Exercise your mind by reading, experts say
Educational research reveals that children who read for pleasure have better language and comprehension skills, and greater empathy toward others, get better exam results and go on to be leaders in life. Encourage the bookworm in your child.
Children become readers in a parents’ lap
A 2013 survey published in the UK newspaper, The Guardian, has shown that children who read for pleasure not only have improved language and comprehension skills, and greater empathy toward others but they also get, on average, better results in their exams later in their school life, even math. Educators teach the technical aspects of reading, but it is parents who have the most influence when it comes to inspiring a love of reading. So, what can you do?
Perhaps the single most important thing is to be a good role model. If your child sees you enjoy reading, they will naturally want to copy you. It’s as simple as that. Secondly, provide access to a wide variety of reading material. Have books and magazines at home, visit bookshops and libraries and give the gift of reading as often as you can. Don’t forget audiobooks. Recent research has shown that the same parts of the brain are being stimulated by hearing stories as well as reading them, and they are fantastic for long journeys.
Empower your child by allowing them to choose what they want to read. This is actually harder to do than it sounds as a young child will often return to the same book for what feels like the millionth time, but that is okay. They are learning through familiarity. Children may choose books that you feel are too easy for them, but they will gain confidence from reading text that they are comfortable with and reading then becomes more pleasurable. Some children may select books that are technically too difficult for them but are on a topic which sparks their interest. Unless the subject matter is inappropriate, then let the child try. Developing reading muscles is all about being challenged and very often the child will return to that book and be able to decode a little more each time.
A common worry is that a child is only reading graphic novels and that comics are not proper books, but actually reading graphic novels is still reading and moreover they are fun. There is a skill to reading the pictures as well as the words.
Read to your child regularly. Bedtime is a popular choice but don’t stop when your child is old enough to read independently. See this as quality family time and use it to share a love of stories.
Michael Rosen, author of “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” said that his father continued to read to their family until he was a teenager. When you read aloud you have an opportunity to bring the story to life. Give the characters different voices, discuss what is happening in the pictures and look at the detail in the artwork, predict what might happen on the next page and afterwards share thoughts about what you each liked or didn’t like and why. This helps to make sense of the whole story and makes reading a quality experience.
Make stories an important part of your family life. Invent stories together about your child’s toys, act stories out, sing rhymes together or tell your child tales from your family or your childhood. Oral story telling is a way of creating a love of story that is personal to the child. It doesn’t have to be the most exciting adventure in the world, but it is special because it is theirs.
(The article is contributed by Lisa Toner, the elementary school librarian at Concordia International School Shanghai.)
Developing a passion for books for your little ones
Developing a passion for books and reading can support children’s academic success, especially by improving their writing and comprehension skills. But aside from school life, it is also an excellent way for them to explore new worlds and expand their imaginations. If children can develop the habit of reading from a young age, the benefits can last a lifetime. But how can we encourage children to read?
The first piece of advice would be to start early. Reading has to be a daily habit and, believe it or not, this can be established as soon as the child is born. Infants like to hear the sound of their parents’ voices. Children don’t need to understand what is being said when being read to — they can simply enjoy the rhythms of stories. Starting this habit from a young age and dedicating a specific time to do so is great for both children and parents.
As well as having time set aside each day for reading, parents can also create a special reading space. Reading together is an opportunity for bonding, so why not do so in a cozy and relaxed environment? This doesn’t have to be a special room — a sofa or child’s bedroom with cushions and blankets is a great setting for reading to take place.
Another obvious reading location is a library — whether this is in school or the numerous public libraries across the city, a library is a fantastic resource full of books and somewhere children can see others reading and enjoying books. This can be a very strong motivator for children to read themselves, as they witness reading as a popular and rewarding habit. If parents are worried about reading levels or genre, they can give their children a specific section from the library or bookstore to choose from to keep the books within a suitable range.
Likewise, it is great for children to see their parents reading. Modelling good reading habits is very important. If children see their parents reading books, newspapers, or magazines, and if homes are welcoming environments for reading, they are more likely to keep up this good habit.
Children love to read with their parents, and it is important to remember that this is their time to enjoy reading, so selecting a book that they want to hear/read together is important.
Finally, remember that it is not just books that can be read to youngsters. Reading is part of everyday life. It’s great to get children to become aware of this as early as possible, so you can point it out to them when out and about. This can be as simple as reading road signs or advertisements on the streets, or recipes from cookbooks when at home. Words are everywhere and the world presents us with ample opportunities to read. So, go out, read, and enjoy!
(The article is contributed by Theresa Kemp, ECE and Primary librarian at YCIS Shanghai, Puxi.）
Encouraging a pleasure for literature
As a teacher of language and literature, I spend most of my time planning learning activities like character analysis, paragraph organization and word choice. But underneath all my objectives and standards, I am teaching my students the beauty of reading.
Educational research reveals that a love of reading leads to natural progress in many areas: grammar, vocabulary, fluency, etc. It’s the easiest way to help my students improve language, but I still have to convince them reading is a pleasure.
There’s a difference between reading done in the classroom (intensive) and reading done for pleasure (extensive). It’s extensive reading that is so powerful in educational gains.
Each month I choose a book to read to my class and spend the first 10 minutes of class reading aloud.
I never finish before the end of the month, and without fail, students request to check the book out as they are enamored by the story. This technique can be used at home.
I am always careful to choose a book that isn’t too challenging, because the purpose is to teach students to read for pleasure and take up the habit themselves. Laborious books will never stir a love of reading.
One of the most inspiring books on extensive reading I’ve read as a teacher is “The Book Whisperer” by Donalyn Miller, I recommend it if you want to be convinced of the efficacy of pleasure reading. As a committed bibliophile, it even changed some of my reading habits.
(The article is contributed by Alison Roberts, a teacher of language and literature at SCIS.)
Nurture a potential bookworm with cultural activities
Each academic year, at the Western International School of Shanghai we remind everyone of the importance of reading by celebrating WISS Book Week, during which we bring the world of books closer to our students through exciting, fun and cultural activities.
At WISS, reading practices have an essential place in our educational program. That’s why we host weekly reading sessions in our library for our Primary and Early Years students. The best way to make reading a habit is by sharing this passion with your children from a very early age. This way, little ones see it as an everyday activity that they can enjoy alone or in company.
I believe reading has many positive effects on children. In addition to increasing vocabulary and knowledge, reading helps decrease stress and improve memory. Reading books in more than one language is very beneficial for kids because reading books in a second language is an excellent way to learn grammar rules.
For me, one of the best ways to motivate children to read is to give them choices. Often, we want to guide our children to a certain genre or topic. If we let children choose their materials, it helps increase their interest level.
Parents should read to their kids before going to bed.
While parents often do this for younger children, we stop doing this as children get older; even preteens enjoy having chapters read to them.
Book lovers know that opening a book is like opening the door to a new world of magic and imagination. Parents can play a crucial role in nurturing a love for reading that will stay with their children for the rest of their lives.
As a mom of two sons, I have nearly 18 years’ experience teaching students of all ages. One of my greatest joys is guiding students in research and writing. Libraries give students a place to expand their academic and personal interests.
(The article is contributed by Jenelle Kirchoff, head librarian at WISS.)