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Read on, get on - tips for learning to read

Have you heard about Read On. Get On.? This ambitious campaign aims to have every child having good language skills by 2020 and able to read well by 2025.

The impact of struggling with literacy really hit home last week when I was travelling by train. A teenager and his younger brother approached me and asked me when the next train to Preston was.

I obligingly helped out and told him, but if there had been no one else on that platform he would have had no idea. Let alone be able to read where the train was going when one was at the station. I talk about literacy being a life skill all the time and this really made it clear how important it is. 

A recent report has found that 4 out of 10 children in some areas leave primary school unable to read. Children who read well by 11 do better at school, get better exam results and do better in the workplace. And the impact of poor reading is significant: new research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that, among children from poor families, the best readers will go on to earn 20% per hour more on average at age 40 than those with the weakest reading skills. That could be equivalent to an extra day's wages each week.

It's worth taking the time to think about how we support literacy and how we can help children who struggle to read.

Here are the top tips from the campaign; it's worth reflecting on how you build these into your practice and how you share them with parents so they can help their children.

1. Read anywhere and everywhere. While you are out with your children doing daily activities, read signs, letters, numbers and logos – so they know that writing means something.

2. Don’t just read books. Read anything – newspapers, comics, magazines, emails, mobile texts, electronic devices, road signs or even shop posters.

3. Be positive. Praise your child for trying hard at their reading. Let them know it’s all right to make mistakes. Turn off the TV! It’s easier for your child to concentrate if there are no distractions.

4. Children love to copy adults. If you sit down with a book or magazine for ten minutes, it doesn’t just give you a break, it sets a great example for your kids too.

5. Don’t read for too long. A good ten minutes is better than a difficult half hour.

6. Chat – talk about things you see in the book – who’s in it, what they did and where they went.

7. Let them read their favourites. It’s good practice to read the same books over and over again.

8. Act it out. Children can act out stories, this will help them to learn to tell stories based on what they’ve read and heard.

9. Ways with words. Talk about what different words mean and tell your child the name for anything they don’t know. This is how children learn new words and helps them to become better readers.

10. Tell stories together. Talking about your day and what you did means sharing time with your child. We tell stories all the time, both real and made up and these stories can help your child become a reader and a writer of stories.

You can find out more about helping children to develop the foundation language skills needed for reading from the Talking Point website and I CAN websites. You find out more about Read on. Get On. including top tips and opportunities to volunteer from the website.

We know that language and literacy are fundamental skills that improve young people's outcomes. The Read On. Get On. campaign aims to support the development of children's language and literacy skills.

If you are interested in more information on this area there is research highlighting the need for the campaign, along with tips to share with parents and opportunities to get involved on the website.

Read the 'Ready To Read' Report published recently by the Read On. Get On. campaign about the importance of supporting children’s early language. PACEY's Chief Executive was involved in the call for evidence for the report, and PACEY supports the work of the coalition. We all need to work together to ensure that we change the story for our children and give them the language and literacy skills they need to thrive. 

About the author

Amanda Baxter is a speech and language therapist who specialises in working with early years practitioners and families with young children. As a Communication Advisor for I CAN, she delivers training to early years professionals and supports them to develop their practice. She also works on I CAN’s Enquiry Service providing information, advice and support for practitioners and parents.  Amanda has worked in children's centres and as a Local Authority Early Language Consultant. 

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