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Reading has considerable benefits for children’s emotional and social development, but many families will be struggling to keep up with reading routines during the coronavirus pandemic. Video-call shared reading (VCSR) has increasingly become a way for children to be read to during lockdown while families are forced apart and nurseries and schools are shut. Through their experience of observing and participating in VCSR, Professors Natalia Kucirkova and Trude Hoel from the University of Stavanger, Norway, have pulled together some useful tips and resources for reading to children via video call. They encourage adults to build anticipation and excitement by emailing the child (or the child’s parents) about the session first, and to prompt the child’s memory about experiences that connect to the book. They recommend starting with the child’s favourite book, and returning to it as repeated reading has beneficial effects on vocabulary and story comprehension. For families with limited access to books the BookTrust’s Great Books Guide provides recommendations by interest and age for 0-11-years old. More texture can be added to online reading by incorporating music or recordings, or showing photos that point to specific elements of the story. There are many apps to create personalised digital books, and apps such as Our Story allows the use of photos, voiceovers and texts. Props such as toys and fancy dress can enrich and extend the story, and taking on different personas for characters is an ideal way to engage children. While there is no replacement for the physical bonding that happens when adults read to children, VCSR is thought to have many of the benefits associated with book reading and is an important tool when children are unable to see family or teachers regularly. Read more here.

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