Foster children can face many disadvantages compared to their more fortunate peers. But there is one activity that can create a much more level playing field. And that is to acquire a love of reading books. Being a foster carer is synonymous with providing support and care. So helping and supporting a child to develop their reading skills, is one of the most important jobs a foster carer can do.
Foster carers should encourage the reading habit
There has been a lot of publicity recently surrounding the importance of children being encouraged to get the reading habit. And with good reason: there is research indicating children with a poor vocabulary aged five are more than twice as likely to be unemployed at age 34 as children with a good vocabulary. That is quite a staggering statistic. It demonstrates what a huge advantage children have when they have been supported to learn to read. And, sadly, what a big disadvantage is faced by children who have not been similarly nurtured. What can foster carers and parents do? Well, summer can provide a perfect opportunity to plant the idea reading can be fun. This a time when ‘Summer Special’ comics are much in evidence – so what better to combine buying a few of these, with a day out to the seaside – or a picnic. Having a lighthearted read on the beach whilst enjoying an ice cream or fish and chips, can be a really enjoyable part of a family day out. If a family holiday is coming up, it can be a good idea to talk to a youngster about what your holiday ‘read’ is going to be. This can be a good way of getting them to think about making a choice for themselves. And many bookshops now work hard to make bookshops welcoming and stimulating places for children of all ages to visit. Choosing a couple of books, can be a very good way of adding to the excitement of the ‘holiday build up’. This is something that all kids enjoy.
Foster carers and parents can use a little imagination
You can’t be on holiday all the time, but in the good weather the garden; with a little imagination, can be used to great advantage. Many children love the idea of a ‘reading den’ – somewhere special to go. An old tent, or just a couple of blankets draped over some branches can create a ‘special place’. Perhaps a corner of a garden shed; providing there are no risks such as tools or chemicals, can be transformed in a way to excite a child’s imagination. And what could be better than providing a few healthy snacks and some lemonade to make the reading den even more attractive. With very young children (pre-readers) incorporating a bedtime story into the routine of getting settled for bed is very important. Involve them in turning the pages and create a sense of drama and expectation in the way you read the story. The simple association that reading is pleasurable can be established early on.
Foster carers and parents should be aware of the Summer Reading Challenge
Another effective move is to take a child to the local library and get them involved in the Summer Reading Challenge. This is organised every year during the summer holidays by the libraries and The Reading Agency. The challenge is to read a total of six library books. After choosing their books, children can collect rewards, play games and participate in competitions. The Challenge aims to encourage children aged 4 to 11 to maintain their reading skills over the long holidays. It aims to appeal to families all over the UK to participate in the country’s biggest reading event. A different imaginative theme is devised each year: for 2018 it’s ‘Mischief Makers’. The inspiration for this was the 80th Anniversary of the renowned children’s comic ‘The Beano’.
One of the best things a foster carer can do is simply to be observed reading a book. Children are extremely impressionable. If they see their foster carer getting a lot of enjoyment from reading – there is a good chance they will be influenced to emulate the behaviour. Another important point: let children choose a book for themselves. Wanting a child to read the collected works of William Shakespeare is unrealistic. The vital thing is for children to associate reading with a positive happy experience. And the benefits, foster carers please note, are that as The Reading Agency says: “Reading for pleasure can build empathy, develop our relationships with others and improve wellbeing throughout life.” And, “Reading for pleasure is more important to children’s successes than education or social class. The Summer Reading Challenge gets three quarters of a million children into libraries to keep up their reading skills and confidence during the long holidays.”
2018: the year you start a new career and become a foster carer
No two person’s foster care journey is the same. Fostering offers many challenges and rewards. But if you are motivated to want to do your best for a disadvantaged child, providing foster care is the perfect means. All children need stability in their lives in order to thrive. if, for whatever reason, children can no longer remain with their birth family, foster carers can help by offering a loving home. Sometimes this is on a long term basis, but it can often be only for a few days. Whatever the arrangement, as a foster care you will know you are performing a vital role for a child when they are in desperate need of support.
Foster care: ‘the fact is’… foster care services in England need a further 6,800 foster families in the next 12 months. Call 0208 427 3355 or 0330 311 2845 and we will help guide you through the various stages of becoming a foster carer – from registering your interest to being finally ‘Approved’ to foster. You can also visit our website where you can find a wealth of information about fostering, as well as catch up with news stories on via our news page: https://bit.ly/2kJHpsO