Heads share their half term reading tips for prep school parents

Two prep school heads have shared their favourite books for children and offered some tips to encourage pupils to read more. Rebecca Smith of Stroud School and Terry Ayres of Leehurst Swan School were speaking to Attain's Fresh Thinking podcast.

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25th May 2021 — Two prep school heads have highlighted the critical value of adults reading to children in order to foster a love of books.

Rebecca Smith of Stroud School in Hampshire and Terry Ayres of Leehurst Swan School in Wiltshire were speaking to Attain as part of the weekly Fresh Thinking podcast.

"We all know that there will become a point in a child's life when they will push us away as adults... but as long as you can continue to read with children then you have got that very special time," reflects Rebecca Smith.

She highlights the need for this time to be 'distraction free' for adults, without the interference of mobile phones or laptops and to ensure it is a 'special bonding time'.

Terry Ayres agrees: "That bedtime story at primary age range is still really important because one of the things you can do is to read much more challenging books – and it gives an opportunity when children are hearing a story being read to ask about words – and look at the definition of words..."

Rebecca Smith of Stroud School and Terry Ayres of Leehurst Swan School discuss how parents can help their children to read more.

Both heads stress the importance of continuing to read with children even when they become more independent readers – and perhaps find the notion of a bedtime story rather uncool.

"At senior age, engaging them with literature I think is still really important," says Terry Ayres. "Reading newspaper articles, cinema reviews and chatting through literature... to make sure they realise you can talk about books – and engage with books – at a more adult level is really important to making them read when they are adults..."

Rebecca Smith highlights that the downside of stepping back as a parent is that whilst it gives a child important 'autonomy as a reader', parents lose their ability to know whether a child is comprehending the text or reading the words correctly. Parents therefore need to adapt their approach.

"We might not be able to hang on to that lovely bedtime story with our fifteen or sixteen year-olds," she says "but if we can still engage them in reading to us, perhaps whilst we are doing something else..."

For some parents, the challenge might be less about getting their child to read but more about getting them to stop reading – and turn out the light – when it's time for bed. What's the solution?

"I wouldn't stop them!" jokes Terry Ayres.

Half term book suggestions

For further reading, both heads have offered some suggestions parents might want to consider for half term reading.

Books for pre-prep children:
The Highway Rat by Julia Donaldson
We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
The Day the Crayons Quit, The Day the Crayons Came Home (and others) by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
The Colour Monster by Anna Llenas
Supertato by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

Books for younger prep children:
The Twits by Roald Dahl
Varjak Paw by SF Said
The 13-Storey Treehouse collection by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton
Two Terrible Vikings by Francesca Simon
The Boy Who Grew Dragons by Andy Shepherd
The Adventures on Trains series by M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman

Books for older prep children:
Who Let the Gods Out series by Maz Evans
Ruby Redfort series by Lauren Child
Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter
Wonder by R J Palacio
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell
Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
Dune by Frank Herbert

Listen to the full interview

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