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How to encourage children to read in foster care

As a foster carer, it’s imperative to understand the importance of encouraging your foster child to read. 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.

Research by Fantuzzo and Perlman (2007) found children in foster care show markedly poorer reading skills than their peers as early as second grade. In support of that, Book Trust’s research showed that nearly half of foster children were considered to be below average in their reading levels by their foster carers. The need to encourage children to read who have been in the care system is crucial – as Pears at al (2011) found that “early reading skills are an important predictor of later academic achievement and behaviour regulation”. So, how do you encourage children to read more?

How to get children to read

Encouraging your own children to read can generally be easier than with foster children. This is due to the fact that many young children in foster care could have undergone challenging situations and experiences that have affected their behaviour, meaning they may be generally more reluctant to read and enhance on their academic literary skills.

Follow these helpful tips for encouraging children to read in order to bring your foster children out of their shell and get them on their way to literary confidence!

1. Encouraging reluctant readers with rewards

If you’re struggling with getting your child to read in the first place, as a foster parent you may have to begin by managing their behaviour if they are showing signs of challenging behaviour. Once this is more controlled using our guide on behaviour management strategies, beginning to encourage children to start reading with you can be initiated by setting up a reward scheme. For example, if the foster child sits and reads with you for 30 minutes, they will be able to watch a certain television programme or have their favourite dessert.

However, this method of encouragement is only recommended if the child is reluctant to learning to read, as generally, it would be beneficial to have managed their behaviour to such an extent that they will comply if you tell them they are sitting down and reading with you. Of course, this can sometimes be a challenge when looking after foster children who have come from a hard background, so encouraging reluctant readers can be easier when a reward is involved.

2. Repetition

One of the strongest techniques when storytelling is to get the child to interact with the story, too. Halfway through reading them the story, you could ask the child what they think is going to happen at the end – which would test them to see if they’ve been listening, and also work on developing their oral 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 street; 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. This could be as simple as fairy tales and storybooks to more comprehensive books if they’re slightly older. Having access to this material will hopefully encourage them to take a story from the bookshelf and start reading for themselves!

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 the 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.

Action For Children has also put together a helpful storytelling and reading guide for foster parents which has some useful tips and tricks on how to encourage children to read more.

Now you’ve found out of 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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