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How to encourage foster children to read

When you become a foster carer, you become responsible for that child’s growth and upbringing. It has long been known that reading is central to a child’s development, meaning it’s very important that you encourage your foster child to read. Fantuzzo and Perlman (2007) found that children in foster care show visible poorer reading skills than their peers. Book Trust’s research demonstrated that nearly half of foster children were considered to be below average in their reading levels by their foster carers. We all understand the importance of reading but it is clear that it is harder for foster children than their peers, so what can you do, as a foster parent, to help them?  

How to encourage reluctant readers in foster children

Take them choose their own books

Whether you source your books from the library or directly from the bookshop, make choosing the next book an exciting trip out. Your foster child is much more likely to want to read a book they’ve chosen themselves and even more so if they enjoy their regular trips to the library. Perhaps make the trip a fortnightly occurrence and combine it with their favourite meal or a treat like a chocolate bar - help them to associate reading with fun rather than a chore.

Give books as presents

When buying your child a gift, consider getting them a book – or if people ask what to buy your foster child, suggest a book in their favourite genre. Additionally, let your child give their favourite books as presents to friends with a short inscription of why they love that book. Not only does this show your foster child how important books can be but it also encourages someone else’s child to read!

Read with them

If you are fostering younger children, this might seem pretty straightforward. Reading books to your kids is easy when they’re a toddler, and a picture book is the epitome of excitement. However, reading with your foster child can still work well into a child’s teens, it just has to be done slightly differently.

If you are fostering a pre-teen or teenager, consider reading the same book along with them so you can both discuss it. This makeshift book club will encourage kids to read and also prove to them that reading is not a piece of homework only done by kids, but rather a recreational activity that they can take into adulthood.

Reading your foster child’s suggestion will show them that you are equals and they deserve to be treated with respect, something a lot of foster children will have lacked in their earlier lives.  Listening and acting on something your child suggests gives them autonomy and should encourage them to read if only to come up with another suggestion for you both to read.

Don’t make reading a punishment

Reading can often be perceived as negative by children - whether that’s because it’s often given as homework or because of attitudes in the house. One principal way to do this is to not use reading as an alternative to TV – if you have asked your child to stop watching telly, do not suggest that they read instead - as your child will associate reading with not being allowed to do something else they love. Reading should be considered a delightful activity. Maybe set ‘reading time’ at night so your foster child enjoys reading in its own right rather than an alternative to watching TV.

Read in front of your children

If you are fostering a younger child, you may find that, pretty quickly, your child will replicate certain behaviours that you exhibit. Make the most of this and start to read in front of your child. Not only will this indicate that reading is a hobby rather than a chore, but it will also encourage your child to sit down beside you and pull a book out themselves.

Try audiobooks

One way to really encourage reading in more reluctant bookworms is through audiobooks. Audiobooks are a great alternative to those children who are stubborn about reading and perhaps prefer the TV. Put audiobooks on in the car on the way to school or to the shops and watch your foster children fall in love with the idea of reading. Some may even ask if you can get the book so they can read along or read further and find out what happens. We suggest getting a subscription to Amazon’s Audible, which allows you to listen to a book a month for £7.99.

Cook with them

Reading comes in all different forms and it doesn’t just have to be novels! A great way to bond with your foster child is by cooking together and this can also help encourage them to read. Find a child friendly cookbook and go through it with them, helping them sound out the difficult words and allowing them to choose what you make. By letting them choose, you are making reading fun and rewarding, with freshly baked goods at the end of it.

Ask for recommendations

Many children are unengaged when it comes to reading because they aren’t enjoying the books they read. As a foster parent, it is your responsibility to attend parent teacher conferences. At these, ask your foster child’s teachers for book recommendations. Not only will they know what is popular with children at the moment, but they understand your child’s like, dislikes and current reading level.

We hope this article has helped you with ideas on how to get your foster child to read more. If you ever need fostering support, our friendly team are always on hand to help – contact us today for advice and more information.

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