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How to encourage children to read in Foster Care

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Reading is not just important for children to perform well academically but can also help your foster child develop imagination, creativity, empathy, and well-being. The joy of reading can be life-changing for foster children, teaching them how to articulate their feelings and validate their experiences through representation.

A study conducted by Book Trust highlights some interesting findings related to the effects that reading, or not reading, can have among children in foster care. The study found that over half of children in foster care were below average in their reading levels.

How to get children to read

Establishing a habit of reading from a young age is the most common way of developing a love for reading. However, as a foster carer, it can be more difficult to establish reading as a habit especially if you’re fostering an older child or if you’re establishing a reading routine for a child who has not experienced much routine in their life.

1.         Encouraging reluctant readers with rewards

Some children will not enjoy reading naturally. If their reading level is lower than their age, or if they struggle with dyslexia or other educational needs, they might feel worried or anxious about reading. As a foster carer, it’s important to reassure your foster child if they are worried about reading. Positive reinforcement is a good strategy to encourage reading. You could reward reading time with another activity your foster child enjoys, or even with a simple sticker chart.

2. Repetition

Establishing a reading routine is one of the best ways for your foster child to build a positive relationship with books. If you’re caring for a younger foster child, you can incorporate reading into their bedtime routine, as it’s a proven method to keep them calm and relaxed before bed. For an older child, you should encourage them to take half an hour before bed to read, instead of interacting with screens and devices.

For younger children, you could ask your foster child to interact with the story too. Halfway through reading to them, you could ask the child what they think is going to happen at the end, building their listening and comprehension skills. When you have finished reading the story, ask the child what their favourite part was – as this will enable them to pick out points of interest for them and engage more with the story. If you repeat this in every story you tell, they’ll also come to expect it, which will get them actively listening more and pre-empting the questions.

3. Turn reading into a game

Even when storytime is over, ensure that reading becomes a game for them! Ask them to read out a certain dish on the menu at a restaurant; signs across the road; or movie names – soon, they’ll become confident at reading external material in or outside the house and start reading it voluntarily themselves.

4. Enhance reading material

Surround your foster child with lots of material around them that they can pick up and read if they wish to. You can also take regular trips to your local library to allow your foster children to pick up books that they’re interested in.

5. Let them choose their storybook

Stepping back and letting them decide what you read together is important, and it establishes their interests and dislikes. That’s why branching out on the reading material you provide for your child is important – as it will demonstrate that there is a wealth of content and stories out there to be read, and it’s up to you to help them find their forte!

6. Incorporate technology

Technology for storybooks is an ever-increasing domain which makes getting children to read all the easier for foster parents. Using a tablet or an iPad, there are various apps you can download for children to learn to read – as well as the option for eReaders, such as Kindles, that they can have access to a plethora of material at the touch of a button! And don’t worry – you can always choose what level of access children have on the tablet settings.

7. Reading, reading, and more reading!

Like any skill, foster children’s reading skills will only improve through repeating the action. It’s beneficial to read as many stories as you can each day to children, making sure they can see the book you’re reading, too, so they can highlight and learn the words. That way, they’ll come to expect stories being told – which would encourage them to not only want you to tell them stories but eventually, read books themselves, too.

Now you’ve found some handy suggestions on how to get children to read, it’s time to use them on your foster children. If you ever need any fostering support, our expert team are always on hand to help – contact us for more help and information on encouraging children to read today.

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