Reading is an essential tool for learning and navigating our way through the world. It helps build intelligence, vocabulary and creativity, with numerous studies showing that reading has a distinct impact on a child’s success across the curriculum. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that many of us parents are anxious for our children to learn to read fluently, as quickly as possible.
It’s important to note, we shouldn’t push our children to read too young. Many kindergarteners are not developmentally ready to read and benefit more from play-based experiential learning which actually creates the foundation for reading. As well as building oral language, by engaging in pretend-play with objects, children learn that real things can be represented by symbols. This then forms a basis for them to understand that abstract symbols represent the spoken word. Engaging in a wide range of hands-on activities provides the child with the background knowledge they need to start making sense of the books they encounter.
So, if your child cannot read independently in grade 1, there is no cause for panic. Research shows that, by the end of grade 3, those children who learn to read at six or seven read just as well as those who mastered reading earlier. It’s critical not to demotivate young learners by pushing them to read before they’re ready. If they become anxious about assessments and don’t enjoy being read to and reading, they will become far less interested in reading independently.
The more we read, the more proficient we become. Sadly, reading books for pleasure is declining worldwide as young people have increasing demands on their leisure time.
So, how can books compete with the pull of social media and video games? We can take many steps to encourage children to develop a love of books and stories and build the foundation for them becoming lifetime readers. Here are six suggestions:
1. Read aloud to children and talk about the books you’ve read.
Making a story a regular part of the bedtime routine helps build a parent-child relationship and develops print awareness and early literacy skills. Many children enjoy being read to even after they’re able to read independently.
2. Read books ourselves.
Seeing parents and other family members read builds a positive reading culture at home. You are a model for your child – if they see you look at your phone more often than a book, they will likely want to do the same.
3. Provide access to appealing books.
Taking your child to bookshops or libraries and allowing them to choose books for themselves can be empowering; research shows that striving readers benefit when allowed to choose books they want to read.
4. Choose inclusive books where children will be able to recognise themselves.
Seeing themselves in books helps children build positive self-images and a sense of worth. At the same time, literature also has the power to help children understand and appreciate other cultures.
5. Make time for reading.
Students who read a lot score better on every imaginable test. It’s critical for there to be time for independent reading during the school day and at home.
6. Recognise all reading.
As children get older, they are more likely to read ebooks than print books. They may also read other digital content, including blogs, social media and online magazines. Reading a diverse range of texts for a variety of purposes is a good thing. So, as much as possible, let your child read to satisfy their own personal interests.
The end goal is to provide the environment for a child to grow to love reading. Research shows students who are internally motivated to read for interest or pleasure achieve far more than those who read for external reasons such as grades or rewards. As parents and tutors, we can introduce children to age and level appropriate engaging texts and include them in conversations and activities that will, hopefully, spark their interest. But the most significant rewards come when a child chooses a book for themselves and reads it without prompting by you or us!
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