Reading with an Elementary Kid…The Reality


I came across a cartoon joke on Facebook which annoyingly I didn’t save so I’ve tried to recreate it.  I apologise.  My artistic talents do not stretch to drawing.  However I’m sure you’ll get the idea…mostly from the words!


The one with the boobs is a mother.  The other one is a child.  Hopefully that was obvious.

It stuck with me, probably because Story Storks is all about getting kids ready to read.  Clearly this child didn’t come to my workshops!  But also because I’m going through this process right now with my youngest daughter.  Apart from I’m not because we’re finding reading really easy, despite the fact that my daughter has only just turned 4 so shouldn’t even be reading, because unlike the woman in this picture I’m not doing it wrong.


If reading with your child is a frustrating and painful experience YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG!  STOP RIGHT NOW and do not even think about approaching your child with a book in your hand until you have got to the bottom of this blog post because you are not only ruining your own life but you’re also ruining your child’s and there is really no need.

The key thing to remember, so I’m going to put it in a big fancy box with pink writing, is this.



At first glance this might just sound like left wing bonkers BS but the difference in these two approaches is staggering, both in terms of results and the amount of pain you will have to go through.  The latter yields better results with much less pain.  I know this from personal experience but I also know this because academics have proven it through solid scientific research.  A child who is reading for pleasure is more likely to read for themselves AND they will continue to read after they’ve learned.  Kids who read for pleasure are proven to get better exam results.  Whole grades better.  So it’s not just now that you’ll reap the rewards but in the future too.  Clearly it’s a no brainer.



When you read for pleasure you don’t get the pleasure from the individual words, unless you are some sort of word perv.  Nobody when reviewing a book will ever say “the clever use of the word synonym on page 306 was a particular favourite of mine.”?!?!?!  No!  They’ll talk about the plot, the story, the characters.  They’ll talk about how it was exciting.  And that’s exactly what you need to do with Biff and Chip.  It’s not easy I know.  But it’s important.  Don’t obsess over the individual words.  The words will come with time and practise, but if they fall in love with the story then they’ll want to keep reading.



There is nothing more annoying, as an adult, than a child interrupting you when you are trying to talk, read, go to the loo, breath, sleep or function in any way.  It’s literally so annoying it’s untrue.  You know this.  Just take a moment to think about how bloody annoying it is.

Now imagine that you’re trying to figure out a brand new skill and some clever dick who already has it mastered is stopping you every 10 seconds and telling you you’re doing it wrong.  If you knew you wouldn’t be put on the naughty step for life you’d be yelling F*CK OFF before the first 60 seconds was up.  Let’s be honest.

So don’t.  Let the reading flow as much as you can.  The words will come with time.  I make a rule in my head to correct every third mistake.  As long as Abbie is following the story then it’s all good.  If she loses the story then we go back and relook at the words.



For a child who loves books going to the library is the equivalent of a chocaholic stripping naked and swimming in a river of liquid chocolate.  If you’ve seen the film you know this child is happy.  Until the dinosaur eats him!!!


We go to the library nearly every Saturday afternoon and love it.  There are so many fabulous books down there that the kids can get stuck into.  We make the time to go and sit and read and then we’ll bring some books back too.  In all fairness our week is so jam packed that barely have time to look at the books we bring back, but we still do it anyway because we just love books.  I could have bought a library with the amount I’ve paid in fines but they only charge them on adult books.  The kids books are fine free!  I now read kids books from the library – it’s cheaper.

And once again, the rigorously collected scientific evidence shows us that kids who use the library are more likely to read than kids who don’t.  They can’t use the library if you don’t take them of course!



Read to your child for as long as they will let you.  Of course stop when it’s weird.  If they’re in their mid 40s and still asking for Roald Dahl you should be asking questions!  But keep going.  Make the books bigger and longer.  Read classics as well as the new stuff.  Read the stuff you read as a child.  I can’t recommend the House at Pooh Corner highly enough for example.  I cried like an idiot at the end.  Rachel was on the verge of going to get her father she was that concerned about me!

You are your child’s biggest inspiration.  They will do as you do, not as you say….mostly because they don’t actually listen to a word you say!



I am not going to tell you that you should be telling your child to sound out the phonics and blend the word.  I’m not going to tell you that you should be learning sight words or anything else that a qualified teacher who has been to university will teach your child.  That’s all specialist stuff.  That’s why teachers have to go to university.  Don’t think for a second that it’s your bag.  Nope.  Nada.  Put that bag down.

Your bag is the bag of fun.  The bag of adventures.  The bag of inspiration.  For once you get to do the amazing exciting half of the job.  The frivalous fanciful bit that is oh so underestimated in this country but that has a lasting impact on your child both academically and fundamentally.

The gift of reading isn’t the ability to blend phonics.  The gift of reading is being able the use words to transport yourself to another place and bring back from that place something new that you keep with you for life.  Knowing that c.a.t makes cat helps along the way, but it isn’t the final destination.  Instead it can be far off lands, out of space or right here on your doorstep.  It can be to learn that ‘Expelliarmus’ will disarm another wizard of his wand right through to Time Travel is, theoretically, possible if only we could travel close to the speed of light.

As we start our children on a lifetime of reading we must remember that it’s just that…a lifetime.


If you enjoyed this blog you may also enjoy

The Poo Fairy!

Theatre Review – What the Ladybird Heard, Rose Theatre, Kingston Upon Thames

Tampon Tantrums

Tutoring – The business of fear

How to stop an Interrupting child


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SARAH CANTRILL is a woman on a mission to inspire every young child to become a reader for pleasure.  She is the Artistic Director & Founder of STORY STORKS, a social enterprise that delivers interactive story workshops to early years children and their grown ups, that help kids to fall in love with stories and develop their early language skills meaning that they have an easier time of learning to read when the time is right.  Infact 85% of the kids who come through STORY STORKS  are right where they should be or ahead in terms of progression through the reading book scheme once they get to school and the ones who are behind are trying hard because they know that it’s worth it – that to read is to unlock a whole world of fun and adventure and learning and imagination and they might take a bit longer to get there but they’re determined that get there they will.




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