Let’s not beat around the bush with this one: reading and literacy matters. From helping children to develop their vocabulary skills to giving them better opportunities in life, reading has been proven time and time again to have a huge impact on the life of a child. Statistics only help to solidify what education professionals already know; reading for pleasure can have a greater impact on a child’s cognitive development than the educational background of their parents (source).
Without turning this into a post about statistics on reading and literacy for primary-aged children (and there would be plenty of material out there to do so), we’d like to turn our attention to capturing the imaginations and initiative of those who can really help to develop a child’s sense of reading for fun: parents. There isn’t any shortage of research or even anecdotal evidence that children imitate their parents from a young age, so it makes sense for schools to explore the opportunities relating to how parents currently enjoy reading; and if they don’t, how it can be remedied. In the case of working parents, the biggest barrier is in the form of time. The perception that it just takes too much time to properly engage children with literature is likely to be at the top of many lists, along with a general lack of enjoyment for reading among parents themselves.
How can we go about inspiring these parents? By speaking their language. We’re all digitally plugged in, from the moment we wake up to when we turn out the lights at night, and often beyond. Increasingly as new year groups start Key Stage 1, schools will find it harder to identify parents that are not already digitally literate. By making it something collaborative and relevant to parent and child, there is an opportunity to make it more appealing and immersive. All of this takes even more, time of course. With that in mind, we’ve brought together some enjoyable, engaging, and free website-based resources to pass on to parents.
Oxford Owl’s ebook Library
Oxford Owl is a well-known and vibrant resource aimed at engaging with younger children. Their website offers top tips on supporting a child’s learning by age, advice for parents and schools, and fun ideas and games to play at school or home. Our favourite resource, though, is the ebook directory. By signing up (for free), you can access more than 200 ebooks that have been put together for children aged 3-11. And with modern technology in mind, all of the ebooks listed are tablet-friendly, so parents don’t even need to unplug themselves, or their children, to get stuck in.
BBC KS1 Bitesize Games
Kids will absolutely love this one. The brightly coloured design of the website is second only to the creative gameplay in each mini-game. You can almost guarantee parents will be trying this too.
Adobe Flash Player is needed to access this game, but there is also an Android and iOS app for the mobile-savvy. There are actually several literacy-based word games on this website, but younger children might find these a bit challenging; the word scramble is a fairly tame starting point that most parents should be comfortable trying.
Starfall – Learn To Read
Another very simplistic flash-based game for children to play in a web browser on a computer or tablet. It’s not the most attractive of games, but the large picture and letter format makes it accessible and a great starting point for very early readers or children that have been struggling with literacy.
Topmarks Learn To Read & Spelling Games
The appeal in this series of games lies in the progression of difficulty, so there’s a good range for KS1 and KS2 pupils. Use the coloured tabs at the top of the page to sort the games by age range.
Education City – Look For More
This simple phonics games focuses on ‘ore’ words. It’s not at all time consuming, but it is one of the more attractive web-based games on this list, so it is more likely to keep pupils playing (and learning) for longer!
You could include each of these websites in your school’s planners – easily accessible for both students and parents. You could even ask parents to suggest their own literacy-based websites they have found with their child; a great way to introduce parents to getting involved with their child’s learning. This is particularly effective even if they aren’t well versed in the digital world; chances are their child will be, so it’s a great opportunity to learn.
Have you found any websites to be particularly useful in encouraging parents to get ‘hands-on’ with pupils’ literacy learning? We’d love to hear more.