Reading at home

Parents want the best for their children, and one of the most powerful things you can do is to help your children become readers for life.


Help your child become a reader
Provide access to resources
Reading aloud
Talking about books
Being a reading role model
Online resources about books and reading
Further reading
Help your child become a reader brochures

Help your child become a reader

Research shows that your involvement in your child's reading and learning is more important than anything else in helping them to fulfil their potential. Children who are familiar with books and stories before they start school are better prepared to cope with the demands of formal literacy teaching.

  • Reading together is fun and helps build relationships.
  • Books contain new words that will help build your child's language and understanding.

The same elements described in a School's reading culture apply at home too - children and young adults read more when:

  • they are read to - even when they can read themselves
  • they see adults around them reading, demonstrating reading as part of their everyday lives
  • they have access to books - plenty of resources and a variety of resources.

Download the 'Help your child become a reader' brochure, now available in English, Māori, Cook Island Māori, Samoan, Tongan, Niuean and Tokelauan.

Provide access to resources

Children read more when they are surrounded by print and have access to a variety of reading material. Strategies for increasing books in the home include:

  • discuss with your child's school /school library what your options are for borrowing resources, eg: read-aloud chapter books for bedtime reading
  • use your local public library 
  • swap books with other families
  • visit specialist children's booksellers, or bookshops with knowledgeable staff to discover the best resources available
  • gift books or book tokens for birthdays and Christmas
  • visit second-hand bookshops or buy second-hand books online
  • author Anne Fine's website My home library has Tips and Tricks for developing a home library. Use her free bookplates - created by notable children's book illustrators - to create a sense of ownership in new or secondhand books.

"The most obvious step [to creating readers] is to provide access to books." Krashen (2004).

Make time, place and routines for reading

  • Mem Fox says reading for 15 minutes each day or being read to, helps children become excellent readers, writers and thinkers. It could be in 3 lots of 5 minutes. It isn’t much time but it makes a huge difference.
  • Bedtime reading makes a big impact. Especially when children are read books with ideas, and vocabulary at a higher level than they can read at themselves. As they get better at reading children will often gradually move to reading to themselves at bedtime. But they will still enjoy and benefit from being read to long after they can read to themselves.

Reading aloud

 the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success is reading aloud to children…” Richard C Anderson (1985)  Becoming a Nation of Readers: The Report of the Commission on Reading

Reading aloud to your children every day will help them become great readers and listeners. But most of all they will love you for doing it with them and will remember your time reading together all their lives! When you read to your child, you are saying:

  •   I love you
  •   I value my time with you
  •   I love reading and think it is important.

Find out more about Reading aloud

Talking about books

Talking helps children become readers too so when you are reading together:

  • look at books and talk about the pictures
  • talk about what you’ve just read
  • point out interesting details in the illustrations
  • predict or wonder what will happen next
  • share feelings about the book
  • tell your children your family’s own stories and encourage them to tell them to you too.

Listen to your children read

It is helpful for parents to know some positive “helping strategies” when listening to their children read. Ask your child's teacher for strategies such as 'Pause Prompt Praise

Being a reading role model

 “Your child walks like you, talks like you, and absorbs everything you do. So set the right example when it comes to reading. If you want your child to be a good reader, be one yourself!” Be a reading role model for your child (Scholastic)

  • Make sure your children see you reading - often parents do most of their recreational reading when their children are in bed. 
  • Talk about what you are reading with your children, and share your favourites from your childhood.
  • When you make it clear that reading is part of your everyday life, you’ll find that reading becomes part of their lives, too.

image by Remko Tanis

Let children choose their reading and keep reading fun!

One of the best ways to encourage your children to read is to give them plenty of reading which is fun.

  • Keep it light and easy
  • Don’t underestimate how much reading happens with comics, magazines or graphic novels
  • Formula fiction may not win awards for great literature, but when a child hooks into a favourite series and reads them all their reading mileage soars

Light reading often leads to heavier reading once the reading habit is formed. We all read in different ways and Daniel Pennac’s Readers Bill of RIghts is a good message for all readers - young and old.

Reader's Bill of Rights

  1. The right to not read 
  2. The right to skip pages
  3. The right to not finish
  4. The right to reread
  5. The right to read anything
  6. The right to escapism
  7. The right to read anywhere
  8. The right to browse
  9. The right to read out loud
  10. The right to not defend your tastes”

Read more about helping children choose books for reading pleasure.

Keep teens reading

All about adolescent literacy: how parents can encourage teens to read has a list of tips to encourage teens to read.

Read more about engaging teens with reading

Importance of summer reading

Keep reading and writing happening over the summer holidays. Many children, especially struggling readers, forget some of what they've learned or slip out of practice during the summer holidays. Reading to your child and encouraging them to read and write over the holidays helps prevent the 'summer slide' - when they lose the gains they've made over the year.

Read more about the summer slide and how you can help.

Online resources for parents about books and reading

GuysRead is a website to inspire boys' reading

Jim Trelease, a well-known and passionate advocate for reading aloud to children. His website includes downloadable brochures about families and reading.

Public libraries kids' stuff

Christchurch City Libraries

Wellington City Libraries

Auckland City Library websites

ReadKiddoRead has been created by prolific US author James Patterson, to help hook kids into reading.

Find great kids books and authors from Reading Rockets.

Further reading

Bookstart inspiring a love of books in every child. 

Reading connects family involvement toolkit (PDF)The UK National Literacy Trust's free downloadable toolkit.

Getting the blokes on board (PDF) The UK National Literacy Trust's free downloadable toolkit.

Top Tips for engaging Dads is a one-page summary of great tips

Booktrust Get Dad's Reading.

Reading for Life website, from the UK Literacy Trust is worth exploring for reading ideas.

Bettelheim, B. & Zelan, K. (1982). On learning to read: a child's fascination with meaning. Penguin.

Fox, M. (2005). Reading magic: how your child can learn to read before school, and other read-aloud miracles. 
Sydney: Pan.

Jennings, P. (2003). The reading bug: and how you can help your child to catch it. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin.

Krashen, S.D. (2004).The power of reading: insights from the research. 2d ed. Westport CT: Libraries Unlimited & Portsmouth NH: Heinemann.Leonhardt, M. (2003). Parents who love reading, kids who don’t: how it happens and what you can do about it. New York: Crown Publishers and: Random House.

Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report. SIte includes latest edition (and past editions) of the report along with downloads of infographics. Looks at "views of both kids and parents on reading in the increasingly digital landscape and the influences that impact kids’ reading frequency and attitudes toward reading."

Trelease, J. (2006). The read-aloud handbook. 6th ed. New York: Penguin. This book includes a comprehensive list of read aloud suggestions.

Wells, Rosemary, Read to your bunny,  [Includes downloadable PDFs] picture book author and illustrator provides support for reading especially to young children.

Help your child become a reader brochures

Download the following brochures for tips and strategies for reading together with your children with the emphasis on reading for pleasure.

Image: Reading by Bigalid on Flickr