4 simple ways to help your child become a better reader
Reading is essential in developing lower and higher order skills that impact the over all academic performance of your child. It also helps them gain knowledge about the world and develop a better understanding of it. Here is how you can help your child become a better reader.
We have all been there.
We have all had moments where we have wondered if we have done all we can to help our children academically. We have all asked ourselves the following questions: Have I got my child the best tutor I can? Have I bought him the best assessment books out there? Should I enrol him in that most sought-after enrichment centre?
And often we also ask ourselves: Why is it that despite doing all of this my child is not scoring that coveted ‘A/A*’? Is there something else I can do to give my child that edge he needs to succeed in our exam and achievement-obsessed society?
The answer to these questions lies in a very simple activity that can literally be done anytime and anywhere – reading!
We do not mean reading more textbooks, guidebooks, comprehension passages or model essays. We are referring to reading for the sheer pleasure of it!
Yes, we hear your collective groans of dismay. You wonder who has the time to read in this day and age when every day is a struggle to get the children away from their iPads, smartphones and computer games just so that the endless homework assignments can be completed.
Actually, the more pertinent question you should be asking is: why should your children find the time to read? What does reading for pleasure do for your child that homework, assessment books and tutors cannot do?
Why should your child read?
There is no skill more important to success in school than a child’s reading ability. Reading develops lower order skills such as decoding words as well as higher order thinking skills such as predicting and making connections with prior knowledge and experience as well as increased general knowledge.
Over the years, countless studies have shown that frequent, voluminous reading is the one single activity that consistently correlates with high levels of performance on reading ability tests. Reading frequently and widely develops a child’s reading comprehension, grammar, vocabulary, spelling and writing ability. More importantly, research* also proves that students’ ability to read well affects their performance in every class.
These abilities are essential to doing well in Maths and Science as well.
Reading also allows children to gain knowledge about the world and how it works. They develop a better understanding of other cultures, of human nature, human experiences and decision-making.
Reading even nurtures a greater level of community participation in our children. With all these benefits, what’s stopping us from bringing out the inner reader in our children?
So how do you help you child become a better reader? Turn to the next page to find out the 4 simple tips to help reading become easier for your child.
Lead by example
Studies have shown that Singaporeans take a very practical approach to reading and the Internet and television have overtaken reading as favourite leisure-time activities.
When it comes to a child’s literacy it has been proven that parental involvement is a more powerful force than other family background factors such as social class, family size and level of parental education.
As parents, we can lead by example by turning off the television and computers, putting away our smartphones and picking up a book instead. By doing so, we send a very strong signal to our children that books and reading are valued sources of entertainment. With time and persistent effort, our children will internalise this message and turn to reading.
Commit to a certain amount of reading per day, choosing books that are of interest to you. Rediscover the inner reader in you and be the inspiration your child can look up to!
Read to your child
Children love being read to, although many parents stop doing this when their children reach a certain age. However, from numerous studies as well as personal experience, even children as old as 12 wish that their parents would continue reading to them.
Do not let your child’s age or less-than-warm reception deter you from picking up an interesting book to read aloud with them. Apart from the educational gains, this simple activity provides such a wonderful opportunity to bond with your children daily – something that our busy schedules may not allow so easily.
Selecting the ‘right’ book
Did you know that children show more willingness to read when they get to choose the book they read? The role of parents then, would be to provide the guidance to enable children to select books appropriately.
Apart from knowing your child’s interests well, here’s a simple way to categorise books according to levels of difficulty.
The Five-Finger Rule and Holidays, Just Rights & Challenges
Step 1: Have your child select a book.
Step 2: Get him to read a page in the middle of it and count with one hand the number of unfamiliar words.
- No fingers up – the book is an easy read, a Holiday.
- Three or four fingers up – the book helps the reader practice and gain experience , it is a Just Right
- More than four fingers up – the book is probably too difficult for your child to read right now, it is termed as a Challenge.
Children should spend some time with each category of books but most of their time should be dedicated to Just Rights.
While it is important to encourage reading, it is also important to focus on “how” your child actually reads. Turn to the next page to find out the last of the tips to help reading become a habit in your child.
It is also about ‘how’ you read
Let us come back to one of the questions we had posed earlier: Why are we not seeing desired marks on our child’s report book despite all the reading? Is simply making books available to our children and reading in front of them enough?
No, it is not. Research-backed data tells us what else can be done.
Purposeful, Reflective Reading
For reading to be truly beneficial, it has to be reflective. Spend time talking about books with your child. Talk to your child about the characters, the plot, the theme and the ending of the book. Ask him, what he likes or dislikes about the book, does he find any similarities between this book and others books or movies.
Another way to encourage reflective reading is to encourage your child to connect the book to events around the world or even to his own life. By setting a purpose for reading, children expect to get something out of it and thus put more effort into it.
Making Connections Explicitly
One key practice of good readers is that they can make connections between what they read and what they already know. This helps to broaden their worldview, enhance their experiences and supercharge their learning.
These connections help children make their reading more meaningful. However, this is something that most developing readers need to practice. So help your child make those connections. You will help your child to build a very strong web of knowledge and make reading a useful, reflective and enriching experience.
Send the Right Message
Let’s create a passion for reading within our children so that they will develop an inquiring mindset, which is fundamental for success in the 21st century.
Let’s not shortchange our children by sending the message that reading for pleasure does nothing for success at school. Instead send a loud and clear message to our children that reading is critical not only for school success but for the well-being of themselves as well as their community!
*Krashen, S. The Power of Reading – Insights from the Research Heinemann/Libraries Unlimited, 2004