the great thing about 'doing' a book over and over again, is that the child learns the book off by heart. This is also very valuable from a language learning point of view: the child learns the tricks and voices of what is called 'standard English' - the language of books, newspapers, education, government and administration. All that may seem to be a long way off from the book they're reading, but actually it's a huge first step into the language of whole sentences.

More tips from Prof Mike: Reading to babies, making books a routine, and how to join a library

Have you got a question for Prof Mike? Let us know on Twitter or via email.

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