Countless studies done over the years have proven 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 (Krashen, 2004).
Research by Taylor et al (1992) sums it all by proving that there is no skill more important to success in school than 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. These abilities are essential to doing well in Math and Science as well.
The benefits of reading do not stop at the educational level. Reading allows children to become smarter 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?
Knowing the Obstacles and Overcoming Them
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.
Parental involvement in a child’s literacy is a more powerful force than other family background factors, such as social class, family size and level of parental education (Flouri and Buchanan, 2004 – cited in Clark and Rumbold, 2006). If we want our children to become readers, then we have to set the way. By turning off the television and computers, putting away our smartphones and picking up a book instead, 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, choose books that are of interest to you, look up monthly book recommendations that appear in our Sunday papers or refer to websites and blogs for readers. You may even wish to take recommendations from your child! So go on, rediscover the inner reader in you and be the inspiration your child can look up to!
Reading aloud to children is an enjoyable activity that most parents, unfortunately, fail to continue beyond a certain age. However, from numerous studies, children as old as even 11 or 12 wish 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.
It’s not what you read, but how you read
Is simply making books available to our children enough? Is reading in front of our children enough? Is it our children’s responsibility from this point onward to become lifelong readers? Thankfully, we have research-backed data that 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 about the characters, the plot, the theme, the ending, likes/dislikes, how much your child would rate this book, similarities between this book and others books or movies with similar theme or others written by the same author. Teach them through your conversations to connect the book to events around the world or even in their own lives. 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 practise that good readers do is make connections between what they read and what they already know. This helps to broaden their worldview, enhance their experiences and supercharge their learning. By making connections to their prior knowledge, that one piece of reading becomes so much more meaningful. However, this is something that most developing readers need to practise on. So help your child make those connections – relate what they are reading to similar books, movies, stories and personal life experiences as well as those around them. You will help your child to build a very strong web of knowledge and make reading a useful, reflective and enriching experience.
Let’s Send the Right Message
Let’s create the passion for reading within our children so that they will develop the inquiring mindset that is so fundamental to 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. Let’s instead send a thunderous message to our children that reading is critical not only for school success but also for the well-being of themselves as well as their community!
This article is contributed by Chitra Pillay Chua, Associate Lecturer of Marshall Cavendish Institute.
About the author
Chitra Pillay Chua has been an English Language teacher for 16 years. She is fascinated by the idea of helping children explore and connect with the world around them through texts of various form. She holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching from the National Institute of Education, Singapore and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the National University of Singapore. She also holds a Diploma in Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). As a former school Head of Department for the English Language, she is experienced in the development, implementation and evaluation of the English Language curriculum and programmes. Currently, she is focused on developing a customised Reading Comprehension Skills programme for underperforming students.
Atwell, N. The Reading Zone Scholastic, 2007
Krashen, S. The Power of Reading – Insights from the Research Heinemann/Libraries Unlimited, 2004
Miller, D. The Book Whisperer – Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child Jossey-Bass, 2009
Miller, D. Reading in the Wild – The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits Jossey-Bass 2014