Can we encourage reading skills by embracing technology?
Friday 8th August marked Enid Blyton’s 120th birthday – so what better time to take a look at how reading has changed through the years?
Enid Blyton is responsible for fostering a love of reading in generations of children. Her books conjure up images of outdoor adventures; of friendships; of mysteries; of magic and of mischief.
In today’s society, her books may seem to be outdated but they epitomise what children should be doing: playing outside, exploring what the great outdoors has to offer, taking risks and making memories.
Encouraging children to read is much harder today, as parents are more time-poor than ever and children have their screens to keep them entertained. And we don’t just want children to read because they are told to; we want them to read for pleasure. The National Literacy Trust  observed that becoming a lifetime reader is based on developing a love of reading, and this love can be nurtured from a very young age.
Book Trust research  highlights the importance of parents starting to read books to their babies from an early age, as it aids the development of their language skills alongside igniting their love of books. It’s also a lovely way for parents to bond with their little ones.
Before they are ready to learn to read, babies and toddlers will observe the mechanics of reading: learning how to turn the pages and look at the words and pictures. They will begin to pick up books and pretend to ‘read’ them making up their own story or mimicking the stories they have heard. These early skills are an essential precursor to learning to read.
Children will enjoy reading more once they are competent and confident. To help your child get to this stage, you can read to them and encourage your child to read to you. There are also lots of apps, which, in addition to reading books, can support your child’s progress:
Endless Reader (ages 3-6 years)
This reading app introduces children to ‘sight words’ commonly used in written English. Children place letters correctly to form the word then drop the missing words (greyed out) into sentences.
Reading Eggs (ages 4-7 years)
This app makes learning to read easy and fun. It combines books with online reading games and activities. The programme is a great way for your child to prepare for school, or help them catch up with their classmates if they are struggling with reading.
Hairy Words/ Phonics (ages 4 -8 years)
This app series from Nessy is brilliant when it comes to building children’s phonic knowledge and their recognition of the high-frequency sight words. It helps children to become confident and competent readers in a fun and interactive way. There is also an app aimed at supporting children with dyslexia – Dyslexia Quest has been developed, researched and tested at the Bristol Dyslexia Centre to assess working memory, phonological awareness, processing speed, visual memory, auditory memory and sequencing skills.
For older children, an e-book may provide them with the motivation that they need to enjoy reading. The National Literacy Trust  found that children preferred to read on screen than on paper with more than half (52%) saying that they would rather read using electronic devices; just under a third (32%) said they would rather read in print.
Me Books is an independent e-Bookshop for children aged two to 10. Children can choose from hundreds of books from classics like Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit to modern favourites such as Peppa Pig and Disney’s Frozen. Me Books lets you and your little ones create personal editions of some popular picture books; children can themselves telling the story and play this back later, or even add their own sound effects so the story really comes alive.
Whether you choose to stick with printed books or decide to see what the app world has to offer, remember that in order for your child to enjoy reading, their confidence needs to be slowly developed. If your child is struggling to read then it will do more harm than good to keep pushing them – instead, think about what they enjoy doing and incorporate reading into this. For instance, if they like superheroes, get them reading comics. If they are struggling with phonics, make it fun with language games such as Sight Word Swat. And find books they want to read – rude, silly, funny stories are often appealing to young children.
 Reading for Pleasure – a research overview (National Literacy Trust) http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/assets/0000/0562/Reading_pleasure_2006.pdf
 A review of behavioural and brain development in the early years: the “toolkit” for later book-related skills (Book Trust) http://www.booktrust.org.uk/usr/library/documents/main/brain-development-review-executive-summary.pdf
 The Impact of ebooks on the Reading Motivation and Reading Skills of Children and Young People (National Literacy Trust) http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/assets/0002/3898/Ebooks_lit_review_2014.pdfTags: apps, dyslexia quest, hairy phonics, hairy words, learning to read, mebooks, nessy, Reading, sight word swat
This post was written by Claire Gillies