The important gift you can offer your grandchildren

As my four children grew up, I put certain things away for the grandkids: the Duplo, the Lego, Junior Scrabble, a bag of marbles and … hundreds of books, including the one I received after completing grade one!

The grandkids deserve our unqualified love, patience, care, moral and behavioural guidance and lots of reading time – and I mean book time, not device time.

I believe reading skills are the foundation to a confident life. Children who struggle to read may struggle – at least for a time – in other areas. If they cannot read with ease, they may not be able to understand maths, the social sciences, street signs.

A recent study conducted by Curtin and Edith Cowan Universities found that more than one-quarter of primary school-aged respondents claimed they were never read to at home. Families may be time-poor, but finding time to read aloud to them is vital.

Reading with the grandkids seems a simple enough task, but is there any expert advice that may be useful? Here are five tips, as reported in The Conversation.

1. Give it all your attention
It’s probably pointless to read to the grandkids if they are restless, hungry or just plain cranky, so pick your time and then give it all your attention. Switch off phones and other devices, and don’t read with the TV or radio on in the background. Make sure you are all comfortable and read with animation. You’re sure to lose them if you read in a monotone.

2. Engage with the story and the child
Keep your grandchild involved. Ask questions, repeat words, point to words or images, let them control the pace. Be prepared to read the same book many times if it is their favourite. For older grandchildren, ask them what they think will happen next. Make them think. Share your response to a book and get them to do likewise.

3. There’s no age limit
Start reading to your grandchild as early as you can engage them. It might only be for a matter of seconds at first, but even that will hopefully nurture a love of books and may set them up with confident reading skills before they head to school.

And never give up. Research in the UK found struggling adolescent readers made remarkable gains in reading comprehension when books were read to them at school.

4. Pick a book you both enjoy
When they’re very young, let your grandchild pick from a selection. Later on, try to broaden the offering beyond what you know they like.

Don’t be afraid to start reading chapter books to them while they’re very young. The child’s attention span will determine when you can do this, but it’s possible to start while they’re still pre-schoolers. Just make sure the story isn’t too complex.

5. Don’t worry too much about your style
Not all of us are destined to be award-winning voice actors, but try to use expression and adopt different voices for the characters in a book.

If you can, take the grandkids to your local library. You could go for reading time sessions or just to explore and borrow.

What importance do you place on reading aloud to the grandchildren? Were you read to as a child? Did you read aloud to your children?

Written by Janelle Ward

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