We look at ways to help develop good reading habits with your foster children – and yourself.

At Orchard Fostering, we understand the importance of helping your foster child and family develop an interest in reading. Basic literacy is a life skill many of us take for granted. Whether its trawling through tweets, scanning newspaper headlines, or checking a recipe – everyone reads.

While this everyday reading is all well and good, you may be wondering how to take things to the next level with your foster child. Once they have their basic literacy skills down, how do you encourage them to go from reading-for-information to reading-for-pleasure? How, in short, do you help your foster child develop a passion for reading?

Before we get into the “how,” however, me should take a look at they “why.”

Why is reading so important?

There are countless benefits associated with an active reading life. The most obvious one? It’s fun! As Stephen King (and he, author of over sixty novels, should know) once said, “Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent.” If your foster child gets stuck into a good book, they can be transported to another world for hours on end.

In addition to the entertainment value, young readers see a variety of different benefits, including the following:

  • Improved focus
  • Expansion of vocabulary
  • Increased memory capacity
  • Stronger analytical skills
  • Heightened writing ability

Perhaps most importantly, reading has been proven to aid stress reduction and provide mental stimulation. A long day at school can be stressful for any child, so cracking open a book can help them escape. While school is a great source of mental stimulation, reading books unlocks a different part of the brain, allowing that portion of their mind to grow alongside their schoolwork.

How to do you encourage your foster child to become an active reader?

Now that we know the benefits of reading for your foster child, it’s time to look at a few tips and tricks to encourage your foster child to make reading a fun and regular part of their routine.

Make reading part of everyday life

As we mentioned, reading is already a part of everyday life – make sure to make your own everyday reading visible to your foster child. Read aloud the news from your phone or ask them to call out instructions for a recipe. Better yet, if you’re a reader yourself, let your foster child see you reading – sit down and open that book. If you normalise reading it becomes part of their routine – just like everything else.

Read to them – but with them

There’s nothing better than having a story read aloud to you. If your foster child is on the younger side, make a habit of reading to them before bed. Even if you have no faith in your acting abilities, try to get into character. This helps your foster child understand the story – which is the main goal.

Involve your foster child in your reading, too – ask them what they think is going to happen next and see how well they’re keeping track of the story. The more you read together, the more into the rhythm of the story they’ll get. Having a conversation about the story really helps – if they feel you’re engaged, they’re more likely to work to understand the story. The more they understand, the more they’ll progress.

Make the library into a family activity

“When in doubt, go to the library.” Wise words, spoken by Ron Weasley (of all people!) in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. While your foster child may never come face-to-face with You-Know-Who, they may find him still within the walls of their local library.

Ireland has great library resources, with over 12 million books in 330 branches across the country. With that volume at their fingertips, your foster child is bound to find something that captivates them. Memberships are free, and countless hours can be spent wandering the aisles in search of the perfect book.

Libraries are perfect for children, and children are their main customers. Of the top twenty authors borrowed in 2018/19, just one of them was adult-oriented (it was James Patterson). Here’s the top five:

  • Roderick Hunt (The Magic Key)
  • Roger Hargreaves (Mr Men/Little Miss)
  • Daisy Meadows (Rainbow Magic)
  • Francesca Simon (Horrid Henry)
  • Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo)

Making the library part of your routine will prove a rewarding experience – you may even pick up a few books yourself!

Kit their bedroom out for reading

We’ve discussed different ways to set up your foster child’s bedroom before, so you can trust us when it comes to home décor!

Bookshelves are a great place to start any reading journey. Set up a shelf in your foster child’s bedroom and let them fill it with their favourite books. The bookshelves could factor into your nightly reading routine – let your foster child pick which book they want to read from their shelf before bed.

If your foster child is reading by themselves, consider constructing a reading nook for them. Nothing beats having a nice, quiet place to sit and read. With no distractions your foster child can slip away into their fantasy world with relative ease.

Reading nooks don’t have to be complicated – just find any small space you can and make it as cosy as possible. Throw a few cushions on the floor, make sure there’s a good light source – and fill it with books. Lots of books.