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. In this article, Mrs. Lisa Toner, Concordia Shanghai's early childhood and elementary school librarian, imparts a few tips to help your young child develop a love for reading to last a lifetime.
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, greater empathy towards 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 enjoying 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 commented 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 story 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.
Want to learn more about Concordia Shanghai?
Lisa Toner is the Elementary School Librarian
at Concordia International School Shanghai