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Reading aloud is key

5 February 2007

The Family Reading Campaign recently launched by the National Literacy TrustUK-based organisation which has campaigned since 1993 to improve literacy standards across all age groups. Excellent research information and details of the many initiatives the charity is currently involved in. It also has a useful page of news stories on UK literacy, which links to newsletter in the UK to encourage parental involvement in developing their children's literacy skills provides useful information which is internationally applicable.

You might ask why parents should become involved in their children's literacy activities? Isn't that the schools' job? The evidence shows that the benefits of parents' involvement is overwhelming. It positively affects the child's academic performance throughout the school years, leading to higher academic achievement, greater cognitive competence and greater problem-solving skills, as well as greater enjoyment of school, better attendance and fewer behavioural problems at school.

In particular reading with parents was highlighted and parental involvement in their child's reading has been found to be the most important determinant of language and emerging literacy amongst children. Amazingly, it is a more powerful force than social class, family size or level of parental education.

This ties in with the campaign by the current Children's Laureate, Jacqueline Wilson, to encourage parents to read aloud with their children. When she was appointed, the new Laureate said: 'I want to use this time to spread the word about reading. I want to make children feel that reading is cool and enjoyable and not boring, and I'm going to do my hardest to try to convey that.'

Research also shows that the earlier parents become involved in their children's literacy practices, the more profound the results and the longer-lasting the effects and that, of all school subjects, reading is most sensitive to parental influences.

The benefits of parental involvement extend beyond literacy and educational achievement. Children whose parents are involved show greater social and emotional development, including greater life satisfaction, greater social adjustment and mental health, develop more supportive relationships and show greater social competence. It is therefore important that parents and carers are aware of the significant contribution they can make to their children's development through involvement in this area.

In the meantime the BBC has launched its biggest ever literacy campaign on its RAW, (Reading and Writing) website, where you can request a free magazine, get advice on improving reading and writing skills, play games and quizzes and test your skills.

Literacy is key to children's development but also to each country's social progress and economic potential. It's good to see the evidence of the difference parents can make and to have online support with working on literacy. But if you want to get started, all you really need is to pick up a book and to start reading with your child.

Family Reading Campaign